The Truth About TTAV Episode Three

If you are new, start here.

Episode Three: In Depth Analysis of the MMR and DTaP Vaccines & Vaccinating for the Greater Good

The Cast

The Claims

Vaccine Effectiveness

    • MMR Vaccine is ineffective
    • Vaccines are effective for some, but what is the “price” we pay? For the MMR, about $21 per dose. Sorry, that was snarky. The price is healthy communities and certainly not what the anti-vaccine world asserts it is.
    • One commonly repeated claims is that we were already at the end of mass epidemics because of other reasons, such as clean water and refrigeration, not because of vaccines. This misperception comes from misunderstanding the difference between mortality (deaths) and morbidity (cases of disease). In fact, every time a vaccine came in widespread use, we can see the incidence of that disease decline dramatically. Note that the decline in disease is different depending on the vaccine, and that clean water and refrigeration did not change multiple times in the 20th Century to neatly coincide with any of these dates.

Doctors and Public Health use fear to their own nefarious ends 

    • The claim that “vaccine tyranny pushers” create fear in order to get people vaccinated and to take away medical choice was a common one during the push against California’s SB277 bill. Of course, there is always the choice not to vaccinate your child. However, the consequences of that choice range from exclusion from public schools to needing to apply for a vaccination waiver. And the beneficiaries are the children who do not get sick because immunization rates around them are high.
    • The film argues that measles is not a deadly disease, even though many are afraid of it. Between 2000-2016, the MMR vaccine prevented an estimated 20 million deaths from measles. And it isn’t just death! About 25% of people who catch measles will require hospitalization.

Natural exposure to viruses is superior 

    • The film claims there are health benefits from being exposed naturally to diseases. This claim is wildly false. Measles, for example, wipes out a person’s immune response to other infections for years, making them more susceptible to illness. Some claim that measles infection can prevent cancer, but this is a misguided and wrong extrapolation from a Mayo Clinic study done with the MMR vaccine and blood cancer. 
    • The film claims that DTaP and Polio vaccines deliver three diseases at the same time. However, the vaccines actually deliver only parts of the bacteria and viruses, not the whole shebang, as a wild disease would. The DTaP provides 7 antigens (mostly surface proteins) that cannot reproduce or cause disease. The inactivated polio vaccine has 15 antigens. These antigens are just enough to train an immune system how to fight a disease that will look similar without subjecting a person to a very serious illness.
    • The film also claims that diseases never occur in the body at the same time. Again, this is untrue. Many VPDs can lead to secondary infections. In fact, we are exposed to all sorts of germs all the time. Our immune system is constantly fighting off infections
    • The argument that having two diseases close together, as a result of these vaccines, will result in problems like inflammatory bowel changes comes straight from the Andrew Wakefield playbook. In fact, combination vaccines such as the DTaP and the MMR are very safe.
    • The film frames the idea of conventional immunization practice as eliminating germs, stating that we need germs. It’s true that there are good germs and bad germs. The germs that vaccine teaches the body to eliminate are definitely bad, as they cause illness, disability, and death. Good germs generally keep us healthy.

The CDC is malicious and terrible 

    • Like many anti-vaccine activists, those in this film claim the CDC knows that vaccines are bad and have ignored the safety issues with them. What this really means, though, is that the CDC doesn’t agree with the litany of things anti-vaccine leaders claim vaccines cause.
    • It’s also important to note that the CDC is not the only governmental agency in the world that agrees on vaccine safety. From the UK to Australia to Canada to every corner of the globe, vaccines are promoted as safe.
    • The anti-vaccine folks think they have a slam-dunk with so-called “CDC whistleblower” William Thompson. Read his papers here and a primer on him. His story is the basis of Andrew Wakefield’s VAXXED movie. 
    • The films claims that Thompson found children receiving the measles and mumps vaccines close together may get inflammatory bowel disease. This is not at all what Thompson ever said. That is Andrew Wakefield’s claim in his retracted Lancet paper. No one outside of Wakefield devotees makes this claim at all.
    • The film also says that Thompson found a link between the MMR and autism. The actual claim that Thompson made was that African-American boys between the ages of 24 months and 36 months were three times more likely to be diagnosed with autism. A look into these numbers suggests that the explanation was that these children were set to begin early childhood interventions for autism and needed an MMR to be enrolled.
    • The film accuses pharmaceutical companies of colluding with CDC. No matter where a person falls in believing this conspiracy exists, it’s hard to imagine it would exist around the issue of vaccines which are not the most profitable portion of pharmaceutical business. The CDC would do better to collude about erectile dysfunction.

Andrew Wakefield is a hero

    • A number of speakers were adamant that his findings hold up and have been replicated in other studies. Wakefield’s claim was that the MMR vaccine, because it is a combination vaccine, creates inflammatory bowel disease that leads to autism. The studies they claim support his findings have nothing to do with his findings.
    • They allege that instead governments don’t want to know what’s happening to their children, which is an odd claim. Autism (which isn’t caused by vaccines) costs the U.S. government over $250 billion a year. If the government wanted to cash in, mitigating those costs would be a start.
    • They argue that his reputation was destroyed because his findings threatened the market for combined vaccines. It should be noted that, before publishing his now-retracted paper, Wakefield applied for a patent for a measles-only vaccine. Wakefield’s findings would have personally enriched him. He did a fine job ruining his own reputation.

Lack of medical choice

    • The films draws an analogy between holding pro-choice abortion beliefs and allowing parents to make decisions about vaccinations. No matter what a person believes about abortion, vaccines are in no way similar. Opting out of vaccines puts a child and his/her community at risk.
    • As evidence, they claim that 86% of those infected at Disneyland measles outbreak in 2014 were vaccinated, but blamed those without vaccines. In actually, 45% were unvaccinated, while only 12% had proof of one or more dose of MMR.
    • They feel the outbreak was subsequently used to push Senate Bill 277 in CA, removing all vaccine exemptions. They aren’t completely wrong, except that SB277 allows for exemptions for medical reasons or for children who are schooled at home or online.
    • They emphasize that whatever a parents feels is right for his or her child, and if there is no immediate risk to that child, the law says the parent is permitted to do so. The focus on parental rights should give everyone pause. I’ve argued before that parents do not own their children. Rather they owe them health and protection. A child’s rights to those things supersedes a community’s right to be protected from outbreaks of disease. 

Whooping cough/pertussis vaccines

    • The film presents cases of DTP allegedly resulting in seizures, including Barbara Loe Fisher describing what happened to her son. The DTP likely never caused those seizures.
    • Describe how in 1970s, 11 children died from DTP vaccine and the company was sued – Graham v. Wyeth. Further study since then has shown the vaccine was almost certainly not related to those deaths.
    • Subsequently switched from DTP to DTap or TDaP; however, argue that people who get vaccinated may not get sick, but they are still silent carriers of pertussis. This claim is based on the infamous “baboon study,” but doesn’t take into account that someone not sick with pertussis is not coughing pertussis germs everywhere and not infecting others. Still, mothers should get their pertussis vaccines during the third trimester of every pregnancy.

Vaccines take the utilitarian approach 

    • The film accuses industry of testing vaccines on African women and children 
    • It uses Buck v. Bell (forced sterilization of mentally impaired women), a ruling from the 1920s, to illustrate the problems with utilitarianism, but is unrelated to vaccines. 
    • It’s important to note that ethics in medical studies has improved a great deal recently. We should absolutely learn from the mistakes of the past, and we now do a better job with human trials of any kind in science.  


Read more! Episode Four: Examining Influenza, the HIB and Pneumococcal Vaccines & Herd Immunity. Dang, this thing is long.