Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Vaccine Safety Manual review: response and rebuttal

This will be my final post on the topic of national vaccination programs. As with my other posts, these have been lightly edited for clarity.

My review of the Vaccine Safety Manual prompted this response:
My bottom line: I agree with almost everything that you said. Our only difference is that you don't seem (in my opinion) to be as critical of the other side. I think the medical model, scientific community, and big pharma are just as biased and play just as many games with the numbers.  Let's use your Mike Moore example, which I think is as perfect as a metaphor can be.

I don't think he is that talented (except for Canadian Bacon :-). I do agree that his works are more propaganda than journalism. He is popular because of the absolute failure of the mainstream news to do its job - especially with the Iraq war. Even the Canadian media did a lousy job with the Weapons of Mass Destruction/Deception issue. His success is only a result of failure. In order to prove his point and present his data he has to move all the way to the left. In our discussion the "scientific/peer review" community is the media. They are controlled and have an agenda just like everyone else. Do I need to expand this point or is it clear? I'm not sure.

I have absolutely no problem with someone saying that I "think" or I "believe" vaccines are better then non vaccinated. I do have a problem with anyone saying the it is clear, they are sure, it is proven, or like the original Penn and Teller anyone who doesn't is a  moron or something like that.
  • There has never been a double blind study
  • There has never been a proper control study
  • There has never been a study comparing a vaccinated vs. a non-vaccinated group
  • There has NEVER NEVER NEVER been a study of the vaccine schedule
  • There has never been a proper (by peer review standards) study of just the preservatives
  • There has never been an adequate long term study of the effects of the vaccines across the life span
  • There is no data using today's environment for the effects of the diseases in question (proper heating in homes, access to immediate medical attention, antibiotics etc.., clean water, sanitation, dentistry (cavities causing infection to go straight to the blood stream))
  • etc.....

So when you made the argument that with vaccines some people may get sick but without lots of "people will die", I don't know how you are coming to that conclusion. Look at SARS. In China lots of people died. In Toronto, not so much, and no vaccine was necessary.

Of course there are lots of arguments of why this can or can't be done, but without them, in my mind, it cannot be claimed that the full scientific model /testing was used. Therefore the full level of scientific certainty cannot be invoked. As I said previously, but never expanded upon, I also believe that the ideological model of human health and the immune system needs to be updated.

Finally, of course the book is one sided. It was written to be. As is every study that is published and paid for by a drug company. As is every news report from Fox news, CBC, BBC or any other source. Its like reading any book or "peer reviewed" paper. There is an agenda! The better you know it, the better you can interpret the data. Wouldn't it be nice to read a pro-vaccine article and have them provide disclaimers on how many tests they ran that showed no responses that weren't published? Or how much pressure the authors were under due to the publish or perish environment?

Bottom line, I agree with how critically you read the book, but I think that just as much criticism is need on the pro-vaccine side as well.
 My rebuttal:

We agree that the US (and, to a lesser extent, Canada) has major, structural, fundamental problems with its media. These are not the same problems facing the scientific community. Peer review is not perfect - it usually cannot detect outright fraud and sometimes misses flaws reviewers should have spotted - but it is far better than anything else we've tried.

That the media inaccurately report on scientific findings does not mean that scientists have learned nothing. It's a media issue, not a scientific one.

In any argument, if your premises (starting points) are false, everything that follows cannot be trusted.

With vaccines, your premises are false.

"There has never been a double blind study" - false. I typed "double blind vaccination study" into a Google search box. The very first result (of 900,000) was a double blind immunization study. Limiting the search to just scholarly publications, there are over 60,000 hits.

"There has never been a proper control study" - false. Without getting into the details of each one, I am sure that many of the 60,000 double blind vaccination studies found in a scholarly publications have proper controls (there are probably some with methodological issues as well).

"There has never been a study comparing a vaccinated vs. non-vaccinated group" - false. A quick search of article titles reveals several with randomized placebo control groups. That is exactly what you are looking for. This HAS been done.

"There has NEVER NEVER NEVER been a study of the vaccine schedule" - false. Go to Google, and type "vaccine schedule study" in the search box. The very first result links to this article, which describes the precise type of study you claim has never been conducted. Furthermore, do you honestly believe that the national health bodies of Canada, the US, Sweden, Britain, Japan, etc. (to say nothing of the various states, provinces, and territories they contain) have come up with (slightly different) recommendations without a single study being completed? Have you asked anyone who might know? Do you agree that your position stretches credibility way beyond the breaking point?  

"There has never been a proper (by peer review standards) study of just the preservatives" - false. A quick Google search on "double blind vaccine preservative study" revealed this study as the third hit. Have you verified *any* of your assumptions?

"There has never been an adequate long term study of the effects of the vaccines across the life span" - impossible to evaluate without a definition of "adequate". People who get immunized are protected from that disease for years, decades, or a lifetime (this is measured both by observing that these people don't get the disease and by directly testing their blood for the relevant antibodies). People who aren't immunized often contract the disease, are ill for days or weeks, and some are permanently disabled or die. What more do you need?

SARS in China and Canada: What possible relevance does this have? It is completely unrelated. The only way to connect SARS to this discussion that I can conceive of is that you believe (or think I advocate) that vaccines represent the sum total of medical practice and innovation. (I admit it's a stretch, but the alternative is that you have nothing of merit relevant to say so you're just tossing out a bunch of red herrings and straw men.) True, vaccines have had nothing to do with vast improvements in surgical techniques, treating stroke victims, managing diabetes, and numerous other health issues. So what? Truly: why do you mention SARS at all?

But, for the sake of completeness, let's look at SARS. In China, the government reaction was to deny there was a problem, crack down on bloggers and text messages that tried to communicate the fact that many people were getting sick, and took no precautions to protect its citizens. The disease spread. In Canada, the government was on the front lines communicating how people could get sick, people suspected of SARS were informally quarantined, health workers took extensive precautions (though some still died from SARS), and [tens or hundreds of] thousands of people wore face masks in public. The disease was largely contained. Yes, vaccines had nothing to do with it. What is your point?

"It can not be claimed that the full scientific model /testing was used." Wrong. Flat out wrong. It can be claimed. It has been claimed. Furthermore, it has be DONE.

"I also believe that the ideological model of human health and the immune system needs to be updated." Wow. You have a problem with Penn and Teller telling folks that they're morons for ignoring the overwhelming scientific consensus that places their children at risk for lifelong disability or death. But you have no problem with demeaning the education, ethics, and practices of the entire medical community by describing their understanding of the human body as "ideological" and (presumably) not rooted in reality. Do you have even a basic understanding of human health and the immune system? If so, how? (I certainly don't.) If not, on what basis can you believe that our current understanding needs to be updated?

I'm relieved to note that you agree Miller is a propagandist, and not interested in a reasonable discussion. But you are wrong when you state: "It's like reading any book or "peer reviewed" paper." No. With a book, one can state anything, regardless of the evidence. No one is checking. With peer review, though imperfect, someone does check.

"I think just as much criticism is need on the pro-vaccine side as well." At some point, evidence counts. I don't argue in favour of vaccines because I get paid by drug companies, because I think doctors are perfect, or I have some irrational emotional commitment to them. I think they are beneficial because the data clearly show that vaccinated kids don't die from certain diseases. And I think that's a good thing.

Read some of the scientific papers. They are filled with the disclaimers you are looking for (how many tested, limitations on interpreting the data, other avenues of recommended research to further verify the assumptions or [in]validate the data, etc.). True, the media skips over those bits. Coverage of science topics in the media is lousy. Agreed. That does not mean that the scientific discoveries they describe are without merit. Anyone who truly disproved the effectiveness of vaccines would be heralded as a hero – that’s how science works. People who carp on pet theories when they have no evidence and cannot even demonstrate how their position could be true in principle are derided. That’s also how science works.

In summary: over the past few months, each argument you have provided - all of them - every single one - was either logically incoherent or radically disconnected from reality.

On this topic, you have shown yourself impervious to fact. Logic has had no impact on your stance. Truth seems to matter little, if at all. If one line of defense of your position collapses, you come up with another, until it seems you are desperately grasping at straws that have no bearing on the topic at hand (SARS).

So: I am done discussing this topic with you. I will no longer try to understand why you think vaccines do not have a net benefit for society. I will not try to convince you that the earth is (mostly) spherical. I will not try to convince you that Barack Obama was born in the United States. I will not try to convince you that the earth revolves around the sun. When reason, knowledge, and science have no effect (and over the past few months this has been demonstrated repeatedly), I must (regrettably) walk away from the conversation.


  1. Great job!

    You said: "People who aren't immunized often contract the disease, are ill for days or weeks, and some are permanently disabled or die."

    And to top it off, for many diseases actually getting them does not confer immunity. The anti-vax folks claim they have lifelong immunity, but that is simply not true for most bacterial diseases.

    If you survive tetanus, you can get it again. Exactly like you can get a strep infection after recovering from a previous step infection (which is one reason why there is no vaccine for it, it likes to hide from our immune system). The following paper says that immunity from pertussis after actually catching and coughing for three months (100 days cough) is only four to twenty years:
    Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2005 May;24(5 Suppl):S58-61.
    Duration of immunity against pertussis after natural infection or vaccination.

    Oh, and on the double blind studies, I found some from way back in the 1950s and 1960s. They were done in institutions for disabled children (Willowbrook) and Africa. I will sometimes include this old paper (which has a free pdf), "Efficacy of measles vaccine" (J Hyg (Lond). 1963 Mar;61:143-7.), and then ask the person pushing double blind studies how they will keep the the values of the third and fourth column of Table 1 at zero.

    I believe anyone who proposes such studies be prepared to design it to the ethic standards defined by the Declaration of Helsinki and the Belmont Report. Which I learned from this blog series:

  2. we don't know shit.

    1. Yes, there is much we do not know about the human body, disease, and the specific mechanisms of how every vaccine works. That is not the same thing as saying we have no understanding of any of these subjects.

      Given the extended life expectancy of those on AIDS anti-retroviral drugs, I am confident that we have learned much about HIV in the past thirteen years (this article was published in 2000).


    1. I always welcome new discoveries - hopefully we will one day be able to apply this knowledge to prevent or cure conditions that are currently untreatable.