Engaging with the arguments in one particular anti-vax article, I try to work through the claims one by one.
I'm writing this in reply to an article on Natural News by Mr. Mike Adams, which Ms. Ivette Mendoza put me onto. Now, this is not the only anti-vaccination article, and I'm not the only pro-vaccination writer out there. But, maybe here's a "hook" where people who know my writing might find this interesting, and maybe I'll add something to the scene.
Identity and Credentialism
But, having said that, while I recognise the worth of vaccination, I do not identify as a pro-vaccination advocate. I see too many people I find disagreeable in the Australian pro-vax movement. I have, for instance, written about the validity of the proposed link between attitude and cancer and have been in serious conflict with a certain Dr. Rachie over this. You can even have a look at the videos of our interactions. A first is of my presentation. A second is of her questions ... er well, attacks, really. If you watch carefully, you can see the point at which she changes from aggressive to patronising.
So, I'm in fact a bit on the outer already, much as I recognise the worth of vaccines. If you're thinking about the issues, but don't really want to identify as a "fuddy duddy skeptic", then perhaps the perspective I have in this article will resonate more with you than one coming clearly from "the establishment".
Now, because I'm not medically qualified, I may miss certain points. However, if I were medically qualified, my views could be dismissed by anti-vax advocates because I'd be someone from "the establishment". Now, when talking about cancer, Dr. Rachie saw the need to question my credentials. Now that I'm talking about something I imagine she would agree with, I wonder if she will see the need to say I should not be talking about this, because of my lack of credentials? It seems you don't need credentials to support the "company line" - they'll welcome your "uncredentialed" support - but it will be brought up if you challenge it. Anyway, point is I get it from both sides. I think that's something to think about.
Big Pharma vs. Alternative Medicine
Now, I'm the first to admit that big pharma has its problems. The medicalisation of life issues, abuse of intellectual property laws, overemphasising the worth of new medications which just happen to be patented, perverse financial incentives ... the list goes on. But, keep in mind before you go too far with this, the financial size of alternative medicine in Australia is bigger than that of conventional medicine. So, get some perspective. But, while I'm willing to note problems of implementation of medicine involving big pharma, I nevertheless endorse the principle of scientific medicine - and vaccines for that matter. If we talk about problems, we need to distinguish problems of principle from problems of execution and realisation.
You "can't ask those questions". Really?
Now the article claims that "good questions are suppressed". It is always nice to think the righteous are somehow oppressed - restricted from speaking out. But I think suffer from a certain blindness when you portray your opponents. Look. By all means ask those questions. I don't think there's a conspiracy to stop answers from coming out. You ask the questions. I'm not going to try to stop you. I'll try to answer them. But I wonder if anyone asking those questions will bother to read my reply, or just prefer to think they are oppressed and marginalised. You should get out more.
Now, one of the things about the article is that its references are for the most part to other articles on the same website. Now, look I'm not suggesting you take any one source - even a mainstream source - as gospel. There's a bigger picture you want to try to build. Still, just quoting labels, making strong assertions and not making any external references does not look good. Further, given the overall way the article runs - a lot of distortions you can identify - I do wonder about the claims you make; I don't feel inclined to look at them in detail. But, in many cases I assume for the sakes of argument the claims you make and see where it leads; but I sorta wonder whether those starting claims themselves are valid. That's a matter of looking at things in context.
Lists of stuff
Then, there's the fact you've put together a long list. I'm going to challenge a lot of those items. But, the question is, exactly what does a "list" mean? Does it mean that a single item being correct throws the vaccination argument out the window? Or what if it is meant to be the sum of arguments - what does that mean if I erode the worth of some of them? Or what if some of the arguments can be shown to be misleading - what does that say about the motives behind the rest of the arguments? Or what does it say about all the other items in the list if I can show one of those items contains a clear distortion or misunderstanding? And ... bonus question - what does it mean if one of the points I make is found out to be mistaken, while at the same time, I demonstrate that at least one point made in the article is based on a total distortion?
Now look - I do not think you should throw anything out just because there is a mistake or two. I'm sure I'll make a few mistakes. The bigger question is, what does it mean overall? Is that something you can try to be objective about?
Further, there's a whole lot of claims supposedly made by mainstream medicine. You know, it would be nice to have references to them. A lot of them would be new to me. In particular, I don't think anyone has even claimed vaccines are perfect or without side effects. Please, link to a mainstream medical site or some testimony which claims this. Yes, you do have references to justifications for certain things in mainstream sites, but no links to any claims like this in so many words. Methinks you paint a straw man.
Corruption and faith in public health institutions
Now, I do have sympathy with people who see Government corruption around them, and then wonder how we can trust Government interventions in health. It is sad. When politicians and public officials are corrupt, it has consequences far more wide reaching than anyone considers. But look - while it will not persuade anyone entirely against me - I have seen officials in public health give talks. Their genuineness, their desire to make the world a better place for all while maximising the taxpayers "bang for buck" is plain to see. If you ever witness it for yourself, maybe you will be converted. There is more to this issue than meets the eye. It is not just people behind the scenes trying to "put one over" the public - there are real, genuine people trying to do their best.
But, anyway, answering the questions as best I'm able
Question #1) If measles vaccines confer measles immunity, then why do already-vaccinated children have anything to fear from a measles outbreak?
"Immunity" is not an all-or-nothing black-and-white thing, as you imagine it to be. If it reduces susceptibility, that's a good thing. You make the mistake of thinking that something must be perfect in order for it to be worthwhile. In fact, in order to be worthwhile, it only needs to be worthwhile.
It would be nice to have references to where it is in fact ( supposedly ) asserted that vaccines are as effective as you make out.
Question #2) If vaccines work so well, then why did Merck virologists file a False Claims Act with the U.S. government, describing the astonishing scientific fraud of how Merck faked its vaccine results to trick the FDA?
Big pharma may do dodgy things at times. However, that does not invalidate the good that vaccines have done in the past. Sure, scrutinise big pharma. That does not mean the principle of vaccines is a problem. You're confusing the notion in principle from its implementation.
Question #3) If vaccines don't have any links to autism, then why did a top CDC scientist openly confess to the CDC committing scientific fraud by selectively omitting clinical trial data after the fact in order to obscure an existing link between vaccines and autism?
Um, well, no this is not the full story
But, um ... I'd best not run a "go to" argument, and say something myself. I know others who like to quote links to an article and claim they've won the argument; I wouldn't want to do that myself; I hope you wouldn't.
First, the supposed re-analysis only applies to afro-american children - there's no effect for white people, who are the people most concerned about vaccination.
Second, it is important to note that many cases of autism develop in the womb and are picked up by midwives at birth, based on how the baby "attends" to things around. I know of one such example.
There are claims of "late-onset autism". Here, the first point is that even natural development goes in fits and starts, and if there is such a thing as late onset autism, it can happen in children which have not been vaccinated. Secondly, even given such a thing exists, I've not seen any attempts at distinguishing it from autism which develops in the womb.
Then, just as we need to recognise the ability of Skeptics to defend against the claims of others without engaging with the detail, and use their identity as Skeptics as a means to shore up their ego, we also need to recognise the ability of parents to have a distorted perception about what is "normal" childhood development, and not in fact see that their child was in fact autistic at birth. In the Hastings-Cedillo case, paediatricians observing videos of Michelle Cedillo taken before vaccination found obvious signs the child was suffering from autism. This suggests that so called "late onset autism" is more likely an artifact of the nature of childhood development and the interpretative abilities of the parents, representing an unfolding after birth of a condition developed in the womb, rather than something caused by vaccination after birth. You can see this analysis at page 127 of the associated judgement ( pdf).
Third, you need to keep in mind the saying from science: "if you torture data enough, eventually they will confess." Without better knowledge, we can very much imagine that the re-analysis was "poking and prodding till something came out".
Fourth, there's really not enough information to "get at" the forces behind the claim. Supposing for the sake of argument there's no link, well children will get autism whether or not they've been vaccinated, because they get it anyway. The issue is whether you see more vaccinated children getting autism, and also say the extra is enough it was not likely to have happened by chance. At base, that's what statistical analysis is about. And, if you've enough detail, you can see the principles at work. But there's not enough information for this.
So, in a spirit of paranoia, what is proof? If the link was there, you could do some simple statistical analyses to bring it out - not ones which rely on some obscure approach to the original data.
Question #4) If mercury is a neurotoxic chemical (which it is), then why is it still being injected into children and pregnant women via vaccines? Why does the vaccine industry refuse to remove all the mercury from vaccines in the interests of protecting children from mercury?
Ummm ... well by this logic, if chlorine is toxic ( we know it is; they used it in gas warfare during the Great War ), why are we so cavalier about Sodium Chloride, also known as common salt? While too much salt can be harmful, equally salt is essential for human life.
The point is, just because something is toxic, that does not mean its compounds will be as toxic. The compound "locks away" the mercury, making it benign, just like salt "locks away" the chlorine.
You're confusing the element mercury ( which is toxic ) with the compound thimerosal ( which is not toxic ). Yes, heavy metals can be toxic. Compounds can also be toxic, but it does depend on the compound - you have to look at each particular case. For sure, red and white lead are toxic compounds of lead. But, while metals like cobalt and zinc are toxic in high quantities, they are also essential nutrients.
Further, in Europe they don't use thimerosal. So, I guess that means whatever your concerns, vaccines are fine in Europe, right? Keep in mind the US is not in fact the center of the globe.
Question #5) If vaccines are so incredibly safe, then why does the vaccine industry need absolute legal immunity from all harm caused by its products?
Umm, it's not absolute legal immunity, it is a different style of court, the so-called vaccine courts. And they do grant compensation for recognised side effects. That's hardly absolute legal immunity, as you claim.
Your issue seems to be with what things are recognised as side effects. Do you challenge so casually the ability of the court system to recognise these connections? Note that in looking at cases where autism was supposedly linked to autism, paediatricians saw evidence of autism in videos of the child taken before vaccination. Do you want to say that this analysis was a perversion of justice, that the courts are a corrupt institution? Note my further comments after question 3.
Look. The law is a problematic institution. It is far from perfect. But, equally, I can't see it being so far round the twist as to wrongly make its assessments about links between autism and vaccination. That's drawing a much longer bow. You have to look at just what you are saying about the courts and the law.
Question #6) If vaccines work so well to prevent disease, then why do some vaccines (like the chickenpox vaccine) openly admit that they can cause the spread of chickenpox?
Ermm, once immunity has developed, they then prevent spread of disease. Yes, while immunity is developing, they can develop illness in susceptible people. It is the Nirvana fallacy - to think something must be perfect in order to be worthwhile. A lot of things which are worthwhile take a bit of time to set up. It is not only the case in medicine.
Question #7) If vaccines are so great for public health, then why do these historical public health charts show nearly all the declines in infectious disease taking place BEFORE vaccines arrived on the scene?
Public health was a multi-faceted affair. The introduction of sewage systems, improved hygiene and better medical care did its bit to prevent the spread of disease. Vaccines took that further. While you say "almost all" ( and I do wonder if I should take your word here, given how many other distortions and misunderstandings occur through your article ) of the decline before vaccinations, it is a general principle that the "last 10%" of anything is the hardest. So, we can still look favourably at vaccines for their contribution. We see the worth of the contribution of vaccines in the re-emergence of outbreaks now that vaccination is less - it is easy to understand the causality here.
In other words, just because other things were effective, this does not mean that vaccines also had their part to play. That does seem a strange point of view, a relative of the Nirvana falacy. Unless we can attribute all positives to a single item, then that item cannot make a worthwhile contribution. Nonsense.
Question #8) If vaccines are perfectly safe, then why did at least 13 people recently die in Italy after being vaccinated?
Well, first, interesting that the only references are a few Australian papers, nothing even from er ... Italy ???
However, I don't know about others, but I'd not claim vaccines are perfectly safe, no more than peanuts are. People can die from allergic peanut reactions. While we should all be aware of this, we're not going around trying to ban peanuts. Further, people can die from bad products - even bad food in restaurants. Things can go wrong - anywhere. The issue is whether there's something systemically wrong with vaccines. Look. Let me be real. Medical firms can get stuff wrong. But, unlike anti-vaxxers, I don't think that means we should lose faith in the principle of medicine, no more than the fact that various people in the aircraft industry can get it wrong means we should stop flying. Just who is claiming things are perfect?
It sounds like you're building up a straw man, claiming that someone says something is perfect, and then saying "aha! look, it isn't" - where, in reality nothing ( including natural medicine ) is perfect.
Question #9) If vaccines are so trustworthy, then why did a pro-vaccine group in Africa recently discover -- to its shock and horror -- that vaccines being given to young African women were secretly laced with abortion chemicals?
Erm, I don't say vaccines are "so trustworthy". You're building up that straw man again. However, point is that there's a difference between the effectiveness of vaccines and the administrative structures that build up in countries. If a corrupt system is doing dodgy things with vaccines, do we blame the vaccines or the corrupt system? I don't think you're being fair here.
Actually, there's very little information here to properly assess the story, even assuming elements of it are true. Tell me, just how much detail do you need in any story - to believe it is true? What's a reasonable threshold? At what point would you reasonably expect others to be persuaded?
Am I making evasions - "we don't know"? Well, it depends on whether you think you're making a strong claim or not. Even if something were possible, you don't get much traction showcasing it as though it were likely or even certain. The best you can say is "there might be something here", rather than parade it as item number 9 on your list.
Question #10) If vaccines are backed by solid science, then why do some vaccine inserts openly admit they are backed by no clinical trials?
Ermmm, you're confusing the general and specific. Vaccines have been shown to work scientifically. That does not mean individual vaccines have necessarily undergone clinical trials.
Yes, maybe this is an issue. But tell me - if all vaccines had undergone clinical trials, would you then admit they were effective? Or rely on the various other arguments you have? If the latter, why bring it up in the first place?
Question #11) If vaccines are so safe, then why does this vaccine insert admit that the Gardasil vaccine causes "acute respiratory illness" in babies who consume the breast milk of mothers who have been vaccinated?
I never said vaccines were "so safe", only that they were worthwhile. Tell me, who exactly says this?
Actually, the note says that some women who did not take the vaccine also developed acute respiratory illness. More women who took the vaccine did, but it is not like you'll certainly get it if you take it. You're overstating matters.
Actually, there the issue of vaccines vs. the rest of mainstream medicine. Even in mainstream medicine - the one we say is good - drugs have side effects, caveats and allergic reactions in some people. The issue is whether this set of "ifs buts and maybes" is any worse than the rest of mainstream medicine.
If you want to say "all of mainstream medicine sux - and vaccines too" - then, well have that position and we've nothing more to discuss. But again - nothing is perfect; it is wrong to expect it to be.
And equally - look I find it difficult to believe that things are as you say, given all the distortions in your article - but if someone is saying vaccines ( or pretty much anything, for that matter ) is "perfect", then I'll have a go at them too.
Question #12) If vaccines are so safe, then why does this Gardasil insert sheet admit that the vaccine causes "seizure-like activity, headache, fever, nausea and dizziness" and can even cause those injected with the vaccine to lose consciousness and fall, resulting in injury?
That's an allergic reaction. That's not good. But just like we're not trying to run around trying to ban peanuts because of their allergic reaction, it does not make sense to try to ban vaccines.
Question #13) If vaccines are totally safe, then why do vaccine insert sheets disclose a long list of frightening and bizarre side effects associated with their vaccines?
That's the law. It is called informed consent. Do you have anything like this in natural medicine? In fact, maybe it is an over-reaction. But, when society hits the legal system funny things can happen. Not just in medicine. It's an underlying problem with the society-law interface, and has less to do with medicine than anything else.
I don't think it is worse than with any mainstream medicine. Is your problem with just vaccines, or mainstream medicine as-a-whole? See also Q11.
Question #14) If vaccines are backed by so much "science" then why do they frequently admit there really aren't any studies of the vaccine for the very groups of people who are often injected with it?
Look, there is a science. As I've said, you have to distinguish between the principle and the execution.
Yes, it would be better to test things on the groups injected with it. Having said that, we are all human beings - at least, the last time I looked.
But yes, a fair thing to point out if it is true. Given how much other distortions we have in your article though, I wonder how much credence we can give to the way you use the word "frequently". Even assuming your claim sorta holds up, I do not think that there's enough problems to abandon the principle of vaccines.
Question #15) If vaccines are so safe to give to pregnant women, then why do the vaccine insert sheets openly admit most of them have never been tested for safety in pregnant women? In fact, this vaccine admits "the effects of the vaccine in fetal development are unknown."
Well, I guess that is something of a concern. Still, there is the placental barrier, and the issue of whether the mother gets ill with something during pregnancy. I can't imagine the impact of vaccines being worse than a mother getting the cold while pregnant.
Question #16) If vaccines are so safe to be injected into the bodies of children and pregnant women, then why do their own insert sheets readily admit they are manufactured with a cocktail of toxic chemical ingredients including "fetal bovine serum?" (The blood serum of aborted baby cows.)
Erm, you're just being provocative, labelling, distorting ...
Look, it may be a gross thought, but it is not toxic just because of its origins. A rose can grow from a dung heap. They are separate issues. If you didn't want to improve your health because you're having an "er-yuk" reaction, I suggest you are seriously out of calibration.
If you're a serious vegetarian or vegan and are concerned about how animals are treated in lots of other areas - including here - and you find this "grossness" consistent with your overall stand, then fair enough. But that would only be with vaccines prepared in this particular way, not with vaccines overall.
Question #17) If vaccines achieve absolute immunity, then why are as many as 97 percent of children struck by infectious disease already vaccinated against that disease?
Ermm, they don't achieve absolute immunity in all cases. Where did you hear that claim? Rather than telling us the proportion of children struck by infectious disease which are vaccinated, what would be the proportion of children vaccinated which do not catch that same disease? They're different numbers. What you're missing in quoting your statistic is that very few children are not vaccinated. So, if you're going to catch it in today's population, you would probably be vaccinated.
What you're missing is the counterfactual - if there were less vaccination, we'd have a lot more cases overall, and many more of those would be of un-vaccinated children.
Question #18) If vaccines are totally safe and effective, then why did this five-year-old girl recently die from the very strain of flu she was just vaccinated against?
Broken record ... I never said vaccines are totally safe and effective. Who does? If you reduce the prevalence of disease, that's a good thing. Reducing the prevalence of a disease is still worthwhile, even if there is there is still odd case. In order for your argument to have any merit, you have show that there is no case for the claimed reduction resulting from vaccinations, not that the outcomes are less-than-perfect. Further, you do not have any other references to your claim.
Question #19) If the mainstream media claims to report honest, unbiased information about vaccines, then why was there a total nationwide blackout on the news of the CDC whistleblower admitting vaccines are linked to autism?
Hang on, you're assuming the worth of the claim of the CDC whistleblower. There are other views out there ... What you should be saying is something like "this is a claim which might or might not be true. We need to facilitate its examination in the public square. With the claims by the CDC guy, and also alternate claims." - at least, if you're drawing on principles of open debate in the public square.
But look ... I've yet to find a cause which is happy with its coverage in the media. Every damn group on the planet sees the capriciousness of the media in not giving sufficient coverage of the issue it finds close to heart. Get over it. You see a conspiracy against you. I do not.
Question #20) Why does the CDC falsely claim all vaccines are completely safe and effective when its own website still lists the toxic chemical ingredients used in vaccines?
The CDC openly admits that mercury, formaldehyde, MSG, aluminium, antibiotics and other chemicals are still used in vaccines.
The CDC openly admits that mercury, formaldehyde, MSG, aluminium, antibiotics and other chemicals are still used in vaccines.
Erm, antibiotics are that bad? Mercury compounds are used, which is different to mercury, the element, itself. Given that you can't appreciate that distinction, well, it is difficult to believe those other things are as harmful as they make out. They sure sound scary, don't they? Please. Conquer your fear. Otherwise your fear will do you more harm than the actual potential causes of harm out there.
Question #21) If the vaccine industry cares so much about children, then why does it call for the arrest of parents and the breaking up of families of unvaccinated children, begging for the state to seize custody of those children at gunpoint while incarcerating the parents in prison?
Um, you're being pretty provocative, antagonistic, emotional and use slanted words, and also put ideas into the mouths of your opponents rather than letting them speak for themselves, and setting them up "just right" ... they "care about children".
Actually, it is a bit more complex than that. You can care about the health of children, and as a parent, you don't have absolute freedom to do what you want with your children. You can't sell them into prostitution, for example. Similarly, you can't harm them. What about blood transfusions? Or are you against them as well? What about a family that refuses to let their child have a blood tranfusion, and so they die? Or is that some sort of conspiracy by the pro-transfusion people who just don't understand?
Point is, assuming vaccines are worthwhile - and the health of the community is worthwhile - it may well be that others have a better grasp of this than the parents themselves. I know you don't want to consider that possibility ... but if it were true ( and notice, in your arguments, I've allowed some of your points "for the sakes of argument" - and you love putting that word "If" at the front of your questions ) well, then it would make sense.
Actually, within the Australian anarchist community, they are pro-vax; not so much pro-government, but they anticipate lots of places not allowing unvaccinated families in, even as those families might have the choice of not vaccinating.
I recall Predator, one of the most feral anarchists around. He had no respect for the law. But he wore his seatbelt. I can only imagine that was not because of the law, but rather because it made sense to him. Similarly, vaccination makes sense to one the groups who have one of the strongest "anti-government" positions in Australia. That's something to keep in mind. "Pro-vax" does not mean "we endorse whatever the Government does". You can separate out the issues.
Well, there you go Mr. Adams. Someone is willing to answer your claims - me. What does that do to your claim that "nobody is willing to answer these questions"? Sorta violates that grand sweeping statement, doesn't it.
And, Ivette - hope you've found this an interesting read, regardless of what else you think of it.