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SKEPTOID BLOG:

MercolaWatch:Desperate Times for Vaccine Safety and Efficacy Denialism

by Josh DeWald

June 7, 2013

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Donate Barbara Loe Fisher guest stars in the Mercola.com article I will be looking at this week. The anti-vaccine folks have cleverly started to use the term "denial" in their rhetoric as the Mercola article is entitled "Desperate Times for Vaccine Risk Denialism". They don't however seem to know what the term means as the scientific community readily acknowledges that there are risks to vaccines. Families have been given money by the "vaccine court" when there is reasonable evidence of having been harmed due to vaccines. These are no secrets and it's not clear who exactly it is that Fisher believes is "denying" the risks of vaccines. There is just the minor detail that the risks are far outweighed by the benefits for most children.

But as usual, let's go to the specific claims she has decided to make. I may revisit her entry in another part as I can only cover a small portion within a reasonable space.

"No Flu Shots? No Employment"
2013 was only a few days old when public health agencies and medical trade groups called for veteran nurses and other health care workers to be fired for refusing to obey orders to get annual flu shots — no exceptions and no questions asked.

It did not matter that the risky and notoriously ineffective influenza vaccine turned out to be almost useless in preventing infection with the most prevalent influenza strains circulating in the US this year.2
The first is a quote from another page from Fisher, so it's a bit odd that she cites it as another source without making that more clear. The second reference she cites is the CDC's "What You Should Know for the 2012-2013 Influenza Season". I don't know what she deems to be "effective", but 56% (more than halving the risk, though unfortunately it was about 25% effective in older people) is pretty good in my book for a procedure with low risk of severe side effects. Fisher seems to expect health authorities to be able to predict ahead of time the effectiveness of the vaccine and then retro-actively decide whether or not to provide it based on how effective it was.

The nurse was certainly within her rights to reject the vaccine (Fisher's article says it was for religious reasons, "choosing to stay healthy another way"), but Fisher's comments appear to ignore the fact that a nurse's health affects not just themselves, but also any patients they are around. Any infectious disease they get can easily be passed onto others who might be otherwise compromised (possibly not even able to get the vaccine for some reason).

The CDC agrees. As the they note in a letter targeted at nurses (emphasis mine):
The flu can spread in health care settings. Influenza outbreaks have been documented in hospital wards, nursing home facilities, intensive care units, and bone marrow transplant units (1-9). Studies of influenza vaccination of healthcare personnel have noted an association between vaccination and reduced influenza-like illness among patients (10-12). Vaccination of healthcare personnel has also been associated with decreased absenteeism due to respiratory infections (13). Vaccination remains the single best preventive measure available against influenza and can prevent transmission, illness and death.
And just a reminder those that think the flu is no big deal, the same CDC link she references ("What you should know") points out that:
From September 30, 2012, to February 9, 2013, 64 flu-related deaths in children were reported to CDC. Sixteen deaths in children were associated with flu A H3N2 virus infection, 19 deaths were associated with flu A virus infection that was not subtyped, and 29 deaths were associated with flu B virus infection.
Additionally via another CDC page (emphasis mine),
An early look at this season's reports indicates that about 90 percent occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination this season.
So in case that was not completely clear: some people DIE from the flu. As in, no longer with us. They don't die from the vaccine. Please pick a cause that doesn't result in the deaths of anybody, especially children.

And in case someone thinks "well, at least I can trust in the general herd immunity, so I don't need my kid to get vaccinated", Skeptical Raptor reports on a study in Pediatrics finding that children in a community with low vaccination rates were at increased risk, even when they were fully vaccinated.

"CDC Study Fails to Confirm Offit's Claim That 10,000 Vaccines Are Safe for Babies"
[...] a study conducted and funded by the Centers for Disease Control was released by the Journal of Pediatrics declaring that "increasing exposure to antibody stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines is not associated with risk of autism" and, therefore, vaccines don't cause autism.12

[...] a pathetic attempt to validate a Machiavellian hypothesis forwarded in 2002 by pediatric vaccine developer Paul Offit claiming that an infant could safely respond to 10,000 vaccines given at any one time.13

However, an eighth grade science class student [...] could figure out that the absence of an unvaccinated control group meant the study was fatally flawed. It proved absolutely nothing about the potential relationship between administration of multiple vaccinations in early childhood and the development of autism among genetically diverse children with and without increased biological susceptibility to adverse responses to vaccination.
Fisher is ignoring the dose-response relationship. Any theorized toxins in the vaccine she would exhibit a dose-response effect such that the more "toxins" children get from vaccines the more likely they would be to get autism. What the study she cites specifically states is that they tested autism against increasing amounts of vaccination in a short period of time (with no correlation). Unless she is truly suggesting that even getting a single vaccine is going to cause autism (and if so, what ever happened to "too many too soon"?), then it's not clear what she is actually hypothesizing.

She cites (her footnote 14) a page describing what a case-control study is, but that page makes no mention of the control group (the ones without the disorder) needing no treatment (her claim). In fact, in the examples it provides, each group is asked to assess how much they have taken of whatever the "treatment" is, there is certainly no assumption of "no treatment". This is inline with the study she cites, which broke things down using intervals of "25-units of total antigen exposure".

From the study (DeStefano):
[...] the risk of acquiring an ASD was not associated with total antigen exposure at birth to 3 months, birth to 7 months, or birth to 2 years (Table II). [...] The ORs for a 25-unit increase in vaccine antigen exposure [...] also revealed no significant increase in the risk of various ASD outcomes with increasing vaccine antigen exposure. Moreover, the risk of ASD was not associated with maximum antigen exposure on a single day (Table III).
In short, they found no relationship whatsoever with increasing doses of vaccines and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

So when Fisher claims the study "proved absolutely nothing about the potential relationship between administration of multiple vaccinations in early childhood and the development of autism among genetically diverse children with and without increased biological susceptibility to adverse responses to vaccination" she is quite simply wrong. The "genetic diversity" and "increased biological susceptibility" would have come out in the numbers if it existed. It really does not seem that Fisher and friends have a clear scientific hypothesis in mind in terms of the supposed toxicity of vaccines.

"Regression into Poor Health After Vaccination: A Universal Experience"
[...] everybody knows somebody who was healthy, got vaccinated and was never healthy again.
Barbara, those are called anecdotes, and are not the same as evidence. Investigations into the VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) data simply show no causal relationship, in most cases, between vaccination and severe health effects. The CDC has a page listing quite a few analyses of VAERS data. Some examples:

* Estimated 1 case of Hearing Loss in 6-8 million does of live attenuated MMR vaccine (HL is an existing complication of measles and mumps, which much less people are getting due to the vaccine)
* Infant immunization with DTaP, DTP, DTPH not associated with clear safety concerns
* Fainting can occur after many medical procedures, including vaccinations, so patients should be monitored for 15 minutes afterwards
* Adverse events following varicella (chicken pox) vaccine are rare, especially versus risks of varicella itself
* Following analysis of voluntarily recalled (due to VAERS reports) Hib vaccine doses, reported effects not actually associated with the particular vaccine

And in an example of an analysis finding against general vaccination:

* Males and both genders aged 60+ have higher risk of serious side effects from Yellow Fever vaccine, so intake should be limited to when it is required for travel

So while Fisher and others in the "vaccine safety" crowd continue regularly state that vaccines cause all manner of ills, the data simply do not support their statements. They ask for more and better studies, but simply ignore the results of them.

SELECTED REFERENCES
Center for Disease Control. "Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) Publications". Updated July 5, 2012. Visited June 2013. <http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/library/vaers_pubs.html>
Center for Disease Control. "What You Should Know for the 2012-2013 Influenza Season". Updated March 15,2013. Visited June 2013. <http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pastseasons/1213season.htm>
DeStefano, Frank, Cristofer S. Price, and Eric S. Weintraub. "Increasing Exposure to Antibody-Stimulating Proteins and Polysaccharides in Vaccines Is Not Associated with Risk of Autism." The Journal of pediatrics (2013).

by Josh DeWald

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