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On The Crime of Heresy Against the Vaccine Religion

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To question public vaccine policy is to commit the crime of heresy against the vaccine religion, as illustrated by how any dissent is met by its defenders.

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There is something wrong when you are not allowed to question public vaccine policy without automatically being labeled as “anti-science”, a believer in “pseudoscience”, or even a “conspiracy theorist”. The subject of vaccines is a serious one, and deserves to be taken seriously. Concerned parents are asking legitimate questions, and they deserve serious answers rather than dismissals. The public discussion about vaccines is essentially non-existent. Instead, the message we are told is that there is nothing to discuss.

The mainstream media, for its part, has utterly failed to properly inform the public about the subject of vaccines, and rather than engaging in respectful debate, there is a tendency to try to bully people into silence and compliance. In this endeavor, the mainstream media has useful partners in the blogosphere.

As someone who is openly critical of vaccine policy, I expect to be attacked and have such labels mindlessly flung at me. So I wasn’t surprised to discover that one of the more notorious apologists for public vaccine policy, an anonymous blogger who goes by the moniker “Skeptical Raptor“, set his sights on me recently for an article I wrote in response to a Washington Post op-ed by Dr. Daniel Summers. Dr. Summers took the usual dogmatic approach to the subject, insisting there is nothing to debate, just get your damned shots. The purpose of my rejoinder to his op-ed was to illustrate why this insistence is wrong. There is a discussion to be had about vaccines, and it’s past time we started having it.

Raptor’s response to that article of mine provides me with the opportunity to reiterate that same point, as well as to illuminate the kinds of tactics employed by those who try to intimidate into silence anyone who dares to question public vaccine policy — rather than seriously addressing the legitimate concerns being raised.

Naturally, Raptor’s post about my article is filled with such mindless attacks as:

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  • “Jeremy R. Hammond … attacked Dr. Summers with … tropes, myths, and conspiracy theories.”
  • “Hammond uses pseudoscience….”
  • “Hammond’s criticisms of Dr. Simmons [consist of] tropes, myths, conspiracy theories, cherry picking and, need I mention this, outright misinformation.”
  • “But if you want to believe the ramblings of a right wing science denier, go right ahead.”

It’s instructive, given such vitriolic rhetoric, that Raptor fails to point to even a single error in fact or logic in anything I wrote in my rejoinder to Dr. Summers. (Which might explain why Raptor didn’t link to my article so readers could check to see for themselves what I’d actually written, as opposed to his misportrayal.)

On Doctors’ Confirmation Bias

In my article, I quoted Dr. Summers saying that if vaccines can cause autism, then pediatricians like him must either be “too incompetent to discern the relationship between the two” or “too monstrous to care”.

I observed that this gives us a useful insight into why doctors might easily succumb to confirmation bias, accepting of science that confirms their belief that they are competent and good while dismissing any evidence contradicting that belief. After all, how many doctors would be honest enough to admit that they are either incompetent or evil?

So how does Raptor respond to this observation? He writes:

First of all, Hammond does not quite understand confirmation bias. In fact, most of us who support vaccines use the scientific method – the evidence leads us to a conclusion. Hammond uses pseudoscience – establish a conclusion, like vaccines cause autism, and ignore all evidence that does not support his beliefs…. Frankly, Hammond is projecting the problems with his own arguments onto Dr. Simmons.

In other words, Raptor is saying that I’m the one guilty of confirmation bias, and that I don’t understand what confirmation bias is. So what is confirmation bias? Here’s how Raptor defines it:

[C]onfirmation bias is simply the tendency for individuals to favor information or data that support their beliefs. It is also the tendency for people to only seek out information that supports their a priori, or pre-existing, conclusions, and subsequently ignores evidence that might refute that pre-existing conclusion.

I’m perfectly content to use that definition to reiterate the point I made in my response to Summers: that doctors will tend to have a confirmation bias because it would be difficult for them to accept that something they did to a child with the intention of helping that child might have ended up harming that child.

Note that Raptor does not actually address this point. He simply asserts that I don’t understand confirmation bias without bothering to demonstrate in what way I don’t understand it and meaninglessly declares that doctors “use the scientific method” — as though having a medical degree meant that a person couldn’t possibly have such a psychological conflict.

Compare this with Dr. Joseph Mercola of the leading health information website Mercola.com, a physician who once vaccinated his patients and had to overcome this very inner conflict himself; Dr. Mercola in a recent article on his website quoted my observation about this natural tendency toward confirmation bias among doctors, then added:

As a doctor, I can empathize with this psychological conundrum. It’s a terrible feeling to realize that, at some point in your life, you didn’t have the knowledge you should have had and you led your patients the wrong way.

In conclusion, Raptor, rather than actually addressing my valid point, resorts to obfuscation.

As for his charge that I’m guilty of confirmation bias, here Raptor is simply resorting to strawman argumentation, attributing to me logic that I did not use in my response to Summers’ op-ed. His protest against what I did say in my article on the subject of vaccines and autism is instructive.

The Autism Question

In my article, I criticized Dr. Summers for repeating the trope that the hypothesis that vaccines can cause autism has been “thoroughly debunked”. I pointed out that the government has in fact acknowledged that vaccines can cause brain damage in genetically susceptible individuals, and that this brain damage can lead to developmental regression, i.e., autism. I quoted then Director of the CDC Julie Gerberding in 2008 admitting:

Now, we all know that vaccines can occasionally cause fevers in kids. So if a child was immunized, got a fever, had other complications from the vaccines. And if you’re predisposed with a mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage. Some of the symptoms can be symptoms that have characteristics of autism.

Then I commented: “So seems to me there’s some room for debate there. (Gerberding, incidentally, left her government job to become head of Merck’s vaccine division.)”

So how does Raptor respond to this point? Raptor simply asserts that “there are hundreds of studies that have debunked Hammond’s belief.”

But what “belief” of mine is Raptor referring to, exactly? Are there hundreds of studies that have “debunked” that the head of the CDC acknowledged vaccines can cause brain damage leading to developmental regression? Or does Raptor mean hundreds of studies have “debunked” what Gerberding said?

Is this former CDC director and president of Merck’s vaccine division into “pseudoscience”?

We see once again all Raptor is doing is attempting to obfuscate the point. Raptor continues this effort by writing:

Next, Hammond claims that the “government has actually acknowledged that vaccines can cause brain damage, and that this vaccine-caused brain damage can result in developmental regression in genetically susceptible individuals.”

The “Next” here is puzzling, since this point about the head of the CDC acknowledging vaccines can cause brain damage was the one and only point I made in response to Dr. Summer’s repetition of the usual dogmatic mantra about any association having been “debunked”.

Setting that aside, note how Raptor uses the verb “claims” — as though it wasn’t a fact that the CDC director acknowledged that vaccines can cause brain damage leading to developmental regression. This verb choice is puzzling, given how Raptor then proceeds to share the statement of Gerberding’s that I quoted.

So how does Raptor address my point about that acknowledgment from the CDC director? Raptor writes:

Sure, that’s an admission that vaccines can cause brain damage – in a child with an extremely rare disorder.

Note that Raptor acknowledges that vaccines can cause brain damage in genetically susceptible individuals.

Raptor nevertheless continues:

Hammond, in the purest sense of pseudoscience, grasps onto a very rare adverse effect, and uses it to “prove” vaccines cause autism. It most certainly does not.

Now, this is also quite a puzzling argument, given the actual context of the quote from Gerberding.

See, when she spoke those words, the CDC director was referring to the case of Hannah Poling, who developmentally regressed and was diagnosed with autism after receiving five vaccines at once at 19 months of age.

The Poling Case and Genetic Susceptibility

One of the legitimate concerns parents have about vaccines is how the government constantly reassures them that vaccines are safe and effective while granting legal immunity to the vaccine manufacturers, which was upheld by the Supreme Court on the grounds that injuries from vaccines are “unavoidable”. Under the 1986 law granting this legal immunity, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) was set up to shift the cost burden from vaccine injuries away from the pharmaceutical industry and onto the taxpayers.

Naturally, parents are confused by this, and it certainly raises some legitimate questions.

The Poling family is among those who have been awarded compensation under the VICP. In the case of Hannah Poling, the government acknowledged that:

The facts of this case meet the statutory criteria for demonstrating that the vaccinations CHILD received on July 19, 2000, significantly aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder, which predisposed her to deficits in cellular energy metabolism, and manifested as a regressive encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder.

Now given the context of Gerberding’s admission, note what Raptor is effectively arguing: the fact that vaccines can cause brain damage resulting in autism doesn’t prove that vaccines can cause autism!

One could also argue that the fact you ran over a nail with your bicycle doesn’t prove that the nail caused your flat tire — technically, it was the hole in the tire that did it.

Scientific American has commented on the Poling case by saying that “Theoretically, that makes sense” (that the vaccines triggered the cascade of events resulting in her autism). In Hannah’s case, her mitochondria, the “power plants of the cell”, were “already underperforming, so when she developed a fever from her vaccine, the increased energy requirements likely pushed them past their thresholds”, triggering her autism symptoms.

Evidently, Scientific American is into “pseudoscience”, too.

Another propagator of “pseudoscience” was Bernadine Healy, M.D., former director of the National Institutes of Health and president and CEO of the American Red Cross. Before her death, she had come to challenge the official dogma, writing that as a trigger of autism, “vaccines carry a ring of both historical and biological plausibility”.

But what about all those studies Raptor mentions that supposedly have proven there is no possible causal association between vaccines and autism?

As Healy also said in an interview, “I think that the public health officials have been too quick to dismiss the hypothesis as irrational.”

When her interviewer pointed out that public health officials had been saying that “there’s enough evidence and they know its not causal”, Healy’s response was, “I think you can’t say that. You can’t say that.”

Healy then offered another explanation for how confirmation bias can become institutionalized:

There is a completely expressed concern that they don’t want to pursue a hypothesis because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people.

Healy also noted the lack of studies into — and lack of interest in studying — the possibility of some individuals having a genetic susceptibility to vaccine injury:

If you turn your back on the notion that there is a susceptible group… what can I say?

Hannah Poling’s father, Jon Poling, who happens to be a neurologist, has made the same observation about both the institutional confirmation bias and the lack of studies examining the question of whether vaccines can cause autism in genetically susceptible children:

With regard to the science of Autism, I have no argument with the assertion that a single case does not prove causation of a generalized autism-vaccine link. What the case does illustrate though is a more subtle point that many physicians cannot or do not want to comprehend (ostensibly because vaccines are too important to even question). Autism is a heterogeneous disorder defined by behavioral criteria and having multiple causes. Epidemiological studies which have not found a link between autism and aspects of vaccination do not consider the concept of autism subgroups. Indeed, in a heterogeneous disorder like Autism, subgroups may indeed be ‘vaccine-injured’ but the effect is diluted out in the larger population (improperly powered study due to inability to calculate effect size with unknown susceptible subpopulation). I think former NIH Director, Dr. Bernadine Healey explained it best in that population epidemiology studies are not “granular” enough to rule-out a susceptible subgroup.

Then there’s Dr. Frank DeStefano, who has acknowledged that “it’s a possibility” that vaccines could trigger autism in genetically susceptible individuals.

Evidently, this CDC Director of Immunization Safety, who has coauthored several of the CDC’s studies finding no link between vaccines and autism, is into “pseudoscience”, as well.

The trouble is, DeStefano added, “It’s hard to predict who those children might be”, and trying to determine what underling conditions put children at risk of vaccine injury is “very difficult to do”.

Acknowledging the lack of studies in this area, he added that, “if we ever get to that point, then that kind of research might be fruitful.”

And here’s the CDC’s website, current as of this writing, on the lack of such studies: “More research is needed to determine if there are rare cases where underlying mitochondrial disorders are triggered by anything related to vaccines.”

When I contacted the industry-funded American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently to request them to provide studies that considered the existence of genetically susceptible subpopulations to support their claim that any association between vaccines and autism had been “disproven”, the AAP provided me with a list of studies. Not one of the studies provided by the AAP considered the possibility of a genetically susceptible subpopulation.

I pointed this out to the AAP, and I also pointed out that it isn’t logically possible to say — as they had in their press release — that a hypothesis has been “disproven” when it hasn’t even been studied. I therefore then once more asked whether they could produce any studies that considered the existence of genetically susceptible individuals. The AAP’s response was that they had already provided all that they were going to provide.

When I asked whether the authors of the press release would like to comment, I was told by the AAP representative that she was going to hang up on me, which she promptly did.

Now, for good measure, let’s turn to the medical literature on this question and look at a couple of papers written by individuals who can by no means be labelled “anti-vaxxers” to see what they have to say about the hypothesis that vaccines can cause autism in children who are genetically susceptible to vaccine injury.

Dr. Paul Offit and ‘Poor Reasoning’

In a September 2008 paper in the journal Paediatrics & Child Health, Asif Doja argues against a causal relationship between vaccines and autism, yet acknowledges that “Mitochondrial disorders represent a rare cause of autism” — as well as the possibility that vaccines could cause fevers that in turn could cause encephalopathy (brain damage) and regression in individuals with mitochondrial dysfunction.

Doja is careful to emphasize that it is the fever that causes the encephalopathy, “not the vaccine itself”. (It was the hole in the tire that caused it to go flat, not the nail, remember.)

Doja also argues that “it is unlikely that those with mitochondrial disease simply require a vaccine ‘trigger’ to set off the disease process because most patients with mitochondrial disease do not have an onset of symptoms associated with vaccination.”

But this argument is a logical fallacy. It’s a non sequitur; the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise. It may be true that most patients with mitochondrial disease do not have an onset of symptoms associated with vaccination, but it does not follow that it is therefore “unlikely” that vaccines could be the necessary “trigger” in some children.

The title of Doja’s article, “Genetics and the myth of vaccine encephalopathy”, is a curious one, given how, despite his fallacious conclusion that it’s “unlikely”, Doja ultimately acknowledges the possibility that “fever associated with the vaccine” could provoke “the initial seizure” ultimately resulting in brain damage in genetically susceptible individuals.

Doja also cites another article, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, by Dr. Paul Offit. So let’s look at that one, as well.

Paul Offit is someone whose credentials as a defender of public vaccine policy are impeccable.

He was sitting on an advisory board for the vaccine manufacturer Merck at the time he wrote that article.

Offit is also a former member of the CDC’s vaccine advisory committee, a body that helps determine public vaccine policy. As a member of that committee, Offit advocated that the CDC recommend use of the rotavirus vaccine. He later profited handsomely from the sale of a patent for a rotavirus vaccine.

Offit has made insane claims and is unafraid to brazenly lie knowing that, given the current climate surrounding the vaccine issue, his colleagues in the medical establishment will not hold him accountable for it. For instance, he is famous for once claiming that children could safely handle 10,000 vaccines at once. Another time, he declared that “Aluminum is considered to be an essential metal with quantities fluctuating naturally during normal cellular activity. It is found in all tissues and is also believed to play an important role in the development of a healthy fetus.”

Offit is the director of the so-called “Vaccine Education Center” at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he also holds the Maurice R. Hilleman Chair in Vaccinology, created in honor of the former senior vice president of Merck, which provided a $1.5 million endowment to “accelerate the pace of vaccine research”.

Offit also happens to be the mainstream media’s go-to guy when a comment is needed on anything related to vaccine safety. When you read an article in the mainstream media about vaccines, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find a quote from Offit in it (which says a lot about mainstream journalism). He’s been appropriately dubbed by Philadelphia magazine as “Mr. Vaccine”.

In the New England Journal of Medicine, Offit describes what happened to Hannah Poling:

When she was 19 months old, Hannah, the daughter of Jon and Terry Poling, received five vaccines — diphtheria–tetanus–acellular pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), measles–mumps–rubella (MMR), varicella, and inactivated polio. At the time, Hannah was interactive, playful, and communicative. Two days later, she was lethargic, irritable, and febrile. Ten days after vaccination, she developed a rash consistent with vaccine-induced varicella.

Months later, with delays in neurologic and psychological development, Hannah was diagnosed with encephalopathy caused by a mitochondrial enzyme deficit. Hannah’s signs included problems with language, communication, and behavior — all features of autism spectrum disorder….

For years, federal health agencies and professional organizations had reassured the public that vaccines didn’t cause autism. Now, with DHHS making this concession in a federal claims court, the government appeared to be saying exactly the opposite.

Offit goes on to argue that the government’s decision was “poorly reasoned”.

His first argument is that, while “it is clear that natural infections can exacerbate symptoms of encephalopathy in patients with mitochondrial enzyme deficiencies, no clear evidence exists that vaccines cause similar exacerbations.”

Compare this denial of Offit’s to Doja’s acknowledgment in his Paediatrics & Child Health article that “indeed febrile seizures have been shown to occur at an increased rate after vaccination”.

Seizures are a recognized symptom of encephalopathy.

In fact, Offit himself just two paragraphs later acknowledges that “experts testifying on behalf of the Polings could reasonably argue that development of fever and a varicella-vaccine rash after the administration of nine vaccines was enough to stress a child with mitochondrial enzyme deficiency” (emphasis added).

Offit’s second argument is that due to technological advancements, the combined schedule of fourteen vaccines children received in 2008 (the time of his writing) exposed children to fewer “immunologic components” than just the one smallpox vaccine from a century ago, “which contained about 200 structural and nonstructural viral proteins”.

This argument, however, overlooks, among other things, that the immunologic components of the target antigen (i.e, the virus or bacteria the vaccine is designed to prevent the disease of) are not the only antigens contained in vaccines.

The smallpox vaccine did not contain aluminum or mercury, for example, both known neurotoxins contained in CDC-recommended vaccines today. (Aluminum is used as an adjuvant in some vaccines to cause a stronger immune response than the target antigen would alone, and influenza vaccines that come in multi-dose vials still contain the preservative Thimerosal, which is 50 percent ethylmercury by weight. Other vaccines may contain “trace amounts” of mercury from the manufacturing process.)

As another example, vaccines can also contain contaminants, such as retroviruses. This is not theoretical; numerous vaccines have been found to be contaminated with other viruses or viral fragments. Polio vaccines used in the late 1950s and early 1960s, for example, were contaminated with a monkey virus (simian virus 40, or SV40) that’s been associated with an increased risk of some cancers.

In fact, the vaccine Offit himself helped develop, Merck’s Rotateq, was found to be contaminated with pig virus DNA. GlaxoSmithKline’s rotavirus vaccine, Rotarix, was suspended from the market in 2010 because it was found to be contaminated with a pig virus.

Offit’s third argument is that “Hannah had other immunologic challenges that were not related to vaccines”; namely fevers and ear infections. “Children typically have four to six febrile illnesses each year during their first few years of life; vaccines are a minuscule contributor to this antigenic challenge.”

Offit’s logic here rests essentially on the same fallacy as Doja’s: it does not follow from the fact that most fevers in children are not caused by vaccinations that therefore it can’t be that, in some cases, vaccines are the trigger that sets off the cascade of events leading to developmental regression.

Offit further argues that Hannah’s autism was caused by her mitochondrial disorder, not the vaccines she received.

This is like arguing that celiac disease is caused by a patient’s HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 genes, not by gluten consumption. Just as having the genetic predisposition “is necessary for disease development but is not sufficient for [celiac] disease development” (Genomic Medicine), so it is that having a mitochondrial disorder does not necessarily mean that the child will develop autism; one or more environmental triggers are also required.

Amidst his protests against the conclusion that the vaccines Hannah received caused her autism, Offit nevertheless acknowledges the “theoretical risk” of “exacerbations” from vaccines in children with mitochondrial disorders andthe absence of “data that clearly exonerates vaccines” in this respect.

As Hannah’s father, Jon Poling, and three co-authors wrote in a case study published in the Journal of Child Neurology,

It is unclear whether mitochondrial dysfunction results from a primary genetic abnormality, atypical development of essential metabolic pathways, or secondary inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation by other factors. If such dysfunction is present at the time of infections and immunizations in young children, the added oxidative stresses from immune activation on cellular energy metabolism are likely to be especially critical for the central nervous system, which is highly dependent on mitochondrial function. Young children who have dysfunctional cellular energy metabolism therefore might be more prone to undergo autistic regression between 18 and 30 months of age if they also have infections or immunizations at the same time.

Now recall Raptor’s admission “that vaccines can cause brain damage – in a child with an extremely rare disorder”. In other words, despite his best efforts to obfuscate my point, Raptor tacitly acknowledges that what I wrote is true.

On ‘the cancer-preventing HPV vaccine’

Another statement I quoted from Dr. Summers’ Washington Post op-ed was:

Despite ample evidence of its safety and efficacy, many parents choose not to give their children the vaccination against the carcinogenic human papillomavirus, leaving their sons and daughters at increased risk of several different cancers.

In response, I wrote:

Can Dr. Summers point to any studies in the medical literature that have shown that the HPV vaccine reduces the risk of developing cervical cancer (or anal or mouth/throat cancers in men)? When the FDA approved its use allowing the vaccine manufacturers to advertise it on the grounds that it can prevent cancer, had this been proven in clinical trials?

The answer to both questions is “No”. Dr. Summers’ assertion is an assumption, not a demonstrated fact. Room for debate on that one, too, then.

Raptor writes that here I am “relying upon all of the tenets of pseudoscience and science denialism” to “trash Gardasil” (Merck’s HPV vaccine).

Raptor then declares that he “can point to several” studies in the medical literature that have shown that the HPV vaccine reduces the risk of cervical cancer. In an attempt to support this claim, Raptor then provides five links. Turning to Raptor’s very first source cited, we find a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Does this study show that the HPV vaccine reduces the risk of cervical cancer, as Raptor claims?

No, it does not.

The FDA and ‘Surrogate Endpoints’

On the contrary, Raptor’s source confirms what I wrote originally: the FDA approved Gardasil for licensure on the grounds it could prevent cancer despite no clinical studies having demonstrated the truth of this claim. As Raptor’s source observes (emphasis added):

Both vaccines have been shown to be highly effective against HPV16/18–associated cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grades 2 and 3 (CIN2/3) and adenocarcinoma in situ, endpoints accepted in trials for vaccine efficacy against cervical cancer.

That is to say, the FDA used what is called a “surrogate endpoint”, defined as “a biomarker that is intended to substitute for a clinical endpoint”.

As Thomas Fleming explains in the journal Health Affairs (full text here; bold emphasis added),

Establishing that an experimental drug can provide quality-of-life or survival benefit in a newly diagnosed patient with prostate or breast cancer, or that a vaccine can reduce the spread of HIV, or that a device can reduce risk of serious illness or death from cardiovascular disease could require trials that are large, long term, and financially costly.

In many instances, sponsors have proposed alternative endpoints (that is, “surrogates”) for these clinical endpoints, to reduce the duration and size of the trials….

Unfortunately, demonstrating treatment effects on these biological “surrogate” endpoints, while clearly establishing biological activity, may not provide reliable evidence about effects of the intervention in clinical efficacy measures.

Fleming provides the remarkable example of the drugs encainide and flecainide. Since these drugs were shown to be “very effective in suppressing” ventricular arrhythmias, which are “a known risk factor for sudden cardiac death”, the medical establishment assumed that patients who took these drugs would have a lower risk of that outcome.

Fleming continues (emphasis added):

In fact, they were so persuaded that between a quarter-million and a half-million patients each year in the United States alone were receiving these drugs for this purpose. Many were so confident that the drugs provided important therapeutic benefits that they thought it would not be ethical to withhold these drugs from patients in the control group of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) designed to reliably evaluate their effects on overall mortality. (Similar arguments are made today by advocates for continued widespread use of antibiotics in children with acute otitis media, even though we lack scientific evidence to establish that antibiotics meaningfully decrease complications or reduce the time to resolution of symptoms.)

Fortunately, a controlled trial of encainide and flecainide was conducted. The Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial provided results that astounded cardiologists. These two anti-arrhythmia agents, while suppressing arrhytmias effecively, not only did not provide an improvement in survival, but actually tripled the death rate. Encainide and flecainide may have produced some benefit though [sic, “through”] suppression of arrhythmias, yet they also had unintended and previously unrecognized mechanisms that ultimately led to an adverse effect on overall survival, mechanisms that would not have been detected if there had not been a trial to directly assess the effects on the clinical-efficacy endpoint of overall survival.

This raises an important point I overlooked when writing my rejoinder to Dr. Summers’ Washington Post op-ed: just as important as the question of whether the HPV vaccine actually reduces the risk of cervical cancer is the question of whether the vaccine reduces mortality.

After all, if the vaccine, say, reduces the risk of cervical cancer while increasing the risk of death due to some other cause, then, obviously, it does not follow from the fact that it reduces the risk of cervical cancer that therefore it is a good idea to get the vaccine.

Also, while Fleming cites the example of pediatricians routinely resorting to antibiotics for ear infections, he might just as well have cited the argument given by the medical establishment and public policy defenders for why it would be unethical to do a study comparing autism rates (or other health outcomes, for that matter, such as autoimmune disease) for children vaccinated according to the CDC’s schedule with children who remained completely unvaccinated.

No such study has been done because to withhold the vaccines from children, the argument goes, would be unethical since it would deprive children of the vaccines’ benefits.

Just as those who believed that encainide and flecainide must be effective at lowering mortality based on a surrogate endpoint, so does this argument against doing vaccinated versus unvaccinated studies beg the question. It assumes in the premise the very proposition to be proven (the petitio principii fallacy) — namely, that vaccines given according to the CDC’s schedule are safe and effective.

The DTP Vaccine and Mortality

A stark example of this fallacy is found in the case of the DTP vaccine (which has been replaced in the US with the acellular pertussis vaccine, DTaP, but is still widely used elsewhere around the globe). Since receipt of the vaccine has been shown to reduce the incidence of diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, the assumption has been that therefore mass vaccination with DTP will reduce mortality.

In fact, however, what studies show is that the DTP vaccine increases mortality.

The most recent of these, a study published in February of this year in the journal EBioMedicine, stated researchers’ findings bluntly (emphasis added):

DTP was associated with 5-fold higher mortality than being unvaccinated [with DTP]. No prospective study has shown beneficial survival effects of DTP. Unfortunately, DTP is the most widely used vaccine, and the proportion who receives DTP3 is used globally as an indicator of the performance of national vaccination programs.

It should be of concern that the effect of routine vaccinations on all-cause mortality was not tested in randomized trials. All currently available evidence suggests that DTP vaccine may kill more children from other causes than it saves from diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis. Though a vaccine protects children against the target disease it may simultaneously increase susceptibility to unrelated infection.

To return to Raptor’s claim that the Journal of the National Cancer Institute study showed that the HPV vaccine prevents cancer, recall that it in fact confirmed what I had written about the FDA, which relied on a surrogate endpoint in its licensure of Gardasil.

Furthermore, this study in fact confirms what I wrote about why Dr. Summers would be unable to point to any such studies: because none exist.

As Raptor’s own source states, “it may be many years before the effect on HPV vaccination on the incidence of cervical cancer can be assessed.”

Hence we can see that Raptor’s claim that this study showed that the HPV vaccine reduced the incidence of cervical cancer is a bald-faced lie.

It would be superfluous to examine the remainder of the Raptor’s links.

On the Measles Vaccine

“I’m rapidly becoming impatient with Hammond’s arguments”, Raptor informs readers as we come to the next matter I raised in my rejoinder to Dr. Summers: the measles vaccine.

Summers had pointed out that one rare complication of measles is encephalitis, or brain inflammation, and then asked why any parent would risk their child becoming brain damaged by measles “when there’s a safe way of of protecting their children” (referring, of course, to the measles vaccine).

I pointed out that Summers’ statement wrongly implied that encephalitis is not a possible adverse effect of vaccination. I cited a couple of studies in the medical literature that have indicated that encephalitis is a rare outcome of measles vaccination, and I also pointed out that it’s included on the list of possible adverse events on the product insert for Merck’s MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.

Raptor’s response to my observation is to assert that I’m guilty of creating “a false dichotomy – either a vaccine is 100% safe or it’s unsafe”.

It’s Raptor, however, who is here guilty of the fallacy of strawman argumentation. Of course, I neither said nor suggested any such ridiculous thing. I merely observed — accurately — that Dr. Summers was characterizing the vaccine as though it was 100% safe.

Next, Raptor asserts that I think “that package inserts are some sort of infallible document” — another ludicrous strawman. Raptor notes that “a package insert is never evidence of correlation or causality”. That is true, and of course I hadn’t suggested otherwise. I simply observed the fact that encephalitis is listed under the section listing possible adverse events on Merck’s product insert.

So we can see how the very act of stating a fact in a context of questioning public vaccine policy automatically renders the person stating the fact a believer in “pseudoscience”. It’s through such tactics that defenders of public policy attempt to stifle any form of dissent.

Raptor’s next point is a valid one: assuming the three cases of encephalitis reported for every three million doses of MMR given were actually caused by the vaccine, “the risk of encephalitis from measles is still substantially higher than the vaccine”. That is true.

It’s also true that adverse reactions to vaccines are for numerous reasons widely underreported in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which was also established under the 1986 law granting vaccine manufacturers legal immunity (The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act).

But both of these facts are beside the point I was making, which is that it is dishonest to characterize vaccination as though it was a medical intervention that entails no risk of any serious harm.

Raptor rightly frames it as a question of weighing benefits versus risks. But this just bolsters my whole point, which is that the public ought to be properly informed of what those risks are rather than told they don’t exist.

In Raptor’s calculation, the benefits of the measles vaccine far outweighs any risks. But that’s a decision that every parent should make for every child with every vaccine. And there are countless other variables to consider to be able to make an informed choice that the public just isn’t being informed about.

For example, parents aren’t being informed that, just as studies show that the DTP vaccine has “non-specific effects” (that is, consequences that are unintended or unexpected) resulting in increased mortality, so have studies long found that natural infection with measles has non-specific effects that are beneficial. Natural infection with the measles virus not only confers lifelong immunity against measles, but also seems to be an important childhood disease that primes the immune system to help protect against other diseases, as well.

Benefits of Getting Measles

“In the 1970s,” as Science Daily notes, “measles infections were observed to cause regression of pre-existing cancer tumors in children.” This observation has led Mayo Clinic to experiment with using measles virus to treat brain cancer.

A study published in The Lancet in 1985 found a negative history of measles to be associated with an increased risk of developing “immunocreactive diseases, sebaceious skin diseases, degenerative diseases of bone and cartilage, and certain tumours.”

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology the same year found that infection with measles is associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, suggesting “a truly protective effect of measles”.

More recently, a study published in the International Journal of Cancer in 2013 found “a protective role of childhood infectious diseases” — namely measles — “on the risk of CLL [chronic lymphoid leukaemia] in adults”.

A study published in the journal Atherosclerosis in 2015 found that “Measles and mumps, especially in case of both infections, were associated with lower risks of mortality from atherosclerotic CVD [cardiovascular disease].”

Dr. Summers naturally fails to disclose this kind of information in his op-ed so parents could do a proper cost-benefit analysis to determine whether vaccination is right for them.

One begins to see why studies have shown that parents who are choosing not to vaccinate their children, far from being unintelligent or “anti-science”, tend to be well-educated and affluent.

It’s the parents who choose not to put blind faith in an observably corrupt medical establishment that, rather than address their legitimate concerns, has shunned and ridiculed anyone who dares to question public policy, including parents of vaccine-injured children.

It’s the parents who understand how bias can become institutionalized. (No “conspiracy theory” is required to explain how the medical establishment could be wrong, though when it comes to “tobacco science”, there is certainly an element of willfulness. Older generations may recall how advertisements for cigarettes used to feature doctors’ endorsements, and it is not as though there wasn’t an abundance of other examples where the medical establishment has gotten it wrong.)

It’s the parents who are doing their own research, including by doing something most doctors and journalists can’t seem to be bothered with: digging into the medical literature (which can be searched at PubMed.gov) to see for themselves what science actually has to say about vaccines.

Measles and Mortality

Raptor emphasizes that “measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization”.

That is true. It is also true that the mortality rate from measles had already plummeted prior to the introduction of the vaccine. This can be seen in the CDC data presented in the below graph (note that the vaccine was licensed in 1963, after the last year shown on this graph).

Measles mortality

In fact, as an article in the journal Pediatrics notes, “nearly 90% of the decline in infectious disease mortality among US children occurred before 1940, when few antibiotics or vaccines were available.”

Moreover, the risk factors for complications from measles, unlike the risks from the vaccine, are quite well understood — such as malnourishment and, most specifically, vitamin A deficiency.

This brings us to the next objection of Raptor’s to my reply to Summers’s op-ed. Summers had written:

Preventing measles isn’t a matter of avoiding some minor ailment. The disease killed over 100,000 people in 2015.

I replied:

Summers notes the the deaths of over 100,000 people in 2015 as a result of measles infection as though the mortality rate in the US, absent mass vaccination, would be no different than in third-world countries in Africa.

Raptor asserts that I’m “just plain wrong” here; “Dr. Simmons [sic] wasn’t trying to imply that 100,000 children would die in the USA, he’s speaking worldwide.”

But that was precisely my point. Dr. Summers was citing a statistic suggesting a mortality rate that would apply to other countries, but not to the US — a fact which Raptor here tacitly acknowledges.

Raptor claims Summers “wasn’t trying to imply” that the mortality rate of measles would be the same in the US as it would be in developing countries. One might wonder how Raptor can read Summers’ mind, but it makes no difference because it isn’t a question of intent. Whether intentionally or not, Summers did in fact imply just that.

In fact, it was in this very same paragraph that Summers noted that there is a risk of brain damage from measles and asked, “Why on earth would parents opt for that risk when there’s a safe way of protecting their children?”

Summers was, of course, directing his question specifically toward American parents when he wrote that.

Raptor’s next comment is, “Of course, Hammond’s point sounds vaguely offensive that somehow only Africans will die of measles, and not privileged white Americans. Sigh.”

So now, in addition to it being “anti-science” to point out the acknowledged fact that the mortality rate in the US would not be the same as in developing countries, it is also “offensive” to point out that Americans enjoy a higher standard of living.

Sigh.

Unintended Population Effects of Mass Vaccination

Among other factors that aren’t taken into consideration in the risk-benefit analysis underlying public policy are unintended effects at the population level. For example, one effect of mass vaccination for measles is that in the event of an outbreak today, the risk burden has shifted away from children in whom it is a generally mild disease onto those for whom it poses a greater risk of complications: infants.

This is because in the pre-vaccine era, most women experienced measles infection as a child and developed a robust cell-mediated immunity. Frequent reexposure to the virus also kept antibody levels high. Since antibodies are passed from mother to baby via breastmilk, breastfeeding provided a strong passive immunity to infants, who do not yet have a developed immune system to be able to handle the infection on their own.

Now, however, thanks to mass vaccination, mothers aren’t as well able to confer immunity to their infants via breastmilk. This is because the immunity conferred by the vaccine isn’t as robust as that conferred by natural infection and wanes more quickly over time, and by reducing the circulation of the virus, the natural boosting of antibody titers from frequent reexposure no longer occurs.

Thus, because mothers in the era of mass vaccination aren’t as well able to pass protective antibodies on to their infants via breastmilk, in the event of an outbreak, infants are at a higher risk.

Conclusion

Raptor closes by describing my response to Summers’ op-ed as consisting of “tropes, myths, conspiracy theories, cherry picking and, need I mention this, outright misinformation.”

It is fitting that Raptor should close with such words because, in the end, having failed to identify even a single error in fact or logic in anything I wrote, such empty rhetoric is all Raptor has got. Rather than reasonably addressing my points, Raptor resorts to misrepresentation, strawman argumentation, obfuscation, and ad hominem attacks.

I am perfectly content to let intelligent readers decide for themselves, therefore, who is more “anti-science”.

Such efforts to bully and intimidate people into conformity will ultimately fail, but there’s a lesson in it: to dare to question public vaccine policy is a sin for which one must be rebuked.

It is to commit the crime of heresy against the vaccine religion.

The heretics, however, will not be intimidated.

We will not be silenced.


Jeremy R. Hammond is an award-winning independent journalist, author, publisher and editor of Foreign Policy Journal, and father. Subscribe to stay updated with his work on vaccines and get his free report “5 Horrifying Facts about the FDA Vaccine Approval Process.” 

We received permission to published it from The World Mercury Project.

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Awareness

Tylenol Damages The Brains of Children, Research Reveals

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Tylenol has a wide range of toxic side effects you should be aware of, especially if you are pregnant or use it with your children. Article written by William Parker, Ph.D for Greenmedinfo.com, published here with permission.

  • Reflect On:

    Why do we keep taking Tylenol and other over-the-counter drugs when it's unquestionable that they do more harm than good? Why don't we ever look into healthy ways to alleviate our symptoms?

Original Article Link

A number of non-peer-reviewed articles have been written and published on the web claiming that there is literally nothing to fear from acetaminophen during pregnancy. There are two types of articles that fall into this category. First, reputable watchdog organizations have weighed in on the issue, declaring acetaminophen use during pregnancy and during childhood to be proven safe. In particular, the National Health Service of the UK and the Center for Accountability in Science have both strongly criticized the Spanish study from 2016 showing a link between acetaminophen use during pregnancy and ADHD/autism.

The second type of article is generally written by a science writer working for an organization that runs a website. Often quoting one to three experts who claim that is perfectly safe and that pregnant women and families should not be concerned, many of these articles are published by reputable sources that are generally trustworthy. Typically, an expert is being asked to comment on one particular publication showing a link between acetaminophen use (usually during pregnancy) and some sort of neuropsychiatric problem (autism, lowered IQ, hyperactivity, and/or social/behavioral problems, depending on the study). There are several important things to consider when evaluating these articles:

1.  There are a number of University Professors who have studied the use of acetaminophen on the developing brain and who are keenly aware of the potential dangers. A partial list of these individuals is provided below.

2.  Being an expert in acetaminophen neurotoxicity during development means that considerable time has been invested in studying the issue. Any true expert in this issue will be aware of basic facts regarding acetaminophen neurotoxicity. These facts include the following:

(a) Studies in animal models (both in mice and in rats) demonstrate that acetaminophen use during a sensitive period of brain development causes long-term alterations in the brain and is manifested as problems with social function.

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(b)  Margaret McCarthy, Chair of Pharmacology at the University of Maryland, has worked out the probable mechanism by which acetaminophen-induced brain damage occurs. Her research team has found that the male brain is considerably more sensitive to acetaminophen than the female brain, possibly accounting for the gender bias in autism.

(c) There are (as of January 2017) a total of 8 published studies evaluating the long terms effects on children of acetaminophen use during pregnancy or during childhood. Two of these (one in 2014, one in 2016) were published in JAMA Pediatrics, one of the most highly respected pediatric journals. All studies point toward acetaminophen use being associated with long-term problems with neurological function. Each study design has included some attempt to control for indication. In all studies, acetaminophen use rather than indication has been identified as the key factor associated with cognitive problems. A formal meta-analysis is not currently possible because of the varied outcome measures and study designs, but all 8 studies point in the same direction: Acetaminophen is neurotoxic to the developing brain. The studies are not “cherry picked”, selecting only those which find an effect. All studies point toward a neurotoxic effect of acetaminophen in the developing brain.

(d)   Acetaminophen substantially alters brain chemistry and temporarily impairs awareness of social issues in adult humans.

(e)  Testing of acetaminophen safety in children did not include any evaluation of brain function, and no long-term studies were ever conducted. The primary manufacturer of acetaminophen in the US acknowledges that the drug has never been shown to be safe for brain development when used during pregnancy or in childhood. All safety tests were performed with the assumption that any side effects would be acute in nature (e.g., bleeding or acute organ damage). This assumption was based on observations made with acetaminophen in adults and with aspirin in children. It was not based on any experience with acetaminophen use in children.

3.     Having prescribed tens of thousands of doses of acetaminophen does not make anyone an expert on the neurotoxicity of acetaminophen, any more than eating thousands of pounds of chips makes somebody an expert in the effects of an inflammatory diet. Credentials and certifications that allow physicians to prescribe acetaminophen do not make them experts, and elevated positions in the medical community do not qualify anybody as an expert on the effects of acetaminophen. If somebody does not know those basic facts listed above, then they are not an expert on the neurotoxicity of acetaminophen. Usually, the experts will have published one or more peer-reviewed manuscripts on the topic. Those are the people to ask when an expert is needed.

4.     It is tempting to point accusing fingers at physicians who say that acetaminophen is safe when they literally have no grasp whatsoever of the relevant scientific literature. However, this would be a mistake. I have tracked down a few of these individuals who were quoted in a very public format, and one individual, in particular, didn’t even remember having made a comment on the topic. The most likely explanation is that a reporter asked them if acetaminophen was safe, and their response based on their training (not on the knowledge of the literature) was that it is safe. After all, if they didn’t think it was safe, they would not be administering it dozens of times per day. So, if a reporter asks a physician if something is safe, and they provide their knowledge based on what they have been taught and how they practice, then it is hard to blame them. The reporter didn’t ask them to spend days or even weeks reviewing the literature in detail, but rather assumed that any physician administering something dozens of times per day would know the literature. (This is a false assumption. No physician has the time to study all current literature on every drug they administer.) So, in a nutshell, a tragic propagation of incorrect information is occurring despite the best of intentions of all parties involved.

5.     Unless an organization such as the National Health Service has the time to review a topic thoroughly, they should remain silent on an issue. It took a team of us two years to put together our summary of the evidence, both direct and circumstantial, regarding the potential neurotoxicity of acetaminophen during development. It took the NHS only days to publish their recent criticism of the 2016 Spanish study. Offering questionable criticisms of a single paper without reviewing the literature to see how that publication fits into the big picture is a disservice to the public being served.

6. Reading the published quotes from many “experts” who exonerate acetaminophen, it is apparent that the logic falls into one of two categories.

(a) Everybody is doing it, so it must be OK.

(b) This single study is not perfect, so no change in practice should be made.

Neither of these criticisms is logically sound, of course. These two criticisms are often combined and were, in fact, part of the critical comments directed toward the first paper showing that acetaminophen probably has substantial neurotoxicity during development (published in 2008 by Steve Shultz). Further, the evaluation of study weaknesses is usually skewed and not entirely valid. Since the idea that acetaminophen is safe is being embraced, then any merit in the paper is often undermined to make the case. This is certainly true of the published (peer reviewed) criticisms of the 2008 Shultz paper.

7.     Many on-line sources support the view that acetaminophen can be very dangerous to the developing brain. Probably the most reliable source, the FDA, is remaining silent on the topic until something more definitive is done. The FDA knows that this is extremely urgent, but unfortunately, our FDA is not linked well (in a practical manner) with our NIH, and thus they can’t dictate research priorities.

8.     Here is a list (not comprehensive) of experts regarding the neurotoxicity of acetaminophen during brain development.

a) First, I’ll thank the wonderful team of individuals who helped put together our comprehensive review on this topic. Shu Lin, a professor with me in Duke’s Surgery Department, is a very dear and long-time friend of mine who has supported me through countless projects over the past 22 years. Staci Bilbo, director for research on Autism at Harvard, is a friend and collaborator who has helped me understand what causes inflammation and the role of inflammation in brain dysfunction. Chi Dang Hornik, a pediatric pharmacist at Duke, contributed greatly to our understanding of the frequency of acetaminophen administration and the available formulations of the drug. Many thanks to Martha Herbert. As a Harvard professor and clinician, she has a great appreciation for the clinical data obtained from patients with autism. Cindy Nevison, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, rounds out our team, providing critical information about the epidemiology of autism. (Thanks also to our interns (Rasika Rao and Lauren Gentry) and research analyst (Zoie Holzknecht) who were a tremendous help in compiling information and preparing that information for publication.)

b) Margaret McCarthy, chair of Pharmacology at the University of Maryland, it the most knowledgeable person I know regarding the biochemistry of the human brain and how that is affected by acetaminophen and other drugs in that class.

c) Chittaranjan Andrade, Chair of Psychopharmacology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, India, has written a peer reviewed paper on the topic of acetaminophen induced brain damage. He nicely summarized a number of studies looking at the connection between acetaminophen and neurological damage. His final conclusion is that the drug is probably more associated with ADHD than autism, but the conclusion was limited to exposure during pregnancy and his work was conducted before some critical studies were published in 2016.

d) Henrik Viberg is a professor in the Department of Organismal Biology at Uppsala University in Sweden. He has studied how exposure of mice to acetaminophen during development can cause long term brain damage.

e) In 2015, a group of scientists working with Laurence de Fays at the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products in Brussels acknowledged the clinical studies and the studies in animal models which indicated that acetaminophen could be dangerous to the developing fetus, but concluded that paracetamol is “still to be considered safe in pregnancy”. At the same time, they state that “additional carefully designed studies are necessary to confirm or disprove the association (between acetaminophen and brain damage to children)”, and that “care should be taken to avoid raising poorly founded concerns among pregnant females”. We very strongly agree with the conclusion that more studies are needed, but very strongly disagree with the conclusion that women should be kept in the dark about the matter. It is important to point out that several more studies have come out since Laurence de Fays’ report. One of those is a 2016 manuscript in JAMA Pediatrics(see the next expert), a highly reputable peer reviewed journal, which addresses the concerns raised by de Fays, so it is possible that de Fays’ group may now have a different opinion.

f) A team of scientists and doctors working with Evie Stergiakouli at the University of Bristol analyzed data from a prospective birth cohort, and concluded that “children exposed to acetaminophen prenatally are at increased risk of multiple behavioral difficulties”. They found considerable evidence indicating that the association was not due to the confounding factors that concerned de Fays’ group (previous expert).

g) Jordi Julvez at the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, Spain worked with a team of a dozen clinicians and scientists to publish their 2016 study linking acetaminophen with autism and ADHD.

h) Amany A. Abdin, a professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Tanta University, Egypt, wrote a review of the acetaminophen/autism connection and published it in the journal Biochemistry and Pharmacology: Open Access. Her conclusion in 2013 was that the drug is not safe and that the acetaminophen/autism connection should receive attention.

i) The original paper that identified a connection between neuropsychiatric disorders and acetaminophen was published by Steve Shultz while at the University of California at San Diego. Coauthors on the paper included Hillary Klonoff-Cohen, currently an Endowed Professor and Director of the MPH program at the University of Illinois.

j) Four scientists, including research scientist Ragnhild Eek Brandlistuen and professors Hedvig Nordeng and Eivind Ystrom in the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Oslo, coauthored a study showing a connection between adverse neurodevelopment and acetaminophen use during pregnancy.

k) Jorn Olsen, Professor and Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at UCLA, published one of the more recent papers (2016) showing a connection between autism and acetaminophen use during pregnancy.

l) Five professors (John M. D. Thompson, Karen E. Waldie, Clare R. Wall, Rinky Murphy, and Edwin A. Mitchell) from four different departments at The University of Auckland published their findings in PLOSone in 2014 which “strengthen the contention that acetaminophen exposure in pregnancy increases the risk of ADHD-like behaviours. Our study also supports earlier claims that findings are specific to acetaminophen.”

For evidence-based research on the dangers of acetaminophen, visit the GreenMedInfo.com Research Dashboard.\

Read their related article on Tylenol: 

Tylenol Kills Emotions As Well As Pain, Study Reveals

Sign Up For The Greenmedinfo Newsletter HERE.


William Parker is an Associate Professor at Duke University, where he has worked in the Department of Surgery since 1993.  William is currently investigating a number of issues associated with inflammation and Western society, including vitamin D deficiency, heart disease and alteration of the symbionts of the human body (“biota alteration”). He has been interested in “natural” immune function for some time, which has led him down a path that includes the first studies of immune function in wild rats and the discovery of the function of the human appendix.

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Awareness

Vaccine Mandates Results Don’t Safeguard Children’s Rights or Health: How Did We Get Here?

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For decades, the U.S. government has made compulsory childhood vaccination one of the cornerstones of its public health policy. Outside the U.S., countries’ vaccination policies range from completely voluntary to “aggressive,” with some nations promoting vaccination but leaving the decision up to the individual, and others pushing a little harder by financially incentivizing vaccination. Some of the countries with mandatory vaccination have “modest” policies that focus on a single vaccine such as polio, and some—with broader mandates on the books—choose not to enforce them.

Regardless of the policy, no other country requires as many childhood vaccines as the U.S., but the legal edifice shoring up the compulsory childhood vaccine program is surprisingly flimsy. As New York University legal scholar Mary Holland explains in a 2010 working paper, this edifice relies primarily on two century-old Supreme Court decisions—from 1905 and 1922—and on the game-changing National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) of 1986, which fundamentally altered the legal landscape for vaccination by exempting vaccine manufacturers and medical practitioners from liability for childhood vaccine injuries.

…current childhood mandates are not only radically different from what the earlier courts and legislators envisioned but are unreasonable and oppressive and have led to…perverse results that do not safeguard children’s rights and health.

The 1986 Act, in particular, resulted in an absence of legal protections for vaccinated children that is “striking compared to almost all other medical interventions.” Examining the legal trajectory of vaccine mandates since 1905, Holland argues that current childhood mandates are not only radically different from what the earlier courts and legislators envisioned but are “unreasonable and oppressive and have led to…perverse results” that do not safeguard children’s rights and health.

From mandates for emergencies to mandates for “prevention”

The Supreme Court’s 1905 Jacobson v. Massachusetts decision, as summarized by Holland, justified the imposition of one vaccine—smallpox—on adults “on an emergency basis” and under circumstances of “imminent danger.” At the same time, the Jacobson decision established medical exemptions, reasoning that it “would be cruel and inhuman in the last degree” to vaccinate someone who was medically unfit. Jacobson also contained “robust cautionary language,” calling attention to the potential for “arbitrary and oppressive” abuse of police power and warning against going “far beyond what was reasonably required for the safety of the public.” Jacobson urged courts to be “vigilant to examine and thwart unreasonable assertions of state power.”

Despite these words of warning, state-level courts did not wait long before broadening the judicial interpretation of Jacobson beyond the notion of imminent danger or necessity—although still within the context of just the smallpox vaccine:

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  • In 1916, Alabama and Kentucky courts affirmed states’ right to mandate vaccination for prevention of smallpox epidemics, stating that state Boards of Health “are not required to wait until an epidemic actually exists before taking action.” The Alabama court also broadened the rationale for mandates beyond adults to children.
  • In 1922, the three-paragraph Zucht v. King Supreme Court decision sanctioned vaccine mandates as a condition for public school attendance. According to Holland, this decision further shifted Jacobson’s “paradigm…by upholding a mandate exclusively for children and not for the entire population.”
  • Decisions in Mississippi and Texas in the early 1930s granted public health authorities the leeway to define public health emergencies in whatever manner they saw fit.
  • A New Jersey court in the late 1940s interpreted Jacobson as justifying all vaccine mandates, “disregarding its language to reject unreasonable, arbitrary or oppressive state actions.”
  • An Arkansas court in the early 1950s suggested that anyone questioning vaccine safety or efficacy should “lodge [their] objections with the Board of Health rather than the court.”

Occasionally, legal officials expressed their disapproval of vaccine mandates outside of emergencies, as with the North Dakota judge who, in 1919, pronounced childhood vaccination in the absence of a smallpox epidemic an act of “barbarism.” The same judge also wrote presciently about the self-interest of the medical profession and vaccine manufacturers—“the class that reap a golden harvest from vaccination and the diseases caused by it.” In comments that bear repeating today, the judge stated,

“Every person of common sense and observation must know that it is not the welfare of the children that causes the vaccinators to preach their doctrines and to incur the expense of lobbying for vaccination statutes. …And if anyone says to the contrary, he either does not know the facts, or he has no regard for the truth.”

The legal sea change in 1986

Although vaccination mandates had become legally “well-entrenched” by the mid-1950s—regardless of emergency and “all but erasing” Jacobson’s cautionary language—Holland emphasizes that this legal framework arose in the context of a single vaccine for a contagious disease considered to be life-threatening. Even when the polio vaccine subsequently came on the scene, the nonprofit organization that helped develop and distribute the vaccine “opposed compulsion on principle.”

According to Holland, the creation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)—“a federal advisory body with little public participation and no direct accountability to voters”—laid the groundwork for far more coercive vaccine policies. In fact, ACIP has become, over time, the “driving force” behind vaccine mandates. Whereas Jacobson justified mandates under specific and rare circumstances, ACIP has created an “infrastructure” that pushes mandates for any vaccine-preventable illness.

…revenue-generating vaccine development and promotion have enjoyed priority over vaccine safety science and injury compensation since the Law’s (NCVIA) inception

By 1981, after ACIP helped ensure that multiple vaccines were obligatory for school attendance in all 50 states, the number of vaccine injuries began increasing. Against this backdrop, Congress enacted the NCVIA in 1986. Although some legislators may have been well-intentioned when they passed the Act, Holland makes it clear that it has been nothing short of a disaster. In essence, the Act located “vaccine promotion, safety and compensation under one [government] umbrella,” thereby creating “the risk of trade-offs among competing goals.” The rather predictable result is that “revenue-generating vaccine development and promotion have enjoyed priority over vaccine safety science and injury compensation since the Law’s inception.”

Holland identifies the paradox at the core of the 1986 Law. On the one hand, the legislation “for the first time publicly acknowledged that universal compulsory vaccination is likely to cause permanent injury and death to some infants and children”; on the other hand, it forces healthy children to give up ordinary legal protections, including informed consent, and takes away from injured children the right to sue manufacturers directly.

Meanwhile, ACIP has continued to promote a shift away from “necessity” as the rationale for vaccine mandates. A number of the vaccines that ACIP now calls for American children to get to attend school—70 doses of 16 vaccines by age 18—are for rarely fatal illnesses and for conditions “not contagious through ordinary social contact.” Holland’s conclusion is that:

“Necessity no longer determines the validity of state childhood vaccination mandates…. New vaccine mandates are guided by financial returns on low prevalence diseases, not protection of the entire population against imminent harm.”

“Ravenous corporate greed and mindless bureaucracy”

Some of the most troubling facts come at the end of Holland’s impressive legal review and concern the power of the pharmaceutical industry. She notes:

  • The pharmaceutical industry has been the most profitable industry in the U.S. since the 1980s.
  • In a single year in the early 2000s, “the combined profits of the ten largest drug companies in the Fortune 500 had higher net profits…than all the other 490 companies [in the Fortune 500] combined.”
  • There are more full-time pharmaceutical industry lobbyists on Capitol Hill than there are legislators in both Houses of Congress.
  • The leading manufacturers of childhood vaccines in the U.S. (Merck, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur) have records of documented fraud and criminal/ethical misconduct.

Holland also tackles the extensive collusion between the pharmaceutical industry and government regulators, including a quote about “ravenous corporate greed and mindless bureaucracy” in a related article. Whereas “demonstrably predatory corporations selling compulsory products to a vulnerable population should lead to a high level of government scrutiny and skepticism,” Holland observes that “government appears to ally its interests with industry in the arena of vaccines.”

Coercion is backfiring

Fortunately, the public and even some health professionals are growing increasingly wise to this industry-government shell game. In one community, opposition to human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine mandates recently put public health authorities on the defensive about the epidemic of autoimmunity in today’s youth, the “exorbitant” amount of neurotoxic aluminum in vaccines and the requirement to “get a vaccine for something that can’t be caught in a classroom.” A parent responding to the news article stated, “Why should I as a mother trust the Public Information Officer for the state Department of Health when he cannot even name the amount of aluminum in the vaccine?” Thus, it is up to the public—and ethical professionals—to engage in the “scrutiny and skepticism” that the U.S. government has unconscionably failed to exercise.


Sign up for free news and updates from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the Children’s Health Defense. CHD is planning many strategies, including legal, in an effort to defend the health of our children and obtain justice for those already injured. Your support is essential to CHD’s successful mission.


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Awareness

How X-Ray Mammography Is Accelerating The Epidemic of Cancer

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Article written by Sayer Ji, Founder of Greenmedinfo LLC, posted here with permission.

While a growing body of research now suggests that x-ray mammography is causing more harm than good in the millions of women who subject themselves to breast screenings, annually, without knowledge of their true health risks, the primary focus has been on the harms associated with over-diagnosis and over-treatment, and not the radiobiological dangers of the procedure itself.

In 2006, a paper published in the British Journal of Radiobiology, titled “Enhanced biological effectiveness of low energy X-rays and implications for the UK breast screening programme,” revealed the type of radiation used in x-ray-based breast screenings is much more carcinogenic than previously believed:

Recent radiobiological studies have provided compelling evidence that the low energy X-rays as used in mammography are approximately four times – butpossibly as much as six times – more effective in causing mutational damage than higher energy X-rays. Since current radiation risk estimates are based on the effects of high energy gamma radiation, this implies that the risks of radiation-induced breast cancers for mammography X-rays are underestimated by the same factor.[1]

In other words, the radiation risk model used to determine whether the benefit of breast screenings in asymptomatic women outweighs their harm, underestimates the risk of mammography-induced breast and related cancers by between 4-600%.

The authors continued

Risk estimates for radiation-induced cancer – principally derived from the atomic bomb survivor study (ABSS) – are based on the effects of high energy gamma-rays and thus the implication is that the risks of radiation-induced breast cancer arising from mammography may be higher than that assumed based on standard risks estimates.

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This is not the only study to demonstrate mammography X-rays are more carcinogenic than atomic bomb spectrum radiation. There is also an extensive amount of data on the downside of x-ray mammography.

Sadly, even if one uses the outdated radiation risk model (which underestimates the harm done),* the weight of the scientific evidence (as determined by the work of The Cochrane Collaboration) actually shows that breast screenings are in all likelihood not doing any net good in those who undergo them.

In a 2009 Cochrane Database Systematic Review,** also known as the Gøtzsche and Nielsen’s Cochrane Review, titled “Screening for breast cancer with mammography,” the authors revealed the tenuous statistical justifications for mass breast screenings:

Screening led to 30% overdiagnosis and overtreatment, or an absolute risk increase of 0.5%. This means that for every 2000 women invited for screening throughout 10 years, one will have her life prolonged and 10 healthy women, who would not have been diagnosed if there had not been screening, will be treated unnecessarily. Furthermore, more than 200 women will experience important psychological distress for many months because of false positive findings. It is thus not clear whether screening does more good than harm.[2]

In this review, the basis for estimating unnecessary treatment was the 35% increased risk of surgery among women who underwent screenings. Many of the surgeries, in fact, were the result of women being diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a “cancer” that would not exists as a clinically relevant entity were it not for the fact that it is detectable through x-ray mammography. DCIS, in the vast majority of cases, has no palpable lesion or symptoms, and some experts believe it should be completely reclassified as a non-cancerous condition.

A more recent study published in the British Medical Journal in 2011 titled, “Possible net harms of breast cancer screening: updated modeling of Forrest report,” not only confirmed the Gøtzsche and Nielsen’s Cochrane Review findings, but found the situation likely worse:

This analysis supports the claim that the introduction of breast cancer screening might have caused net harm for up to 10 years after the start of screening.[3]

So, let’s assume that these reviews are correct, and at the very least, the screenings are not doing any good, and at worst, causing more harm than good. The salient question, however, is how much more harm than good? If we consider that, according to data from Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2011), a mammogram uses 4 mSv of radiation vs. the .02 mSv of your average chest x-ray (which is 200 times more radiation), and then, we factor in the 4-600% higher genotoxicity/carcinogenicity associated with the specific “low-energy” wavelengths used in mammography, it is highly possible that beyond the epidemic of over-diagnosis and over-treatment, mammograms are planting seeds of radiation-induced cancer within the breasts of millions of women.***

With the advent of non-ionizing radiation based diagnostic technologies, such as thermography, it has become vitally important that patients educate themselves about the alternatives to x-ray mammography that already exist.  Until then, we must use our good sense – and research like this – to inform our decisions, and as far as the unintended adverse effects of radiation go, erring on the side of caution whenever possible.

Additional Reading

Is X-ray Mammography Findings Cancer or Benign Lesions?

The Dark Side of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Does Chemo & Radiation Actually Make Cancer More Malignant?


*This discrepancy in radiation risk models/estimates follows from two fundamental problems: 1) the older risk model was based on higher-energy radiation emissions, such as are given off from atomic bomb blasts 2) it was a crude model, developed before the discovery of DNA and a full understanding of radiotoxicity/genotoxicity.

** Keep in mind that the Cochrane Database Review is at the top of the “food chain” of truth, in the highly touted “evidence-based model” of conventional medicine. Cochrane Database Reviews are produced by The Cochrane Collaboration, which is internationally recognized as the benchmark for high quality, evidence-based information concerning the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of common health care interventions. The organization, comprised of over 28,000 dedicated people from over 100 countries, prides itself on being an “independent” source of information, and historically has not been afraid to point out the corrupting influence of industry, which increasingly co-opts  the biomedical research and publishing fields.

***The low-energy wavelengths cause double strand breaks within the DNA of susceptible cells, which the cell can not repair. Through time these mutations result in “neoplastic transformation”; radiation has the ability to induce a cancerous phenotype within formerly healthy cells that has cancer stem cell-like (CSC) properties.


[1] Enhanced biological effectiveness of low energy X-rays and implications for the UK breast screening programme. Br J Radiol. 2006 Mar ;79(939):195-200. PMID: 16498030

[2] Screening for breast cancer with mammography. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009(4):CD001877. Epub 2009 Oct 7. PMID: 19821284

[3] Possible net harms of breast cancer screening: updated modelling of Forrest report. BMJ. 2011 ;343:d7627. Epub 2011 Dec 8. PMID: 22155336


Sayer Ji is founder of Greenmedinfo.com, a reviewer at the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine, Co-founder and CEO of Systome Biomed, Vice Chairman of the Board of the National Health Federation, Steering Committee Member of the Global Non-GMO Foundation.

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