The Truth About TTAV Episode Four: Herd Immunity AND MORE!

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Episode Four: Examining Influenza, the HIB and Pneumococcal Vaccines & Herd Immunity

The Cast

  • Ty Bollinger is the producer/creator of this series and a previous The Truth About Cancer series. His films and books are steeped in conspiracy theories and his primary M.O. is to stoke fears about mainstream anything.
  • Dr. Toni Bark is an MD and homeopath who sells chocolate and skincare on her website and travels the country testifying at hearings.
  • Dr. Suzanne Humphries is a nephrologist and homeopath who sells books she’s written.
  • Sayer Ji is the founder of non-evidence based website GreenMedInfo.
  • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is an environmental lawyer who remains convinced that the thimerosal that was removed from childhood immunizations is somehow still causing autism.
  • Dr. Larry Palevky is a “holistic” pediatrician who sells supplements at his website.
  • Neil Z. Miller is a conspiracy theorist and author of anti-vaccine books who helped his daughter self-publish a book about how they’ve spoken with aliens.
  • Del Bigtree is a self-proclaimed award winning television producer who has also produced Wakefield’s film VAXXED and a live YouTube show.
  • Barbara Loe Fisher is the founder of the poorly named National Vaccine Information Center.
  • Eric Zielinski is a chiropractor and “Biblical Health Educator” who promotes essential oils at his
  • Dr. Paul Thomas is a pediatrician who sells supplements and anti-vaccine books at his website.
  • Dr. Jack Wolfson is a “holistic cardiologist” who made a name for himself for a particularly vicious attack against vaccinating parents.
  • Robert Scott Bell is a homeopath, a podcaster, and an HIV denialist.
  • Julian Tharpe is a cinematographer.
  • Dr. Janet Levitan is a pediatrician practicing with Dr. Sherri Tenpenny.
  • Thom and Candice Bradstreet are related to Dr. Jeffrey Bradstreet, whose death by suicide they believe to be a murder to stop his disproven autism treatments.
  • Dr. Joseph Mercola runs a highly profitable online supplement store who has violated federal law by making dangerous claims about alternatives to mammograms.

The Claims

Influenza Vaccines Are Terrible

  • The film disputes the CDC’s annual influenza death estimate (typically around 36,000) as inaccurate and misleading
    • The primary dispute is that the total allegedly does not match the numbers reported in the MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report). Influenza, however, is not reportable in people over 18. The CDC uses estimates because influenza has a history of being underreported on death certificates.
    • Another argument is that the CDC does not report the fact that most flu deaths occur in people with preexisting conditions. People with chronic health challenges are at higher risk of developing serious flu complications. However, health people can and do die from influenza.
  • Influenza vaccine is generally ineffective 
    • Sometimes the film throws in science-y sounding sentences like: “Antibody (humoral) immunity stops the body from producing cell mediated immunity.” I don’t understand immunology, but here’s a link.
    • As proof, they cited the CDC’s 2014 statement on the inability of the flu vaccine to prevent flu that year because the virus had mutated. In fact, the changes in the virus were due to antigenetic drift, which rendered the vaccine less effective but not completely ineffective.
    • As more proof, they cite the Cochrane Collaboration (independent group of MDs, scientists, etc.) and the assertion that the flu vaccine is ineffective in their med analysis, and that for every 100 patients told that they have flu, only 7 actually have the flu. The author of this review is Dr. Thomas Jefferson (not this one), who has significant biases against the flu vaccine and has had dalliances with the anti-vaccine community. Multiple studies show that the flu vaccines is effective.
    • They also cited a 2012 study in which groups of study participants were either given the trivalent influenza vaccine or a saline placebo; the incidence of influenza was similar, but the vaccinated group was found to be “4-5 times more likely to contract a non-influenza viral infection.” One important criticism of this study is that the vaccinated group had 69 people, and the unvaccinated 46. It’s an interesting starting place for research, but not a definitive indictment of anything.
  • Influenza vaccine causes mutations at the level of germ cells, including embryos.
      • The film claims that most vaccines have never been tested for mutagenicity or carcinogenicity (causing cancer). This common anti-vaccine claim comes from a misreading of the package insert, as vaccines and their components are tested for mutagenicity and carcinogenicity in pre-clinical testing.
      • The mutations are allegedly due in part of the presence of thimerosal, which is said to be safe in vaccines (because it is) but the film deems dangerous (which is wrong).
  • Thimerosal was removed from some vaccines but added to others
      • They cite a study on pregnant mothers claiming that flu vaccines caused increased circulation of inflammatory immune markers for their babies, including schizophrenic disorder and autism. However, the study in question looked at illness from influenza and increased risk of schizophrenia and autism. Vaccination, of course, could mitigate that risk.
      • The films asserts that amount of mercury in vaccines is a toxic hazard. Thimerosal, which is sometimes used in some vaccines, is an organic mercury compound that metabolizes into ethylmercury—a different type of mercury than that we might be exposed to through fish and breathing. In vitro and in vivo studies have shown that the amount present in vaccines is safe. 
      • Th assertion that the amount of mercury that vaccinated people are exposed to exceeds legal limits set by the EPA is due mostly to the confusion between ethyl- and methyl- mercury.
      • Also, thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines in the U.S.
  • Influenza vaccine marketing is awful
      • The film claims that the vaccine is linked to kidney failure. While there are some case reports of patients on statins suffering kidney failure after a flu vaccine, this claim is made mostly through the observations of Dr. Suzanne Humphries. If real, it would be exceedingly rare.
      • The assertion that children who have had the flu vaccine are more likely to be infected by pandemic flu is based on a 2010 Canadian study which found an association but did not posit causation.
      • The film also claims that over-vaccinating harms your ability to fight other infections (and increases susceptibility to them). It’s not clear how they would define “over-vaccinating,” There is some evidence to suggest that getting a flu vaccine in multiple seasons consecutively could reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine, but many confounding factors make it difficult to explain why this observed effect is occurring.
      • Flu vaccine is poison, say the film. Of course, the old adage that the dose makes the poison applies, and if you’ve ever watched yourself getting a flu shot, it’s a tiny amount of anything.
      • The film follows up by claiming that getting sick after the vaccine is administered is your body’s way of rejecting the poison. In fact, feeling achey and bleurghy is your immune system’s way of mounting a defense against influenza.
  • Addressed flu requirements for workers
      • The film discusses that many workers who have refused the vaccine have never gotten sick. People used toot wear seat belts and not die in car accidents, too. It’s hard to see why this is a persuasive argument. The average adult over the age of 30 will catch influenza twice each decade. It’s reasonable to believe that healthcare workers exposed to more germs than the average person would be more at risk for catching and passing along influenza.
      • The film also talks about some who have refused but subsequently taken the vaccine for job security have become ill after being vaccinated. Side effects from the flu vaccine can include headaches, fevers, muscle aches, and other feelings of unwellness that are far less severe than actual influenza.
  • Physicians don’t read the science around vaccine safety
      • The film claims that rather than reading their misinformation, doctors blindly follow CDC recommendations and information. Of course, 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. It also must be noted that doctors learn quite a bit during residency and through continuing education when they become providers.
      • The film claims strong financial incentives for doctors to comply with the vaccine schedule
        • The claim that if 63% are not compliant, doctor forfeits a bonus from Blue Cross Blue Shield is a misunderstanding of BCBS policy. Providers pay into a pool and are reimbursed if they meet certain measurements.
        • Of course, the film says that the vaccine schedule is not about the patient, but it’s a money-driven system. For many pediatricians, however, giving vaccines is not a moneymaker.
        • As evidence, they cite Australia’s “no jab, no pay” policy. While this policy has increased vaccine uptake, it’s important to note that the Australian government offers healthcare to everyone and pays for the vaccines given.

Hib and Meningococcal vaccines

  • The speakers say that you never see bacterial meningitis or type B anymore. Like since the vaccines. Again, it’s hard to understand why they think this proves anything for them.
  • Hib only causes a handful of serious diseases a year. Again, since the vaccines.
  • The film points to problem with vaccines and the food proteins present within them.
    • The claim that food allergies have boomed since the development of certain vaccines has been studied and found to have no substance.
    • The film asserts that the Hib vaccine has peanut oil and consequently has caused food allergies. This falsehood is belied by the fact that such ingredients are, by law, required to be listed and peanut oil or any derivative of it is listed as an ingredient.

Pneumococcal Vaccines 

  • The film says that previously “harmless” strains of pneumococcal bacteria became vaccine-resistant after 7-valent pneumococcal vaccine was licensed. The strains were actually never harmless, but they become more common after the 7-valent pneumococcal vaccine came to wide use. Theses emerging strains are now covered in the 13-valent vaccine. 
  • The claim that pneumococcal bacteria are immune to the strains that Prevnar 13 guards against is easily rebutted by looking at the drop in incidence of pneumococcal disease.
  • Of course, the cast members claim that the pneumococcal vaccine has never been studied with a true placebo control group, which is incorrect.

Vitamin K and Tylenol

  • It’s important to clarify that the vitamin K injection is not a vaccine.
    • The film asserts that the vitamin K injection has been linked to childhood cancer. Reviews of the original studies making this assertion have not held up, and no study has replicated that finding.
    • The film says the shot is unnecessary because mothers can eat leafy greens to get their babies Vitamin K or babies can take oral supplements. The benefit of the injection is that there is a known quantity of the vitamin the baby’s body absorbs.
    • Another claim is that VKDB (vitamin K deficiency bleeding) is not that common. While the incidence without vitamin K supplementation is between 0.25% and 1.7%, the consequences can be severe, from lifelong neurological difficulties to death.
  • One common anti-vaccine theory is that acetaminophen (Tylenol) prevents children from detoxing and could possibly be the cause of why more boys than girls are affected by autism. The theory hinges on the idea that Tylenol reduces the glutathione levels in a child’s body. The theory was bolstered by a study suggesting a correlation between pregnant women who used acetaminophen and whose children developed autism. A third part of the theory rests on another study suggesting the acetaminophen given after vaccines could render them less effective. Many anti-vaccine theories function this way: stringing together three unrelated studies to come to a new conclusion. However, there’s no association between autism and children being given Tylenol after vaccines.
    • The film claims that incidence of autism and vaccine injury is lower outside of the US because children aren’t required to be vaccinated before age two. In actuality, a number of countries have higher autism rates than the United States. Also, worldwide immunization schedules are not a lot different from the  CDC schedule.
    • The film claims that rates of infant mortality are also lower worldwide than in the U.S. The U.S. rate is due in part to poverty and access to healthcare. Another contributor is preterm birth rates.

Herd immunity is a myth

  • Yes, this is a super common claim. It keeps coming up.
    • First, they say that the DTaP does not prevent illness or transmission in vaccinated people. In the first few years after it is given, the vaccine is about 80% effective. But it is important to note that public health tells people not to rely on herd immunity to prevent pertussis.
    • Doctors don’t know vaccine ingredients and therefore can’t evaluate safety. Next time you go grocery shopping, ask the manager for the chemical makeup of a banana. Refuse to buy it if she cannot list all of them. 
    • We’ve known for a very long time that herd immunity is super real. That’s why disease outbreaks occur where vaccine refusal is high.

Next up, Episode Five: Considering the HPV and Hepatitis B Vaccines, SIDS & Shaken Baby Syndrome

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