How To Argue With Under-informed “Science” Magazines and Their Well-Intentioned Writers: A Guide

“What are we supposed to do? We’ve already funded our own research center!”- Lucky Strike Tobacco executive in “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”, Mad Men, Episode 1, Season 1

Popular Science is an interesting name for a magazine. My understanding has always been that popularity and science don’t necessarily always go hand-in-hand. After all, some of the greatest scientific discoveries and theories have been the most unpopular (like Ignaz Semmelweiss’ research on hand washing, the heliocentric model of the solar system and the theory of evolution). So perhaps you can understand why I raise an eyebrow at a magazine that touts itself as being both scientific and popular. Indeed, it forces a choice on said publication as to where their loyalties lie. Is this publication more interested in being popular or being scientific?

The 2013 article from Popular Science seems to be much more grounded in the “popular” part of its name than the “science”. Written by Francie Diep and titled “How to Argue With The Anti-Vaccine Crazies: A Guide”, this smug little article claims to be a fact-based guide preparing people to refute common anti-vaccine questions and claims. Unfortunately, it looks at popular arguments rather than examining larger issues backed up by credible research. Quotes from the article will appear in italics. You can read the full text (which is far shorter than my analysis here) at the link above. For those of you who remember the infamous Kristen Bell post, this is another one to strap in for as I have gone to great pains to be very thorough in my research and explanation. And as always, I see new connections every time I do one of these grand dissections. I think that is what I love most about writing this blog. So here we go…

CLAIM: Historically, recommended vaccines have been shown to harm children. Why would today’s recommendations be any different?

Yes, some older vaccines had severer side effects than current ones do. I’ll look at two examples, polio and pertussis, which is commonly known as whooping cough.

No one has gotten polio from the newer polio vaccine. Before 2000, pediatricians in the U.S. routinely gave kids a polio vaccine that contained live, attenuated polio virus. Now, American kids get a vaccine with an “inactivated,” or killed, virus. Very rarely, the live virus in the older vaccine could actually revert to its natural state and cause paralysis, a tragic consequence.

Some people in the world still deal with this risk. Live, attenuated polio vaccines are used in some regions where polio is endemic because those who get the live, attenuated vaccine are able to pass on their immunity to others around them, which helps spread immunity more quickly. People are also able to take the live, attenuated vaccine by mouth, instead of in a shot, so it’s quicker and easier to get to people in regions where there are few doctors and nurses. Different countries must judge the risks and benefits of the oral polio vaccine differently; even the U.S. had once judged the live, attenuated vaccine worth the risk, when there was nothing better available.

No one has gotten polio from the newer polio vaccine.

Before the 1990s, kids in the U.S. got a pertussis vaccine with severe potential side effects ranging from fever to fainting fits. Some parents sued vaccine manufacturers, claiming that the shot caused brain damage. Scientists have since determined that the parents’ claim is unproven. U.S. doctors now use a new pertussis vaccine with milder side effects.

Of course, it’s up to everyone to decide individually whether the risks of a medicine outweigh its benefits. Consider the numbers around vaccines, though. Often, something like 1 in 1,000 kids experience moderate side effects such as prolonged crying. For more severe side effects, such as seizures or that rotavirus-caused bowel blockage, the odds go down to one in tens of thousands.

Among children who contract measles, one in 1,000 get encephalitis, an acute brain infection, and one or two in 1,000 die. In 2011, among the 18,000 Americans who got whooping cough that year, more than 1 in 2,000 died, all of them babies.

Alright, let’s get started with polio. I think we can safely assume that Diep is referring to the issue of the live virus oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) versus inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), though this article fails to actually use such precise terminology. The OPV was indeed discontinued in the US in 2000 because of vaccine acquired paralytic polio (VAPP). Diet’s assertion is  “No one has gotten polio from the newer polio vaccine.” This is an oversimplification of a much more complex issue. (First of all, the OPV and IPV were developed in a very close time frame, pretty much simultaneously, so to say that the IPV is “newer” is inaccurate.)  Provocative poliomyelitis is a medically documented condition in which polio is brought on by a surgery, intramuscular injection or other medical procedure. It was well documented to be associated with the DTP vaccination, but any type of intramuscular injection can induce provocative polio. Because of this, some countries like India actually advocate for the usage of the OPV because they feel it is safer than the risks of the provocative polio from the IPV.

Provocative polio has been well-documented to follow intramuscular injection, for further information I recommend taking a look at the 1949 J.K. Martin study titled Local Paralysis in Children After Injections,  the 1998 study by Drs. Matthias Gromeier and  Eckard Wimmer which found that injury to tissue to during certain types of injections allowed the polio virus easy access to nerve channels, thereby increasing the likelihood of paralysis and the more recent HV Wyatt study from 2003 which found that three-quarters of children with paralytic polio receive injections just before the onset of paralysis. And really, if we are going to get technical, the Salk vaccine has been documented to cause polio as in the case of the 1955 Cutter Incident. Though the general public has received a highly simplified (and not entirely accurate) account where an entirely selfless Jonas Salk eradicated polio, the controversy about which is more effective and safe, the Salk IPV or Sabin OPV has continued to be debated amongst scientists.

Live, attenuated polio vaccines are used in some regions where polio is endemic because those who get the live, attenuated vaccine are able to pass on their immunity to others around them, which helps spread immunity more quickly. Ah, the fanciful thinking of vaccine proponents attributing all sorts of powers to vaccines that don’t actually exist. It seems Ms. Diep needs a refresher in how vaccines are supposed to work. Vaccines don’t contain “immunity” and they don’t allow people to “pass immunity” to one another- that would defeat the point of mass vaccination and herd immunity which she claims to believe in later in her article. Vaccines contain live or weakened viruses or bacteria that when introduced to the body are supposed to “train” the immune system to recognize and reject the pathogens, supposedly allowing the vaccine recipient to gain immunity without actually suffering the illness. However, while you can’t “pass immunity” through the OPV, the OPV can give an immunodeficient recipient the poliovirus which they may excrete for several years, passing it to others. This is a significant issue with the worldwide eradication of polio, especially in countries with a a high number of HIV infected individuals.

You can still develop paralysis from enteroviruses other than polio. Since polio is said to be eliminated from the United States, these types of enteroviruses are called non-polio enteroviruses. The CDC states that these viruses (often manifesting as cold-like illnesses in the summer and fall) often produce no symptoms or mild symptoms, but can cause serious infection and paralysis.  Curiously enough, despite the fact that so-called non-polio enteroviruses can potentially cause the same serious effects as polio, there is no vaccine for them and in fact the CDC recommends hand washing and good hygiene to prevent transmission. The United States has started seeing an increase in children with paralysis from enteroviruses as well.

Moving on to DTP vs DTaP… (Again, Diep has not specified which vaccines she is referring to, but judging by the context, it is reasonable to infer that she is referring to the whole-cell live virus diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis shot (DTP) and the inactivated virus diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis shot (DTaP).) “Some parents sued vaccine manufacturers, claiming that the shot caused brain damage. Scientists have since determined that the parents’ claim is unproven. U.S. doctors now use a new pertussis vaccine with milder side effects.” 

It sounds like what Diep is referring to hear is the 1980’s controversy over SIDS and DTP, though her account glosses over some pertinent facts. During the 1970’s and 1980’s there were many complaints of death and injury regarding the DTP shot as well as the influenza vaccine and OPV. In 1980, the Office of Technology Assessment was asked by the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee to put together a memorandum on the possibility of a federally funded vaccine injury compensation program. This is a very interesting read and highly informative. The full memorandum can be found here.

From the OTA:

“As there is no one ‘at fault’ for these reactions, the injured vaccinee would not be able to successfully sue the manufacturer, doctor, or other defendant in a lawsuit based on negligence; e.g., faulty manufacturing of the vaccine such that it was contaminated, or faulty vaccination such that a nerve was damaged by the injection. However, the courts have developed a legal basis for a potentially successful lawsuit in the doctrines of ‘informed consent’ and (1) the ‘duty to warn.’ l)a person about to be vaccinated should be given a clear explanation of the benefits of vaccination and of the potential side-effects that might occur; and (2) someone in the chain from manufacturer to purchaser (such as a state or federal health agency) to the person who administers the vaccine bears the responsibility to give that explanation.

There has been considerable difficulty in determining what constitutes an adequate warning and whether or not a truly informed decision had been made to be vaccinated (the ultimate test of whether the condition had been satisfied takes place by hindsight in a lawsuit, when the injury has already occurred and the answer is crucial to the success or failure of the lawsuit). Furthermore, ‘informed consent’ and the ‘duty to warn’ imply that the potential vaccinee can refuse the vaccination, but almost all states require that children receive certain vaccinations as a condition of attending school.”

So there are legal grounds for suits that can apply to vaccines because people may not be fully informed of the actual benefits and risks associated with vaccines and because in many cases people are legally required to receive vaccines- and more states are limiting options to refuse for things like school or employment. Along with these legal grounds for suit, people can and have successfully sued in court for vaccine injury.

From the OTA:

The report noted that in three major cases in the past 11 years, plaintiffs have won large judgments against vaccine manufacturers for injuries caused by non-defective and properly administered vaccines. The resulting uncertainty for manufacturers has affected their willingness to produce and supply vaccines.” Note that the vaccines didn’t necessarily have to be defective or improperly administered to cause a serious injury- which implies that some aspect of vaccines or the process of vaccination is inherently risky. However, the belief that vaccines were an essential part of maintaining public health overrules any questions about whether we should be implementing mass vaccination programs.

In the late 1980’s, the US government instituted the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration, a federal public health agency. In the HRSA’s own words, the purpose of the VICP is as follows:

“The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (PDF), as amended, created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), a no-fault alternative to the traditional tort system. It provides compensation to people found to be injured by certain vaccines. Even in cases in which such a finding is not made, petitioners may receive compensation through a settlement.

The VICP was established after lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers and healthcare providers threatened to cause vaccine shortages and reduce vaccination rates. The Program began accepting petitions (also called claims) in 1988.”

Now back to DTP specifically. As of 1988, 3,982 petitions have been filed about the DTP vaccine. 3,286 petitions were for injury and 696 were for deaths. 1,273 were compensated and 2,706 were dismissed. Compensation does not mean an admission of guilt that the vaccine caused the injury, often it can mean simply that a negotiated settlement was reached, often with a desire to avoid the cost and expense of litigating a case. The government just pays people to make the problem of vaccine lawsuits go away and is doing it now more than ever. DTP still holds the VICP record for most claims filed, though influenza vaccines are catching up and slightly more compensations have been made for influenza vaccines than DTP at this point.

On to the issue that scientists have now proven parents’ claims of death and injury to be unproven. In the late 1980’s several studies started coming out in response to claims that DTP caused SIDS. Dr. James Cherry of UCLA was at the forefront of the movement to discredit a relationship between the two and has since participated in many other studies and works advocating the further need for use and continued to development of the pertussis vaccine. There is one possible problem with Dr. Cherry though. He has a substantial conflict of interest because he has served as a consultant for GlaxoKlineSmith Biologicals and Sanofi Pasteur for pertussis vaccines. Another article he worked on contains this financial disclosure: “Dr. Cherry has given talks in programs supported directly and through program grants by Sanofipasteur and GlaxoSmithKline. Dr Cherry has consulted about pertussis vaccines with Sanofipasteur and GlaxoSmithKline.” Interestingly enough, Andrew Wakefield has been roundly condemned for conflicts of interest, though that argument has not been seen as a legitimate reason for questioning the research of scientists like Dr. Cherry. As for the infants who die from pertussis, the numbers are not in dispute, but the ability of the pertussis vaccine to actually prevent the spread of the disease is highly debatable and will be addressed later on herein.

On to measles. Measles has become kind of a “boogeyman” that lurks in the closet. The reality is that before the measles vaccine was introduced, people were probably less afraid of it than they are now and that we have far more deadly threats than measles in the 21st century that don’t get nearly as much media attention. The 1953 report from the office of Vital Statistics shows that measles deaths were approximately 13 per 100,000 in 1918 for an estimated population of 103, 208,000. But by by 1950, measles deaths had fallen far below 1 in 100,000. This report states that while infectious diseases like diphtheria, measles and whooping cough were responsible for 242.6 per 100,000 deaths in children under 15 in the early twentieth century, by 1950 these diseases combined accounted for only 5 deaths per 100,000 for children under 15. Take note that the measles vaccine was not introduced until 1963. (MMR became available in 1971  and the DTP vaccine started mass usage in 1948.) Ironically enough, this report is glowing with optimism about the state of health in America, while we perceive this to be a time of rampant disease and death.

The CDC’s official statement on measles reads: “In the United States, measles caused 450 reported deaths and 4,000 cases of encephalitis annually before measles vaccine became available in the mid-1960s.” So by the CDC’s standard, 450 deaths and 4,000 cases of an illness is a serious public health impact. How does this compare with other causes of death today? According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 15,780 children will be diagnosed with cancer this year and 1,960 children will die from cancer. Most of these childhood cancer cases will be leukemia, brain and nervous system cancers, and lymphoma. Much has been said about the great burden and cost that fighting measles would entail if the disease was to become endemic, but cancer is already far more common and far more costly to treat. Here’s another example. According to the CDC, in 2013 2 million people developed antibiotic resistant bacterial infections and 23,000 died as a result of an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection.   That’s far in excess of the numbers the CDC cites for measles death before the vaccine was introduced!

While we praise the lower rates of measles cases today (which can be disputed as well, we’ll get to that in a minute), the actual death rate from measles has actually increased since the mid-twentieth century. In 1912, the case fatality rate for measles in the United States was 25 per 1,000 and 30-40 per 1,000 in Scotland at the beginning of the 20th century. Those numbers declined to approximately 1 per 1,000 in the United States and the United Kingdom by the mid 20th century. Today the mortality rate for measles in approximately 3 per 1,000. The authors state: “This increase is most likely due to more complete reporting of measles as a cause of death, HIV infections, and a higher proportion of cases among preschool-aged children and adults.”

Better reporting could be debatable (again we’ll get to non-classical measles in a minute), though the emergence of HIV certainly added a new variable to the measles equation that had not been seen before. The other interesting thing is the higher proportion of cases among children under 5 and adults. If you check out Table 2 of this study, it will show you the rates of complications for measles cases between 1987 and 2000 by age group. As you can see, school age children (the group most likely to get measles before routine measles vaccination) are actually the least likely to suffer complications. However, children under 5 and adults have a greater risk for complications, with adults over 30 having the greatest risk for severe complications like encephalitis and death. In our haste to prevent the spread of measles in our schools, we have overlooked the fact that school age children as a group have the fewest complications for measles and if they do contract the virus they gain lifelong immunity. Instead, when the measles vaccination does grant temporary immunity to children, it can leave them open to measles as adults when they are more prone to serious complications.

CLAIM: It is dangerous for little babies to get so many vaccines at one time. The immune system can get overwhelmed.

Babies really do get a lot of vaccines at once. Their first round alone includes six shots. And the list of recommended childhood vaccines has grown in recent decades, as researchers have developed more and more immunizations.

States with lenient policies about immunization exemptions had 90 percent more whooping cough cases than stricter states.However, numerous studieshave found no link between getting the recommended schedule of vaccines and getting other diseases later in childhood. There’s no credible scientific evidence that vaccines are able to “overload” babies’ immune systems. Though immature, babies’ systems are prepared to handle vaccines. They already handle numerous viruses and bacteria all around them in everyday life.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend vaccines at very young ages because that’s when kids are the most vulnerable, as some of the natural immunization they got from breastfeeding fades.

“States with lenient policies about immunization exemptions had 90 percent more whooping cough cases than stricter states.” Now this is an interesting claim since the pertussis vaccine has had a number of problems with efficacy.

However, numerous studieshave found no link between getting the recommended schedule of vaccines and getting other diseases later in childhood. There’s no credible scientific evidence that vaccines are able to “overload” babies’ immune systems.

Now there were a couple of interesting things here. The study about how there are no cognitive delays in fully vaccinated versus children who do not meet the definition of fully vaccinated has a couple of questionable things about it. First of all is the financial disclosure : “Drs Smith and Woods are or have been unfunded subinvestigators for cross-coverage purposes on vaccine clinical trials for which their colleagues receive funding from Wyeth, Sanofi Pasteur, GSK, MedImmune, and Novartis; and Dr Woods has received honoraria for speaking engagements from Merck, Sanofi Pasteur, Pfizer, and MedImmune and has received research funding from Wyeth and Sanofi Pasteur.” So again, it’s something to consider. If we’re uncomfortable accepting research about autism and vaccination from someone who has financial conflicts of interest, in the nature of scientific inquiry, we should be willing to apply a similar standard to research that supports vaccination.

Another potential problem with this study is what is referred to as “confounding” in statistics. If you read the full text of the study, it states: “Children with later vaccine receipt had lower family household incomes in both analyses, although all groups averaged well above the poverty level. They also had lower percentages of mothers with college degrees. Finally, there were greater proportions of male children and single-parent households in the less timely groups. These differences did not reach statistical significance in the primary analyses of timely versus untimely receipt but did in the secondary analyses of most timely versus least timely receipt.” (Quick note: the term “statistical significance” means that after doing a set of calculations you can determine whether or not a particular result is due to chance or “fluke”. If something is determined to be “statistically significant”, it means that the result is not due to chance. If a result does not reach statistical significance, it means that the result could be due to chance. This is a simplified version of the definition that doesn’t get into things like p values and the value of alpha, but for the purposes of understanding a study, it’s sufficient.)

So when the researchers in this study say their results did not reach statistical significance the first time, it means that the results did not indicate a strong correlation between vaccination status and cognitive function in their first analysis. But they ran a second analysis and say their results did show a strong correlation. (Which would certainly be fortunate for their interests in performing this study and getting the desired outcome.) If you take a look at Table 2, you can see that the sample sizes (value denoted as n) are different on the primary vs. secondary analysis. In the secondary analysis, the researchers compared only children classified as “most timely” and those classified as “least timely”. In certain parts of the study, the authors state that they did control for factors such as maternal education and IQ, computer experience, etc. , the multivariable analysis, but when comparing the most and least timely, there could be problems with confounding since the researchers acknowledge that there were more children in the least timely category who came from single parent homes with mothers who had lower education levels and lower incomes while more children in the most timely category had higher incomes and two parent homes with better educated parents, so if they really did just compare the most and least timely, socioeconomic factors could be responsible for the outcome in the secondary analysis. Thus, the term confounding.

Furthermore, since this study was published new vaccines and doses have been added to the American vaccine schedule so the results are less relevant with the current schedule. I wouldn’t take this study as conclusive proof that vaccination will affect your child’s cognitive abilities one way or the other. There may have been some “massaging” of the data that in my mind makes it less reliable as a source. Now that I’ve flogged that one to death, let’s take on just one more of the safety studies cited in this article…

The 2001 study by Destefano, Mullooly, Okoro, et. al. in Pediatrics concerns the timing of vaccine as a possible risk factor for developing type 1 diabetes mellitus (formerly known as juvenile diabetes). The article links off to an abstract of this study, but with a little digging, you can find the full text. The authors claim to be looking at the hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae B vaccines specifically, though the study gives results for several other vaccines including whole cell and acellular pertussis vaccines, MMR and varicella. There are a couple of interesting things going on with this study. One has to do with cases and controls. This is a case-control study, meaning that the study compares people with the disease or outcome (cases) with those who do not have the disease or outcome (controls or referent). This study is a little hazy about what they actually qualify as a control. In the case of Hepatitis B vaccination, those who had never been vaccinated for Hepatitis B were used as the referent. (We can assume that all the children had received at least some vaccines as the study later states that all the cases and controls had received the MMR vaccine.) The referent switches on the data for Hib vaccination to children who had received 3 doses by 8 months plus 1 dose at 12–18 months. Referents are not specified for either of the pertussis vaccines, MMR or varicella. (It seems it would be difficult to come up with a referent for MMR since all the children in this study had received the shot.) A big weakness that I see in this study is that half of the cases were born between 1988 and 1990, meaning that they were on a vaccine schedule with fewer vaccines than the children in the study who were born between 1991-1997.

CLAIM: Vaccines have dangerous ingredients in them.

One of McCarthy’s–and other vaccine opponents’–most popular claims is that thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative once common in vaccines, causes autism. There’s so much evidence showing thimerosal doesn’t cause autism.

Nevertheless, thimerosal no longer appears in any vaccines except influenza because an infant receiving the recommended schedule of old vaccines would get a higher-than-recommended dose of mercury, which is toxic in high levels.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has more information on the ingredients in vaccines. They are not dangerous.

Thimerosal may be dubious. Personally, I think it’s possible that the symptoms described by many parents like Jenny McCarthy might be due to encephalitis- which is a legitimately acknowledged side effect of live virus vaccines. 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.”

Now getting into the actual link cited here, the page was written by Dr. Paul Offit. He is one of the developers of the Rotateq vaccine and has gotten a great deal of media attention lately from news articles applauding his hard line stance against parents who want to selective/delay vaccinate or not vaccinate at all and from his involvement with the PBS documentary “The War on Vaccines”. Despite his claims that alternative medicine and figures like Dr. Sears take advantage of parents’ feelings and media attention, Dr. Offit receives the same kind of attention and it has made him (and the Rotateq vaccine) more and more prominent. Frankly, I don’t find him a credible authority on vaccines because of the following:

  • A tendency to overdramatize- For a sampling of Dr. Offit’s tactics, take a look at this interview PBS did with him for the ever so diplomatically named documentary, “The War on Vaccines”. You will actually read him calling not vaccinating for measles as playing Russian roulette. We’re talking about a disease with a fraction of the morbidity and mortality of cancer in the United States. For comparison, recall that the CDC states that  “In the United States, measles caused 450 reported deaths and 4,000 cases of encephalitis annually before measles vaccine became available in the mid-1960s.” Here are the estimates of numbers for cancer in the United States for 2016 from the American Cancer Society:

    “About 1,685,210 new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2016 and… about 595,690 Americans are expected to die of cancer in 2016, which translates to about 1,630 people per day.” (And by the way, heart disease causes even more deaths in the United States annually than cancer does.) And here is Dr. Offit trying to convince us that measles will be a serious health impact?! But remember it’s extremely important for his Rotateq vaccine and his position as vaccine developer and expert that parents and pediatricians not question the current vaccine schedule and believe that death and destruction will  follow from not vaccinating. If parents start questioning which vaccines are necessary, rotavirus will probably be one of the first on the chopping block because it’s extremely rare for a child in a developed country to actually die from the disease and all of us grew up just fine without it. And if we start questioning that, then we start asking about why we need to vaccinate for chickenpox (which was a mild illness when we were growing up and not a cause for concern), and then we’ll start questioning measles and mumps (which were considered mild illnesses when our parents were growing up and not a cause for concern). Pretty soon, the entire vaccine industry would be losing a lot of money. So yes, characterizing measles as “Russian roulette” is not an accurate representation and instead sells parents and healthcare providers an inaccurate picture of risks that favors Dr. Offit’s interests.

    Bigotry- If you’re on the right side of the debate (the side that believes vaccines are the answer and the more the better), you are rational and well-informed and without any competing interests. If you don’t vaccinate or selective/delay vaccinate or support such decisions, you are selfish, ignorant and have ulterior motives, based on attention or profit. He claims it doesn’t matter that he has a profit interest in vaccines, because his vaccine works. Dr. Offit claims in his interview that a study comparing parents who vaccinate and don’t vaccinate would be fundamentally flawed because parents who vaccinate and those don’t are so fundamentally different. Parent who don’t vaccinate, he claims would be less likely to think their child has a problem because they think that not vaccinating will prevent developmental problems and other health problems. He does not think that parents who vaccinate could be subject to the same prejudice in reverse. PBS should be ashamed to be disseminating such bigotry, but they don’t seem to be able to pull their heads out and see this sort of “snow job” for the prejudice it is, they’re simply too set in the mindset that we must vaccinate or die to see anything else. But remember folks, when people were protesting on the steps of Little Rock High School about integration, they weren’t doing it because they considered themselves ignorant, prejudiced, bigoted, uninformed or hateful. They were doing it because they believed integration to be a genuine threat to their children’s health and safety and could point to research showing that people from other ethnicities were inferior to back up their stance. That’s the great thing about bigotry. It’s easy to see it in other decades and places, but not in our time and place.

    Can he even get his facts straight? I was not impressed with his scare story of a pertussis outbreak in Delaware and I’m a little suspicious of whether he is even presenting accurate facts on this incident. He says that in 2006 there was an outbreak of pertussis in Delaware that was reported in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and that most of the incidents of pertussis were in school age children ages 5-9. I have not been able to find a MMWR bulletin that meets this particular description. However, I did find one that detailed a pertussis outbreak in Kent County, Delaware in an Amish community during September 2004 through February 2005. This was published on August 4, 2006. This report details that most of the cases were preschool age children. (And in fact the charts published with this report showed that the breakdown by age group of pertussis cases in the Amish community differs substantially from the United States as a whole. The majority of the pertussis cases in the United States actually occur in adults with children ages 11-14 second. If this is the outbreak of pertussis he was referring to, there is something very ironic about it. Of the 123 patients ages 6 months to 5 years in the interviewed Amish households, almost one in four (24%) had records of receiving three or more doses of DTP or DTaP. (And another 5% had records of receiving 1 or 2 doses of DTP or DTaP.) The rate of vaccination for the interviewed households where clinical pertussis had been discovered was 45% not vaccinating any children, 42% vaccinating at least some children and 14% declined to give information about vaccination status. So out of the 40 households with at least one clinical pertussis case reporting at least some level of vaccination, 35 cases of pertussis were present. And out of 43 households with at least one pertussis case reporting no vaccination, 88 cases were present. But then of course, this may not account for vaccinated cases that do not meet the clinical definition, as noted above.

    And the things he won’t tell you about his Rotateq vaccine from the Clinical Microbiology Reviews

Rotateq: “Diarrhea and vomiting occurred more frequently among vaccine recipients than among placebo recipients. The efficacy of RotaTeq was evaluated in two phase III trials (1085). In these trials, the efficacy of RotaTeq against rotavirus gastroenteritis of any severity after completion of a three-dose regimen was 74%, and that against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis was 98%. RotaTeq also proved to be strongly efficacious in preventing rotavirus gastroenteritis of any severity caused by the predominant G1 serotype (75% efficacy) and the G2 serotype (63% efficacy). There was a trend toward efficacy for the remaining serotypes, but patient numbers were too small to show statistical significance (83% efficacy for G3, 48% efficacy for G4, and 65% efficacy for G9). The efficacy of RotaTeq in reducing the number of office visits for rotavirus gastroenteritis and in reducing the number of emergency department visits and hospitalizations for rotavirus gastroenteritis was evaluated in a large study. (85). The efficacy of RotaTeq in reducing the number of office visits for rotavirus gastroenteritis among 5,673 subjects and in reducing the number of emergency department visits and hospitalizations for rotavirus gastroenteritis among 68,038 subjects over the first 2 years of life was evaluated. RotaTeq reduced the incidence of office visits by 86%, emergency department visits by 94%, and hospitalizations for rotavirus gastroenteritis by 96%. Efficacy against all gastroenteritis hospitalizations of any etiology was 59%. The efficacy of RotaTeq in the second rotavirus season after immunization was 63% against rotavirus gastroenteritis of any severity and 88% against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis.”

In other words:

  • Children who receive the Rotateq vaccine may be sick with diarrhea and vomiting more frequently than those who do not.
  • Success rate for Rotateq is largely concerned with reducing office and emergency visits, not necessarily preventing actual rotavirus infections.
  • The Rotateq vaccine protects against particular strains of rotavirus. Its efficacy against other strains has not been determined with certainty.
  • Efficacy of Rotateq against all rotavirus infections of any severity is below 80%- nowhere near enough to establish herd immunity- a concept that Dr. Offit actively promotes.
  • The efficacy of Rotateq diminishes over time.

So, no, I’m not too confident in anything Dr. Offit has to say about vaccination.

Aside from Dr. Offit, I personally think there are some interesting issues with vaccine excipients that still are worth studying beyond thimerosal.  For example:

Adjuvants are the other chemicals frequently found in vaccines.

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.

Adjuvants 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).
  • Spread of a live vectored vaccine to the environment.

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

CLAIM: It’s not like a parent’s decision not to vaccinate his child harms other kids.

Vaccinated kids generally won’t get sick from the preventable diseases that they’ve been inoculated against. However, if a non-vaccinated kid gets sick with a preventable disease, there are still several people he may infect beyond non-vaccinated classmates.

What do you consider “generally won’t get sick”? Is this what you consider “generally won’t get sick”?

Which one of these examples do you feel fits the description of “generally won’t get sick”?

He may infect babies that haven’t yet been scheduled to receive their vaccines. He may also infect the small percentage of kids for whom their immunizations don’t work, as immunizations aren’t 100 percent effective. The measles vaccine, for example, is more than 95 percent effective—very good, but not perfect.

Well, the CDC tells a very different story than respected vaccinologist Dr. Gregory Poland. To quote the article referenced: “Dr. Poland is no vaccine denier. Not only is he among the harshest and most outspoken critics of the ‘irrationality of the antivaccinationists,’ he is also one of the strongest proponents for vaccines and the good that they can do. As Professor of Medicine and founder and leader of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, one of the world’s largest vaccine research organizations; as editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Vaccine; as recipient of numerous awards; as chair of vaccine data monitoring committees for pharmaceutical giant Merck; as patent holder in various vaccines processes; as someone who enjoys special employee status with the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Defense and as someone who has sat on every federal committee that has dealt with vaccines, no one can accuse him of seeing vaccines from a narrow perspective.”

Dr. Poland has stated that the MMR shot is not effective at preventing measles on a wide scale. He says that the MMR vaccine is far less effective than anticipated and that immunity from it quickly wanes. To quote again: “During the 1989-1991 U.S. outbreaks, 20 per cent to 40 per cent of those affected had received one to two doses. In a 2011 outbreak in Canada, “over 50 per cent of the 98 individuals had received two doses of measles vaccine… People’s failure to get vaccinated is deplorable, Dr. Poland often stresses. But the more fundamental problem stems from the vaccine being less effective in real life than predicted, with a too-high failure rate — between 2 per cent and 10 per cent don’t develop expected antibodies after receiving the recommended two shots. Because different people have different genetic makeups, the vaccine is simply a dud in many, failing to provide the protection they think they’ve acquired. To make matters worse, even when the vaccine takes, the protection quickly wanes, making it unrealistic to achieve the 95 per cent-plus level of immunity in the general population thought necessary to protect public health. For example, 9 per cent of children having two doses of the vaccine, as public health authorities now recommend, will have lost their immunity after just seven and a half years. As more time passes, more lose their immunity. ‘This leads to a paradoxical situation whereby measles in highly immunized societies occurs primarily among those previously immunized,’ Dr. Poland stated.”

And just like pertussis, vaccinated individuals can contract measles and not present with classical measles symptoms and may not be detected by tests for typical wild measles cases. And this isn’t coming from some “natural news” site, it’s coming from the 2009 Journal of Infectious Diseases. It contains an article about nonclassical measles in two fully vaccinated physicians which can be found here. It discusses a number of aspects of the disease eradication program and the role of vaccination. Little is really known about the full impact of modified/nonclassical measles because it is rarely given any consideration as a diagnosis and remains a little researched subject.  “To complicate matters, nonclassic cases of measles in vaccinated persons may be identified, which must be investigated. Often the symptoms are mild and resolve rapidly and, outside of the context of an outbreak or known exposure to a measles case patient, the nonclassic presentation might not raise suspicion of measles.” Also discusses the role of the lack of wild measles virus on the disease: “… the rate of nonclassic infection is likely to increase as measles control improves in a population, because boosting from exposure to wild-type measles virus will be rare. ” (In other words, the wild virus primes the immune system and if eliminated will not be present to “remind” the immune system of what it is supposed to be fighting.) Also discusses difficulties with detecting cases of nonclassical measles in vaccinated individuals because the usual IgM method used for measles diagnosis confirmation is unreliable in nonclassical cases.

Since the publication of that article in 2009, a 2011 outbreak of measles in New York was traced to a woman who was fully vaccinated. So while the media, the healthcare profession and this “science” magazine are implicating non-vaccinated individuals as ignorant specimens of humanity passing around horrendous diseases, we know that fully vaccinated individuals can contract non-typical forms of so-called “vaccine preventable diseases” and pass them on to others. Unfortunately, we don’t know the full public health impact of it because it isn’t being studied widely and most of the time individuals aren’t being tested for these diseases if they are up to date on their vaccines.

CLAIM: There’s nothing wrong with spacing out my child’s vaccines, if I want to.

Delaying a vaccine just means there’s that much longer a window for an unimmunized child to get sick. Limiting the number of doctor’s visits children need to get all their shots also helps more families stick to the recommended schedule and reduces the costs of vaccination.

“A longer window for an unimmunized child to get sick.” Well let’s talk about long windows for getting sick and the consequences. If you take above cited statistics on the measles, for example, the highest rates of morbidity and mortality are not in children, but adults- which is why developing the measles as a school age child and then having life long immunity could actually be more ideal from a health perspective. We actually do things backwards where we are immunizing school age children and then leaving them open to future infection as adults when the stakes are actually higher. The same actually goes for many other diseases like rubella and chicken pox (pregnancy complications) and mumps (infection to testicles in adolescent boys). A better strategy might actually be to forego vaccinating children for these diseases and vaccinate adults and teens who do not have demonstrated immunity through blood titers test.

How about the flu? What window of time applies to flu vaccination? Recently the flu mist vaccine was found to be almost completely ineffective against influenza after being the recommended choice for children for several years and after several studies from the manufacturer which pointed to it being highly effective. (The manufacturer stands by its studies even though real world observations have proven otherwise, prompting its downgrade from preferred method for children). And even when flu vaccines do work against the strains contained in them, they don’t work against other strains.

And side note: This article claims that vaccines just aren’t profitable for pharmaceutical companies to research and produce.  Let’s just take a quick look at that. Bringing up our dear friend Dr. Offit, he wrote an article in 2005 saying that vaccines aren’t profitable and predicting dire consequences from a lack of vaccine development, and in the past eleven years several new vaccines have some how made it into the regular rotation for children, adults of all ages and pregnant women. And while there are plenty of news articles out claiming otherwise, there are other voices from the medical and pharmaceutical fields saying the opposite:

“But the economics of this landscape are changing. The once low-margin vaccine market now includes blockbuster and megablockbuster products. Optimism over new candidates — including some for cancers, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and adult influenza — has led to expectations of healthy growth. Economists at the World Health Organization (WHO) report that the market has been growing at 10–15% annually, compared with 5–7% growth for other pharmaceutical segments, since 2000. That growth is expected to continue at 8% or better through 2018, reaching almost US$100 billion by 2025 (23). And some signs indicate that vaccine players may be narrowing their focus to a few areas (e.g., biosimilars) to reduce competition. Thus, an examination of the industry value chains reveals significant bottom-line potential.”- BioProcess International

“One of the new vaccines Gavi is tasked with introducing is the pneumonia vaccine (PCV), which aims to combat a major childhood killer in developing countries. A dramatic 37 per cent (or US$2.8 billion) of the total amount raised for Gavi last week from taxpayers and private foundations will go to pay for just this one high-priced vaccine, which today is produced by only two pharmaceutical giants: GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer. The two companies have made more than US$19 billion in sales off of the vaccine since its launch, yet still charge developing countries unaffordable and unsustainable prices. It’s important to point out that this vaccine was initially developed for children in wealthy countries, and its research and development costs have long been recovered.” –Stephen Cornish, Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders, Huffington Post Canada

One of my personal favorites though was actress Kristen Bell’s Huffington Post article in which she claimed that vaccines weren’t profitable and used a link to an article in The Atlantic titled “Vaccines Are Profitable. So What?” to support her claim. (Bless her heart, I do believe that Ms. Bell has the best of intentions and cares very much about making the world a better place. And yes, I enjoyed Frozen just as much as the next person.)

Going further into the flu, is it really the flu that kills or other accompanying complications? Take for example NBC’s account of a previously healthy teen athlete who supposedly died from the flu within days with no prior history of health problems. There is something very subtle going on with this article if you take a good look at it. They keep focusing you over and over again on the flu and the flu vaccine, but they mention that the boy had been diagnosed with a MRSA (methicillin resisitant staphylococcus aureus) infection and that he went into organ failure. MRSA is a nasty bacterial infection that can and does cause death by infecting the bloodstream (MRSA sepsis) and organs like the lung and heart. And it often seems like the flu at first. According to the Mayo Clinic, athletes who play contact sports are at an increased risk of contracting MRSA.

So while this boy did have influenza and he did die very suddenly and his family has focused on his story for flu shot awareness, clinically speaking, there is a very good possibility that MRSA contributed substantially to his death- even though the article keeps deflecting the issue. (For another account of a previously healthy teenage boy who contracted MRSA through contact sports and then started experiencing flu-like symptoms, see this article here from the University of Maryland Medical Center. Fortunately, this boy’s condition was found to be MRSA infection in enough time to save him, though he spent 59 days in pediatric intensive care fighting organ failure.) The family’s reaction is completely understandable. They have experienced a living nightmare and are trying to find a way to put their lives together after a tragedy. But unfortunately, there is no flu shot that can protect against MRSA. And for a further investigation into how flu deaths are even being tallied, see my flu post here. So whether you choose to get the flu shot or not, you’re not looking at some sort window of protection.

How about Hepatitis B? Does the window of infection for that one really start at birth for babies whose mothers are negative for the disease? Because statitiscally speaking, the chances of a baby contracting hepatitis B from a low-risk mother are negligible. For a more in-depth explanation of Hepatitis B risks, see my post here.


Beyond that, however, there’s little evidence about which alternative schedules of vaccinations is best and whether alternative schedules are better or worse than the standard schedule. The standard schedule has been studied because the vast majority of U.S. kids get it, but alternative schedules are pretty new and several different alternatives exist, so they are difficult to study. The Institute of Medicine is trying to figure out whether a study of alternative schedules is feasible.

Some delayed schedules celebrities (and celebrity doctors) have endorsed leave out some vaccinations altogether, which leave kids vulnerable to those diseases.

Well it’s not like the APA’s schedule is the gold standard either, for that matter. Many other countries follow different schedules and we don’t label these countries as a whole to be “anti-vaccine”. They all have reasons with research for the type of schedule they employ. And for that matter, adding more vaccines isn’t proof positive of lower childhood mortality either.

You can take a look at vaccine schedules from other countries like  IcelandSingaporeGreat Britain and even our neighbor to the north Canada and see that they don’t give as many vaccines as we do. For example, Great Britain does not routinely give a varicella, hepatitis A or rotavirus vaccine, nor does Singapore. Iceland doesn’t routinely give out vaccines for hepatitis A or B, rotavirus, varicella or Human Papilloma Virus. In Canada, the vaccination schedules vary from province to province and in some provinces the rotavirus vaccine is not publicly funded. And guess what? Children are still very healthy in these nations. For a quick measuring stick, let’s take under 1 year infant mortality rates from the CIA fact book: the US ranks 167th for infant mortality, the UK 187th, Singapore is 221st, and Iceland ranks 223rd. (Lower is better, it means there are fewer deaths in a given year per 1,000 live births, e.g. Iceland has 2.06 deaths per 1,000 live births and the US has 5.87 deaths per 1,000 live births. This isn’t a perfect indicator since it includes deaths due to birthing practices. It gives an indicator of the overall state of health of children under 1 year. However, a great many vaccines are administered to children under 1 year because this is when they are supposed to be the most susceptible to many diseases- which is the argument against delayed vaccination schedules.)

CLAIM: Every medicine has side effects, and I want to protect my kids.

It’s always important to know about side effects before deciding to give your kid a vaccine or another medicine.

Most of the side effects of vaccines are mild compared to the illnesses they prevent. Different vaccines may cause temporary fussiness, swelling, prolonged crying and other effects. Some babies get mild vomiting and diarrhea after the DTaP and rotavirus vaccines. (We fully acknowledge that what doctors call “mild vomiting and diarrhea” is not fun to have to take care of.)

Very rarely, kids may be severely allergic to a vaccine. Allergic reactions generally occur within hours of getting a shot. The reaction may be bad enough that a kid can’t get the rest of the shots in that series, which means he or she will have to rely on other kids being vaccinated to protect him from that disease.

1 in 20,000 to 1 in 100,000 babies who get the rotavirus vaccine get a serious bowel blockage for which they have to visit the hospital. Some will need surgery.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of the potential side effects of different vaccines, though I’ve tried to cover the most severe ones. You can find out more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Well, we’re in the home stretch here folks. Let’s talk about side effects. We’re used to hearing extravagantly large numbers for vaccine side effects 1 in 4,000,000 and the like. The thing is, these rates are typically based on two variables: the number of doses of vaccines manufactured and the number of incidents reported as vaccine reactions. Let’s talk about the first variable, the number of doses manufactured. Not every dose of vaccine that is manufactured is actually administered. Obviously a vaccine can’t cause a reaction unless it is administered, so counting doses manufactured doesn’t give an accurate picture. In 1980, the Office of Technology Assessment was asked by the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee to put together a memorandum on the possibility of a vaccine injury compensation program. This is a very interesting read and highly informative. The full memorandum can be found here.

From the OTA: “Estimating the number of serious adverse vaccine reactions that occur annually in the United States cannot be accomplished with absolute certainty. There are conflicting incidence estimates for the various adverse reactions, and no one really knows how many doses of vaccine are actually administered (versus distributed) annually, particularly by private physicians. An often-used conservative rule of thumb is to estimte one-fourth wastage.” Current (last updated July 1, 2016) charts from the VICP simply use the number of doses administered between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2014 simply use the number of doses distributed according to the CDC.

The second variable is how many incidents are actually attributed to vaccine reactions. I think it is entirely possible that there is a bias on the part of physicians. They have heard that vaccine reactions, especially disabling ones or death are so incredibly rare that it is extremely unlikely that they would ever see one. So, I think it is possible that many vaccine reactions are misdiagnosed as other conditions with similar symptoms. For example, encephalitis is a known side effect of live virus vaccines, though the symptoms of disability resulting from encephalitis can be very similar to those of autism. In another example, Guillain-Barre Syndrome could be mistaken for multiple sclerosis. The above cited article on autoimmune encephalitis says that the condition often looks very much like multiple sclerosis.

Underreporting is a possibility. An interesting letter from a New York pediatrician to the British Medical Journal brought up the possibility of underreporting with an example of Kawasaki Disease and Rotateq (which I did not plan): “During the 18-year period from 1990 through 2007 just 88 cases of Kawasaki Disease in children under 5 were reported to VAERS. During the same period about 88 million U.S. children passed through the 0-5 age group; consequently the incidence rate reported to VAERS was 0.10 KD cases per 100,000 person-years. (Pediatr Infect Dis J 28:943, 2009) From 1988 to 2006 the published KD incidence for U.S. children under 5 rose from 11.0 to 20.8 per 100,000 person-years. (Pediatrics 111:448, 2003. Pediatrics 112:495, 2003. Pediatr Infect Dis J 29:483, 2010) Even for infants 3-6 months old, when suspicion for vaccine adverse effects should be especially high, KD incidence as reported to VAERS was 0.11 while published background rates were 23.1 (2000) and 24.6 (2006); fewer than 1 in 200 KD cases were reported to VAERS. It is bewildering, therefore, to learn that FDA and CDC officials used VAERS data to dismiss a placebo-controlled trial that found a 5-fold KD risk associated with RotaTeq–RR=4.9; 95% CI 0.6, 239. (Pediatr Infect Dis J 28:943, 2009. 6/15/07.) If confirmed by a larger trial, the KD risk associated with RotaTeq would translate to an extra 4000 U.S. cases annually in young children.” So there could be misrepresentations with the calculation of vaccine adverse events.

But for an interesting experiment, let’s say that in some cases physicians encounter a vaccine adverse event and mistake it for some other similar condition. So let’s estimate that 1% of incidents of the following conditions are actually vaccine reactions. Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (not caused by accidental suffocation or strangulation in the bed area= 2,625 total, 1%=26). Autism spectrum disorder. (Finding an actual number of diagnoses per year- not a prevalence or percentage- is extremely difficult, so I’m left to my own devices. So we’ll take 73.6 million children ages 0-17 in 2015. Since autism case prevalence is computed based on 3-17 year olds, we’ll take half of the number of children ages 0-5 which is 23.7 million– 23.7 million/2= 11,850,000, so we’ll estimate that the number of children in the United States ages 3-17 is 73,600,000-11,850,000= 61,750,000. Autism prevalence for children ages 3-17 is placed at 2.24%, so 2.24% of 61,750,000 is 1,389,375. 1% of 1,389,375 is 13,893.75, we’ll round up to 13,894.) Multiple sclerosis (an estimated 10,000 new cases diagnosed every year in the US, 1% of 10,000 is 100) and Shaken Baby Syndrome (according to the New York State Department of Health is 1,000-3,000, so we’ll estimate 1,500 and 1% of that is 15- which may be extremely generous considering that SBS is a highly suspect diagnosis that may be attributed to vaccine adverse events very frequently.) So 26+13,894+100+15= 14,035. In 1980, the OTA placed their estimate of disabling vaccine reactions at 100-250 a year, but based on estimates such as mine above it could actually be much higher.

But for a moment let’s take all that off the table and say that the OTA’s estimate in their memorandum is completely accurate. We know that vaccines frequently have a very high failure rate and that herd immunity is more wishful thinking than actual fact. So parents have to decide whether they feel like it is worth the possibility of their child suffering a disabling condition to receive a medical procedure that can’t actually provide high level of protection for themselves or others.

Information for Parents About Vaccines- A Study of the Dissemination of Ignorance

“I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a very delicate exotic fruit. Touch it and the bloom is gone.”– Lady Bracknell, The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde

“I trust doctors, not know-it-alls.”- Kristen Bell

“Just because a baby dropped out of you doesn’t mean a PhD did.”- Pro-vaccination Facebook meme

Trusting doctors and scientists is the smart thing to do isn’t it? After all, they have had years, even decades of schooling and the information they learn in medical schools and PhD programs is absolutely proven- otherwise it wouldn’t be a part of the curriculum.

But what if it’s not?

What if the curriculum taught in universities and medical schools about medicine and disease prevention is influenced by politics, economics, and cultural biases?

Oh, that is a very scary place, isn’t it?

It means that the information we get from health officials and doctors may not be completely accurate. (Gasp! We might gain greater scientific knowledge in the future and find out some of our current medical practices are based on faulty assumptions- like bleeding patients and prenatal x-rays were. You mean we don’t everything right now?!)  It means that profit motive could play a role in how medical treatment and procedures are administered and represented to us. It’s so scary that we would rather turn a blind eye and not examine that possibility and continue living in ignorance. And that brings us to agnotology- the study of willful acts to spread confusion or deceit.

Agnotology is a relatively new field of academic study and has yielded a great deal of interesting information about how businesses and even governments have used the deliberate spread of misinformation to keep people from understanding the truth about something. Quoting a LA Times article (where columnist Michael Hiltzik displays his own ignorance by claiming that people who oppose vaccination base their entire position on one discredited study): “The tobacco industry was a pioneer at this. Its goal was to erode public acceptance of the scientifically proven links between smoking and disease: In the words of an internal 1969 memo legal opponents extracted from Brown & Williamson’s files, “Doubt is our product.” Big Tobacco’s method should not be to debunk the evidence, the memo’s author wrote, but to establish a “controversy.” From a BBC article on the tobacco company’s efforts to create confusion: “[Science historian Dr. Robert Proctor of Stanford University] had found that the cigarette industry did not want consumers to know the harms of its product, and it spent billions obscuring the facts of the health effects of smoking.” Remember, folks, there was a time when smoking was considered very safe- even by doctors- and a big part of that was deliberate efforts of the tobacco companies to discredit research that showed their products caused cancer.

How about another example of agnotology and medical science? From the late 1800’s to about the middle of the twentieth century so-called “racial hygiene” was considered a public health necessity. It did not originate from the Nazi’s in World War II, it was already being preached and practiced as the best way to maintain a healthy populace in both Europe and America. In fact, America was among the first countries to institute sterilization laws for those considered unfit to reproduce. That was in 1907. It would be a decade more before Germany began instituting such laws. Racial hygiene was taught as a fact in medical and nursing schools in Germany and other countries. It was held up by research from MD’s and PhD’s claiming that people of other races were intellectually inferior. Sterilization laws soon gave way to “mercy killings” of the mentally ill or disabled and soon to mass genocide of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and other groups deemed to be a burden on public health. (I highly recommend reading all of the aforementioned link. It’s a summary of Dr. Proctor’s very comprehensive look at the how the Nazis influenced the medical system of Germany.)

So for all of you who loudly proclaim that you trust your doctors and do what they tell you because doctors and PhD’s know best, how about this? What would you do if your doctor told you it was a public health necessity to execute your neighbor because of her ethnicity? Or how about a special needs child? What about someone who was disabled or suffered depression? Would you be the type of person who steps back and says, “Now wait a minute. These people may not be like an artificial ‘ideal’, but their lives have value- many of them can have a very positive impact on our society if we let them. Even if the experts are saying one thing, they could be wrong.” Or would you be turning in your neighbor or handing your disabled family members over for a mercy killing because it is the “scientific” thing to do? If you have ever said that you vaccinate yourself and your child because you trust doctors and scientists, think very carefully about your answer. (Kristen Bell, care to field this one?)

Let’s take a look at vaccine information now. For those of you out there who are vaccine proponents and claim to believe in facts, logic and research, you should have absolutely no problem with comparisons of vaccine information distributed to parents with epidemiological research on the diseases and medical facts about the vaccines.

Let’s start with Hepatitis B.

The CDC’s information page for parents on Hepatitis B claims that “of the more than 1 million people in the United States living with lifelong Hepatitis B, most got the virus as a child” and that “When infants and young children are infected with Hepatitis B, they have 90% chance of developing a life-long, chronic infection”. The CDC says that Hepatitis B can be passed through more every day means such as chewing food to give to a baby, sharing toothbrushes and gum and touching open cuts or sores. Statements like these may give the impression that Hepatitis B is a disease that frequently affects children and that transmission outside of sexual contact, needle sharing and maternal transmission are also frequent phenomena.

However, reports of epidemiology presented at the National Institutes of Health Workshop on the Management of Hepatitis B show a different breakdown. Their statistics show that 45% of all new HBV infections in the United States are sexually transmitted, with injection drug use causing another 21% of cases and the remainder (33%) being cases of mother-to-child transmission occurring at birth or in the first few years of life. (pg. 20) Overall, the CDC statistics show that rate of HBV infection is very low in the United States and Canada, averaging 0.1 to 0.5% for current or chronic infection, however the rate of infection is much higher among native populations and Asian emigres. About 5% of Americans have been infected with the hepatitis B, but 90-95% of the time these cases are cleared by the immune system on its own, especially in adults. (See page 19 under the heading “Canada and the United States”.) Child-to-child transmission of hepatitis B (mostly through contact with open sores) has been well documented in developing countries. In the United States and other developed countries child-to-child transmission incidents have been extraordinarily rare, even in daycare and school. Urine and feces are not vehicles for transmission unless blood is present and oral transmission of hepatitis B is almost non-existent. (pg. 48 under heading “Risk of Hepatitis B Infection in Daycare Centers”.)

So notice that while CDC’s information for parents has some truth in it (that HBV can be spread through sharing personal care items and that children have a greater chance of developing a lifelong HBV infection than adults). However, there are a couple of big, glaring factual omissions here. One is that the overall rate of HBV infection in the United States is very low. This is not a common disease, so the chances of an individual in a low-risk population contracting are extremely low. The other omission is that almost all children who are infected with HBV contract the virus through mother-to-child transmission either at birth or in the first few years of life, so unless the mother is infected at birth or during the child’s first few years of life, the chances of a child contracting HBV are extremely low. The other thing they fail to mention is that incidences of child-to-child transmission of HBV are extraordinarily rare in the United States and other developed countries. This vaccination is becoming required by more and more states for entrance into kindergarten, but ironically enough parents and doctors can vaccinate all the kindergarteners they want, but the small number of children who are most at-risk for HBV infection will probably contract the infection at birth or before they enter kindergarten from their mothers. In other words, vaccinating kindergarteners for HBV is one of those feel-good measures that doesn’t actually accomplish much. The CDC’s information for parents on HBV is deliberately misleading.

Moving on, let’s take a look at pertussis next. The CDC says this about pertussis prevention:

“Pertussis (whooping cough) can lead to serious illness, needing treatment in the hospital, and death — especially in babies who are too young to be well-protected by vaccines. You can help protect your baby from pertussis by:

  • Getting a pertussis vaccine (Tdap) if you are pregnant
  • Encouraging those around your baby be up-to-date with pertussis vaccination
  • Making sure your baby gets his pertussis vaccines on time”

But here is what they are not telling you about pertussis and pertussis vaccination:

I could go on and on with other diseases, but you get the idea. So let’s review here: the information that is distributed to parents from agencies like the Centers for Disease Control leaves out several very important facts and twist others to present an unrealistic picture of the risk for diseases and the benefits of vaccines. The doctors, scientists and public health professionals at the CDC are considered very educated about the spread of disease, so unless the people employed there are in reality extremely ignorant about diseases and their spread (and therefore unqualified for their positions), we can only assume that they are deliberately keeping parents from this information. Sounds like a subject worthy of agnotology.

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.




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:




  • 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?



SIDS and Vaccination, Yes There Could Be A Connection

We’ve all heard it: co-sleeping is the primary  risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Every couple of years another study seems to come out saying the same thing. The May 2013 study from the British Medical Journal is being heralded as a landmark study in proving the dangers of co-sleeping.  But have you ever stopped to ask yourself why the medical community is so sure about ways to prevent SIDS when they claim they don’t know what causes it? Turning a logical eye to SIDS research uncovers a number of inconsistencies about this mysterious medical phenomenon.

The diagnosis of SIDS is a floating target. Since the medical community has no known cause for SIDS, a diagnosis must be made by excluding other causes rather than looking for signs of a particular cause. The definition of a clinical case of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is defined as the sudden death of an infant younger than 1 year that remains unexplained after a thorough investigation, which should include an autopsy, examination of the scene of death and review of clinical history. With such a broad clinical definition and no known cause, diagnosing SIDS can be highly subjective.

 Classification for incidents of sudden unexplained death of infant (SUDI) have changed over the years and many of these deaths are now being classified as other unknown causes. In fact, evidence shows that many deaths previously classified as SIDS may be cases of accidental suffocation or strangulation. As the numbers of SIDS deaths have gone down, the number of infant deaths from accidental strangulation and suffocation have increased.

 We don’t know how many incidents of SUDI are diagnosed as SIDS because the baby was sleeping with parents and how many incidents of SUDI are attributed to other unknown causes because the baby was in a crib. This could explain recent assertions that it is very rare any more to find a SIDS case in a baby that sleeps in a crib.

Co-sleeping in Western Culture

There is a strong bias against co-sleeping in Western cultures that has likely influenced existing medical literature. Despite the vehement assertions of American and European medical practitioners that co-sleeping is unsafe, humans have been doing it for thousands of years and survived. In his paper on SIDS research, professor James J. McKenna pointed out that if co-sleeping were truly as hazardous as medical authorities say, then none of us would be here because our ancestors would have died.

In Europe and North America co-sleeping fell out of favor due to social and cultural pressures rather than any actual health issues. Among impoverished families, infanticide was rampant. Many parents tried to avoid jail by claiming they had accidentally overlaid the baby in their sleep. This became so much of a problem that 17th century, England, Germany and France all passed legislation mandating jail time if a parent was found in bed with a child under two years of age.  In fact, babies protest very loudly if their breathing is compromised. Only a parent who is intoxicated or otherwise unusually lacking in their ability to wake up would not notice a screaming baby next to them.

 Moralists of this era were also concerned with the “sexual purity” of children and thought that getting children out of their parents’ bed would remove the temptation for incest. A growing philosophical movement that placed the spousal relationship in competition with that of the mother and child also contributed to the end of the family bed in Western society.  So in America and Europe, doctors and scientists often have a pre-existing bias against co-sleeping when they go into research and this influences their conclusions.

The Co-sleeping Stigma

Because of the stigma attached to co-sleeping, adequate research comparing co-sleeping and separate sleeping infants and SIDS is difficult. Many parents sleep apart from their babies because they have been told it is safer and many who do co-sleep don’t “advertise” for fear of criticism from family, friends, doctors and even child protective services.

 Between the stigma attached to co-sleeping and the massive amount of funds involved, it would be extremely difficult to find the 10,000 co-sleeping infants needed to compare with an equal sized group of infants who sleep apart from parents for a study to really get an accurate picture of the risks.

In Favor of Co-Sleeping

There is statistical and laboratory evidence that co-sleeping may prevent SIDS. McKenna found that when babies and mothers sleep together, they tend to match sleep patterns and even bring each other out of apneas (periods when breathing stops).

 They also found that internationally, among cities where SIDS deaths are the lowest, co-sleeping rates are some of the highest. Among native peoples who practice co-sleeping there has not been an increased rate of SIDS observed.  Historical evidence also presents problems with the idea that SIDS is related to co-sleeping. Early terms for SIDS included “crib death” and “cot death”, which imply that the baby died in a crib or infant sleeping cot. These terms would probably not have come into common usage if the typical case of SIDS was found in the parents’ bed.

Preventing SIDS?

Autopsies of SIDS babies have shown petechiae (small, red spots that are a symptom of bleeding beneath the skin) on parts of the lungs and heart with no difference in severity between babies who died face up, face down, or side-lying.  The petechiae are a symptom of what doctors call central airway failure and are not consistent with airway obstruction as is the case with suffocation or asphyxiation. What the autopsies seem to be showing is that SIDS is not caused by the baby’s airway being blocked, but rather, the respiratory system shutting down from within and that it happens regardless of the baby’s sleeping position. This is yet another problem with most of the SIDS prevention guidelines which focus on keeping the baby’s airway free. Of course, by its very nature a death caused by suffocation or asphyxiation can not accurately be classified as SIDS because it has a known cause.

Vaccines Can’t Cause SIDS?

 There  is one condition that could cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and fits the clinical presentation very well. Encephalitis, especially encephalitis triggered by an autoimmune reaction, matches the description of SIDS.

 Clinical presentation of encephalitis in infants:

 Clinical presentation of SIDS:

 According to the online Merck Home Manual, encephalitis is caused by bacterial and viral infections or autoimmune reactions triggered by infections or vaccine reactions.  So we have a disease which is known to cause sudden death and is known to be caused by vaccine reactions. But if the medical community were to be honest about this with the public, many people would probably stop vaccinating their little babies.

SIDS Research?

But what about all that research that claims to prove that there is no link between SIDS and vaccination? Well, Randall Neustaedter has some great information in his book The Vaccine Guide about the financial incentives researchers were given to “find” no link between DTP and SIDS. However, we don’t need to even go to a third party source to find that researchers are given money from vaccine manufacturers.

Dr. James Cherry has been one of the most prominent voices declaring that his research shows that no relationship between vaccines and SIDS exists. But take a look at this article from Dr. Cherry on vaccine failure. A financial disclosure in the footnotes of the full text states that “Dr. Cherry has given talks in programs supported directly and through program grants by Sanofipasteur and GlaxoSmithKline. Dr. Cherry has consulted about pertussis vaccines with Sanofipateur and GlaxoSmithKline.” So we’re not getting independent research here, we’re getting research from the manufacturers who have a financial interest in making more vaccines. I don’t think it should comes as any surprise that this article about why the pertussis vaccine fails concludes by saying, “Clearly, additional investments and innovation in pertussis vaccine development are needed”. (In other words, if it’s not working, the manufacturers need more money and more job security to make it work.)

How about a court of law? Would a legal ruling that vaccines were responsible for a baby’s death or injury help you to believe that SIDS could at least sometimes be caused by vaccination? Well, there are 1,270 cases of injury and death related to SIDS that the US government has paid out on after courts ruled that the DTP vaccine was definitely responsible. That’s almost one quarter of the 3,856 vaccine injury and death claims that have been paid out as of December 2014.

Note: Some of the material in this post also appears in my ebook Science of Birth Course Section 11: Your New Baby. In addition to SIDS, this book has thorough, fact-based discussions of issues like co-sleeping and circumcision and even a comprehensive guide to your many cloth diapering options. Available at:

Everything You Should Know About Pertussis And Haven’t Been Told

You’ve probably been seeing campaigns about the adult pertussis shot. (“If your baby could talk, she would tell you to get the pertussis shot!”) Pertussis is also one of the diseases that Dr. Sears feels it is most important to vaccinate children for since pertussis is very common and can kill young babies. You may be thinking that the greatest risk for your newborn contracting pertussis lies in individuals who are not vaccinated for the disease.

You would be wrong. The reality is that even if you have been vaccinated for pertussis, there is a very strong possibility that you will still catch pertussis and pass it on to others.

Many parents have been lulled into a false sense of security because they don’t see children coughing and whooping. Before you get too smug and lecture about how you have removed yourself and your children from the epidemiological chain consider that it is a medically documented fact that individuals who have been vaccinated for pertussis and contract the disease often don’t display any symptoms. Yep, you can have pertussis and not even know it.

But what about everything you have been hearing about how pertussis vaccination has saved lives and is responsible for public health safety?

A 2013 study showed that the acellular pertussis vaccine that is currently used is actually far less effective than the older whole cell pertussis vaccine that was used until the 1990’s.  On the other hand, the medical community acknowledges that the whole cell vaccine was discontinued and is not likely to be brought back because of it carries an increased risk of mild and severe side effects.

Take a look at the following cases:

Yes, you can vaccinate for pertussis, but that doesn’t mean that it will stop the spread of it. Considering the abysmal failure rate of the pertussis vaccine, we should probably begin to call into question assertions that it was responsible for dramatic decreases in pertussis death rates. Take a look at Tavia Gordon’s Vital Statistics report chart from 1953. The pertussis death rate actually reached an all time high of approximately 17 per 100,000 in 1918- four years after the introduction of the pertussis vaccine in 1914. The pertussis death rate continued to decline throughout the first half of the twentieth century at roughly the same rate as other diseases like scarlet fever (which we don’t vaccinate for) and measles (vaccine introduced in the 1960’s).

Much has been said about the safety of vaccine excipients. Before you start getting up on a soapbox about how vaccine excipients are safe, ask yourself how you feel about injecting your child wight he following:

  • formaldehyde ( a known carcinogen and mutagen), which is in all pertussis shots, both DTaP and Tdap.
  • gluteraldehyde, closely related to formaldehyde, known to cause eczema and asthma (Was this in the shots they were giving thirty years ago? I wonder if it could be responsible for the horrible eczema that plagued me as a baby and into elementary school. Nothing conclusive, but something I wonder.)
  • 2-phenoxyethanol (Daptacel, Pentacel and Adacel), a preservative known to depress the central nervous system and cause vomiting and diarrhea. In fact, in 2008 the FDA warned mothers not to use a brand of nipple cream that had phenoxyethanol in it because of the danger to babies.
  • Polysorbate 80 (Infanrix, Pediarix, Kinrix, Boostrix), which is an insecticide actually classified as a List C pesticide under the 1988 Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.
  • Those with objections to the use of animals or abortion should take note that all pertussis vaccines contain animal cell cultures (bovine is especially favored) and Pentacel contains cell cultures from an aborted fetus designated MRC-5.

Are you getting concerned?

While the pertussis vaccine may not be the safest or most effective way of combatting whooping cough, there are alternatives.

High doses of Vitamin C may have a profound effect on pertussis. Before the advent of antibiotics, some doctors began experimenting with high doses of Vitamin C in treating pertussis and other bacterial infections.

A number of studies from the first half of the twentieth century showed excellent results in the treatment of pertussis with high doses of vitamin C. Otani was the first to experiment with high dose Vitamin C therapy for pertussis and his results were soon replicated by other doctors. His favored methods was injections or intravenous Vitamin C.

The 1937 Ormerod and Unkauf study detailed 10 cases of pertussis in 9 children and one adult that all responded very well to high dose oral Vitamin C therapy. Usually pertussis takes six weeks (sometimes more) for full recovery, but the Ormerod cases averaged around two weeks. The paroxysmal coughing spasms were also reduced to days instead of weeks.

In 1938, Ormerod conducted another study of high dose Vitamin C therapy with further successful results. The protocol he developed involved giving 350 mg on the first day of therapy, 250 mg the second and third days, 200 mg on the fourth and fifth days, 150 on the sixth and seventh days and 100 mg every day thereafter until all symptoms were gone for two days. (Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases, and Toxins, Thomas E. Levy, M.D., 2009, pg. 117) Sesa in 1940 reported excellent results in giving infants with pertussis injections of 100 mg to 500 mg of Vitamin C. Meier in 1945 reported a marked reduction in coughing fits in infants that he treated with both oral and injected Vitamin C. (Levy, pg. 118)

These early researchers noted that pertussis cases often presented with scurvy (a disease associated with Vitamin C deficiency), regardless of diet. This led them to conclude that pertussis actually depleted the body’s Vitamin C stores, so high doses are needed to help the body fight off the infection.

Dr. Thomas Levy states that Vitamin C therapy should always be used along with treating pertussis or any other infectious disease and that a regular high intake of Vitamin C should also prevent pertussis as well  (Levy, pg. 118).

On the Internet there is a lot of talk about treating pertussis with an extremely high dose regime from Dr. Frederick Klenner, but Klenner never actually treated pertussis with his protocol (Levy, pg. 118). (However, Klenner did report succesfully treating other infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis.)

With the advent of antibiotics, Vitamin C protocols fell by the wayside, so if your child does contract pertussis, it’s unlikely she will receive high dose Vitamin C at the hospital. It might be useful to consult a qualified naturopath in conjunction with any conventional therapies for pertussis.

You could also consult a homeopath. The homeopathic remedy drosera has been used to successfully treat pertussis for over 100 years.

Depending on symptoms, other remedies such as ipecacaunha or pulsatilla can be used. With pertussis, it can be tricky to match the right homeopathic because the symptoms (i.e. type of cough, mucus, etc.) change constantly, but homeopathy can be very helpful in treating this disease.

Because vaccinated individuals and  babies under 6 months often don’t display the “classic” whooping cough symptoms, pertussis can creep up on the unwary and unprepared. That’s why it is important to know the symptoms.

Unvaccinated children and adults will  first have cold–like symptoms such as a runny nose, low-grade fever and mild coughing for one to two weeks. After that there will be violent coughing fits that often end with a “whoop” sound. Often the paroxysms will cause exhaustion or vomiting in between fits. This lasts for around 1–6 weeks, sometimes longer.

Once the paroxysmal state is over, there is a 2–3 week convalescent stage when the coughing gradually tapers off, but the individual is still very susceptible to respiratory infections. With high dose Vitamin C therapy,  the paroxysmal state may last only a few days and be far less severe, with a shorter convalescent stage as well.

Infants under 6 months often will not have any coughing. One of the keys to spotting pertussis in young babies is apnea (pauses in breathing during sleep). If you notice your baby frequently stops breathing during sleep, it could be pertussis.

Update: A study published in the April 2014 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases showed that the  TDaP vaccine is only 47% effective amongst adolescents ages 13-16. From Medscape’s report on it: “When asked whether they would recommend any changes to public policy on the basis of this data, Dr. Liko (author of the study) said no, but that, “public health officials should continue to reassure that vaccination as recommended by [the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices] is associated with lower risk of pertussis among children and adolescents.” 

So let’s get this straight. You know that pertussis vaccination is so ineffective it couldn’t possibly create herd immunity. You know that it won’t protect even half of the teens and adults who get it. But nothing needs to change and public health officials should make sure that people continue to use the said ineffective product. This kind of response will certainly line the pockets of manufacturer’s but will not stop the spread of pertussis.

Update February 2016: Antibiotics can kill of bordetella pertussis, the bacteria that causes pertussis, but it can’t actually alter the course of the progression of the disease. Secondary conditions like uncontrollable vomiting, hypoxia, and dehydration can result from the severity of the coughing, and the antibiotics can’t actually treat these symptoms- it just kills off the b. pertussis bacteria. This is why pertussis remains difficult to treat even with antibiotics. Here’s a link for a study:

Scientists have recently discovered antibiotic resistant pertussis bacteria strains.