AFTER the news that President-Elect Trump was considering establishing a “Vaccine Safety Commission” with a focus on “Scientific Integrity”, the collective media world in the US lost its collective mind.
Story after story came pouring at, each one pushing the standard Gregorian Chant:
The news that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. would be serving as chair of the commission set off a furor of personal attacks – in news articles – launched at both him, and at President-Elect Trump. The stories all read the same – not very reassuring that they were independent – and overall they dismissed Kennedy as a “skeptic” (as if that’s bad!), an Anti-Vaxxer (which he has made clear he is not), and conveyed the social message that anyone who dares ask any questions about vaccines will be promptly drawn and quartered in the public square.
CNN even dug up an old story of a 12-year old boy who put all of the studies that show that vaccines cause autism in one folder… the joke is, the boy opens the folder, and it’s empty. Implying that even a 12-year knows that there are no study that support a link between vaccines and autism.
When a 49-year old research scientist reads 2,000 studies on autism, well, that might lead to a different story.
And indeed it has:
I’ve been shamelessly plugging my book for just over a month, as instructed to do by my publisher, and sales have been pretty good. I’ve even found a small group of ardent followers (I follow them, too!). But rest assured, I won’t be retiring anytime soon. (Part of the proceeds of the sale of the book go to fund objective research at The Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge).
I wanted to know what the science actually says – the science CDC has ignored. That’s not Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s position. He’s on a single-minded mission to protect the world from infectious diseases. If you look at Dr. Gupta’s reaction, however, it’s damage control gone wrong.
A Matter of Fact
His article, published as a reaction to the news about the CDC Fraud Inquiry Panel (aka Vaccine Science Commission), entitled “Benefits of vaccines are a matter of fact“, is a first-person account of his own reaction to the news that someone might want to take a closer look at vaccine safety science.
His mission in this piece is to minimize the public’s perception of risk of injury from vaccines. Of course the rates of adverse events are known to be much higher than those captured by the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System. They must be. Because pediatricians assure parents “Don’t blame the vaccine”. Estimates are that only between 2-10% of vaccine adverse events are captured. That’s not a surprise, when anyone caught discussing vaccine risk will clearly be shot on sight.
Dr. Gupta has argued by analogy, and with mixed metaphors. He cites a doctor who says it makes as much sense to be concerned about being injured by a vaccines as being concerned about being struck by a car. He cites risks of the use of other substances, like water, aspirin and Tylenol, to which he says adverse reactions are more common that those for vaccines, but, for which, he points out,”no armies have formed against aspirin, Tylenol or water”.
Those of you who are vaccine-risk aware will see the sad irony in the ignorance this analogy carries.
As far as the “don’t stop walking because ‘people’ sometimes get struck by cars”, there is no under-reporting of people injured or killed by automobiles while walking, and, equally important, there are times and places when in fact we do indeed stop walking: when the light is red, or when we see the traffic is heavy – or at crowded intersections when the people in front of us have stopped walking, we take social cues from people with experience: those who see the red lights. Certainly, if we come across an intersection with an injured child, Dr. Gupta, we stop walking and take action.
There is no one shouting at people waiting at an intersection, yelling how those crazy “anti-walkers” are putting all walkers at risk. (Caveat: that might actually vary with geographic and population density).
You see, our society has experience with pedestrian injuries, and we take time and effort to protect them. We have crosswalks, for example, and we use street lights. Sometimes we even have traffic cops. And for children, we have Crossing Guards who pay particularly close attention to the fact that kids don’t always clue into the existing cues that adults have learned. Because they are kids.
Armies of vaccine-risk aware Americans do not form spontaneously, Dr. Gupta. Parents of vaccine injured children are not trying to protect their own children. They are trying to protect other people’s children from the same fate. Pediatricians should, but do not assume the role of the crossing guard – because no one else is doing that particular job in this setting, other parents show up and act upon their duty to warn.
I’ve studied the issue of vaccine risk since I first naively tried to write an unbiased chapter on vaccines. (For the record, I think I nearly succeeded). I’ve read articles on both sides. I am aware of the talking points given to pediatricians for the “Vaccine Hesitant”. For those on the Ultra-Pro vaccine side, it’s all about perception control (aka, marketing). The benefits of vaccines are to be maximized, and the risks, well, the only risk they are concerned with is the risk of loss of uptake of vaccines. Injuries? What injuries?
The effects of this perception control have been frightening. I have seen arguments for taking away first amendment rights in scholarly journals, and other articles condoning the use of coercion to enforce vaccine use:
“Both persuasion and coercion are necessary, and neither is sufficient. Laws serve as a critical safety net as well as a powerful symbolic statement of proimmunization social norms.” [Colgrove J Vaccine Refusal Revisited – The Limits of Public Health Persuasion and Coercion. N Engl J Med. 2016 Oct 6;375(14):1316-1317.]
On the other side, I’ve known people and have been castigated by individuals who maintain that vaccines can never be made safe.
And yet most rational people would want vaccines that work, and are safe.
The problem is, Dr. Gupta, the message you convey that “Vaccines Work” lacks a certain granularity that gives knowledge claims made by you, other medical doctors, and scientists who actually think they know about vaccine risk a certain smack of acceptability.
What you cannot see – what you won’t let yourself see – is that you, and others bent on winning the propaganda war to save vaccines, and to save humanity, from the scourge of all of the deadly (and not-so-deadly) infections, have become your own worse enemy. You can’t win a debate, or win over a population, with one-sided, unqualified statements that are demonstrably false in detail. Generalizations are rare in real life. And remember, this is the era of Personalized Medicine. So how could anyone expect that “Vaccines Are Safe” applies to any and all individuals? It does not pass the sniff test. Something’s missing.
The standard goal-post move that comes in this context is the old stand-by “there is risk in everything”. Perhaps that’s true. But by all appearances, CDC is not at all interested in minimizing risk, but instead is exclusively interested in minimizing the perception of risk. The dangers there are obvious. Actual vaccine risk is something that can only be reduced if we (1) are allowed to talk about risks of vaccines, and keep our heads, and (2) act in specific ways that actually minimize risk, not just the perception of risk. Alternative schedules come to mind. Perhaps we need science that studies various schedules vs. unvaccinated kids to know the full risk.
Some hardcore self-described anti-vaxxers don’t want those studies because they fear for the kids on the vaccinated list. They want to ban all vaccines. I respect them, but it’s clear that virus-like particles with extensive and safe antigens with no adjuvants have not been tested. As a scientist, I cannot generalize to “all vaccines” because not “all vaccine” technologies have had a chance in the market. As Dr. Toni Bark has said:
Do vaccines work?
Sometimes. But sometimes they don’t. And when they don’t work, it matters. Sometimes they are not brought forward to the public because of low efficacy. I suppose that’s why two Merck whistle blowers brought suit against their former employer for forcing them to spike blood samples of humans vaccinated with MMR with rabbit antibodies to fool the FDA. One effect of providing misleading information on vaccine efficacy is to keep competitors from bringing alternatives to market. That’s illegal, monopolistic.
Another effect is that ineffective vaccines will lead to measles, mumps and rubella outbreaks. Of course, those are blamed on rabid anti-vaxxers, right?
The Merck whistle blower case is moving forward. And we know that the flu vaccine two years ago had deplorably low efficacy – due to the wrong strain, we’re told. Flu mist also disappeared due to efficacy (we think). We’re told that HPV vaccine can “end cervical cancer” – a claim that ignores that fact that all studies that have looked at whether any of the >100 other types of HPV sweep in and replace those targeted by the vaccines – and that those that replace the vaccine-cleared types do, after all, include types that are oncogenic.
How long do vaccines “work”?
If vaccines work, that means they provide life-long immunity, right? Wrong. Remember how the media, doctors, CDC, AMA, etc. keep saying that your unvaccinated child is a threat to vaccinated children? How does that work? If vaccines “work”, then what is the source of concern? If you charge non-vaccinated families with taking a free-ride due to herd immunity, what responsibility do those families carry for being a source of risk when the vaccines have “worked” for the other children?
You never mention waning immunity, Dr. Gupta. You don’t talk about type replacement. You don’t reveal that vaccine injury rates are underestimated. You don’t talk about the low rates of efficacy, the Merck whistleblower suit, ineffective vaccines, Dr. William Thompson, or how some vaccinated people can become spreaders of the disease for which they are vaccinated. You fail to provide a full, balanced picture. And with all due respect, Dr. Gupta, you are frankly beginning to sound foolish to an increasing number of vaccine-risk aware Americans. The American public deserves better. Much better. And you can deliver it. Just, as Del Bigtree has called out to so many, #bebrave
Where Does Dr. Gupta’s Vaccine-Risk Aware Army Come From?
It’s the vaccines that have created the vaccine-risk aware army, Dr. Gupta. People who promote or want to mandate or threaten, intimidate, cajole, and coerce parents into vaccinating their child on the current schedule grow the vaccine-risk aware army and make it worse by antagonizing people who know full well that vaccines injured their children. You further antagonize them by providing incomplete, and therefore inaccurate information, raising false hopes and expectation that vaccines work and “are safe”.
It’s you, Dr. Gupta. You and those like you who believe that we can actually minimize risk by minimizing awareness of risk. You created your vaccine-risk aware army.
And the morbid truth is that unless and until (1) informed consent is actually provided; (2) known contraindications are adhered to; (3) conditions that are known risks of neurological and autoimmune injuries are employed to provide medical exemptions, without judgement or harassment of patients; (4) vaccine safety biomarkers are established to screen those most at risk and protect them from harm; (5) unsafe epitopes in vaccines that match human proteins are removed; and (6) toxins like ethyl mercury and aluminum are reduced or removed in vaccines to “safe” levels for infants and adults based on body burden estimates that appropriately consider body weight, well, Dr. Gupta, those vaccines and the continued half-truths cause more vaccine injuries, and thus continue to grow your vaccine-risk aware army.
(Ironically, I cite works in “Causes” that show that acetaminophen use may be a causal factor for autism, for example:)