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SKEPTOID BLOG:

NaturalNonsense:Misleading statements on whooping cough

by Josh DeWald

March 7, 2014

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Donate In reading NaturalNews articles, I'm frequently left wondering if the writers intentionally misquote their references or if the writers simply cannot understand what they read. What's more remarkable is when the reference in question is a press release rather than a study, which at least can be expected to be dense. The NN article is "FDA study shows pertussis vaccination spreads pathogenic bacteria" from March 4th, 2014 in which the NN author claims that the FDA's study demonstrates that "the vaccine for whooping cough, also known as pertussis, spreads the very same pathogenic bacteria that causes whopping cough in the first place, which in some people can lead to serious infections." Is this what the study showed?

The FDA reference is a press release from November 27, 2013 (so hardly new) called "FDA study helps provide an understanding of rising rates of whooping cough and response to vaccination". The press release discusses a pre-publication version of a study that ended up in the January 2014 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, titled "Acellular pertussis vaccines protect against disease but fail to prevent infection and transmission in a nonhuman primate model".

Despite the NN claim that the vaccine somehow spreads the infection (which is literally impossible, since it doesn't actually contain the living cells of the bacteria), the actual press release just says that (bold emphasis mine):
the FDA study found that both types of vaccines generated robust antibody responses in the animals, and none of the vaccinated animals developed outward signs of pertussis disease after being exposed to B. pertussis. The animals that received an acellular pertussis vaccine had the bacteria in their airways for up to six weeks and were able to spread the infection to unvaccinated animals. In contrast, animals that received whole-cell vaccine cleared the bacteria within three weeks.
In other words, the acellular vaccine is not able to prevent the bacteria from getting into your system (e.g. if you encounter someone else who is contagious), but it does prevent it from giving you the illness. Unfortunately, while you are infected (and possibly showing mild symptoms) you are still capable of spreading it.

Let's contrast that with the NN author's remarkable misreading of this same text (bold emphasis mine):
In other words, the whooping cough vaccine is definitely effective at preventing the whooping cough, except that it's not. This is the essence of what the FDA is claiming here with this dichotomy -- people who are vaccinated for whooping cough are somehow protected against the disease, but they might still develop it as a result of contracting the bacterium responsible for triggering whooping cough, which is contained in the vaccine.
Sorry, try again. The author also slipped in that other bit of misinformation about the vaccine "containing" the bacterium, which the acellular vaccine actually in use since the 90s does not. As noted in the CDC's "pink book" on Pertussis, the vaccine contains merely "purified, inactivated components of B. pertussis cells." The previous "whole cell" vaccines did have complete cells, still inactivated though. But you would have to have a pretty loose interpretation of "contains" to claim that the bacteria is in the acellular version.

The moral of all this is really the opposite of that which you would derive from the NN article. This is why we need more people vaccinating to boost the herd immunity and make it more likely that even if someone is infected that they won't get pertussis, especially children. Since it seems to stick around for up to six weeks (at least in baboons), there are a lot of potential people someone could come in contact with. A secondary takeaway is the ongoing one of not simply trusting what you read on the Internet, even if people claim to be summarizing a source. Follow the references (including my own article of course!) and make sure they are being fairly represented.

by Josh DeWald

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