The Truth About TTAV Episode Seven: BUY MY STUFF!

Read this whole series by starting here.

Episode Seven: Natural Immunization, Homeoprophylaxis & Fundamental Freedom of Choice

The Cast

The Claims

Natural Immunization is the Best

  • The film claims that breastfeeding is the best immune defense for babies, but its effectiveness isn’t promoted because it would compromise the pharmaceutical industry’s interests.
    • Passive immunity through breastfeeding only protects infants from infections contracted through the gastrointestinal system. Airborne infections such as measles, chickenpox, influenza, rotavirus, and pertussis, are not covered by the immune passed from mother to child via breastfeeding.
    • Infant formula manufacturers do not manufacture vaccines.
  • The film also claims that healthy vaginal birth is the most important method to ensure a life of gut health for babies. I mean, whatever. Not dying in childbirth is pretty important to c-section mothers. There is some correlation with c-section delivery and asthma, Type-1 diabetes, celiac disease, and obesity, but the causation has not been proven. At this time, none of those conditions is vaccine-preventable. Why are we here? I don’t know.
  • The film claims that essential oils and probiotics provide natural immunity to viruses. But recent research shows that the claims of benefits from probiotics are overblown, and essential oils are a pyramid scheme and as reliable as one.
    • Were allegedly used to curb bubonic plague, gangrene, etc. But quarantine and hygiene likely ended the plague, and aggressive surgeries helped curb the high gangrene death rate, historically. Now we have antibiotics. 
  • The film promotes GcMAF – Gc Protein-Derived Macrophage Activating Factor
    • Claims by James Jeffrey Bradstreet that this diet could cure autism lead to an federal investigation shortly before he died by suicide.
  • It also claims that vitamin A is the cure for measles and reduces. incidence of mortality in outbreaks among children.
    • Children with serious malnutrition who are vitamin A deficient are at higher risk for severe measles infection. Supplementing these children is important, but there is no reason to believe a well-nourished child would see any difference in measles severity with Vitamin A supplementation. We can assume the children of the 1950s U.S. were well-nourished, yet 500 of them died each year before the vaccine was available.
  • The film claims that vitamin C is effective in curbing the spread of viral diseases, like whooping cough, because it energizes the immune system, loosens the secretions in the lungs, and frees the lungs (toxin-neutralizer)
    • Cited famed Dr. Klenner’s research on Vitamin C’s effectiveness, but health theories about Vitamin C have been repeatedly disproven, as early as 1938. But for people who promote natural health, they should realize that taking megadoses of any vitamin is unnatural and often dangerous.
  • The film states that health starts with the diet as feeding children real food, specifically breastmilk, fruits and vegetables, boots immunity, the microbiome and brain and boosting nutrition activates kids’ genetic code and invokes immune responses in a symptomless way (built-in immunology)
    • The idea of boosting immunity is a misunderstanding of how immunity works. Certainly, malnutrition hinders the immune system’s function. But there are two different types of immunity: innate and acquired. The innate immune system (the one that can be hampered by malnutrition) is the rapid-response to new germs the body encounters. The acquired immune system is the one that has been around long enough to recognize and fight off a particular germ. Real boosting immunity is what happens when the innate immune system encounters a germ and revs up: your body might respond with fever, phlegm production, and coughing. Your innate immune system cannot handle big germs like measles and chickenpox without you getting sick.
    • Put simply, measles doesn’t care what you had for breakfast.
  • The film claimed that a Norway study proved that folate taken through pregnancy prevented neurological disorders among children (autism rate was 1 in 1000 vs. 1 in 500 for mothers who didn’t take the vitamin). One study showed that oversupplementation is a risk factor for autism.
  • Finally, the film claimed that mortality rates from VPDs (vaccine-preventable diseases) were eradicated prior to the introduction of many vaccines because of basic improvements in quality of living. This is an extremely common anti-vaccine claim. Here are the facts:
    • Mortality and disease rates are not the same. The rates of mortality from VPDs declined, in part, because of many modernizations, including medical advances.
    • The incidence of VPDs remained somewhat steady even as many deaths from them were prevented. In order to eradicate a disease, the incidence has to drop to zero globally. The only human disease eradicated is smallpox, thanks to vaccines.
    • The drop in incidence in a disease followed the introduction of a vaccine for that disease.
    • Measles incidence dropped in the mid-1960s, chickenpox in the early 1990s, Hib in the early 2000s, and rotavirus in the mid-2000s. Quality of life improvements did not occur neatly at those particular times to coincide with reducing the cases of only one particular disease, except vaccines. Vaccines improved the quality of life.

Homeoprophylaxis (HP) is a Great Thing! (Shop My Store!)

  • Homeoprophylaxis is homeopathic immunization. Homeopathy is a method by which a substance is diluted down by water to such a degree that no active ingredient is left. Often the water is then shaken with a sugar pill and sold as a cure—or a vaccine—for something. The idea is that the medicine becomes stronger the more dilute it is because water has memory.
  • Homeopathy commonly uses the phrase “Like to cure like,” which means that any substance which can produce symptoms in a healthy person can cure symptoms in someone who’s sick. Which is nonsense.
  • The film says homeoprophylaxis has never caused deaths in anyone who uses the method. I mean, sure. It’s sugar pills with nothing in them.
  • These homeopathic nosodes supposedly prevent disease without “toxic” effects
    • Vaccines are not toxic.
    • Claims that you can use them to detox from vaccines are laughable. Your liver and kidneys detox for you. 
    • Nosodes are worthless.
  • The film claims a Cuban study showed that homeoprophylaxis was more effective in reducing the incidence of a swamp-related disease than pharmaceuticals.

Fundamental Freedom of Choice! 

  • Like many anti-vaxxers, the film disdain’s California’s SB 277, the bill that requires all children enrolled in schools be vaccinated unless medically contraindicated.
  • The film claims that Richard Pan was pressured by pharmaceutical lobbyists to push SB 277
    • In reality, Dr. Pan is a pediatrician who understand vaccines because he has seen what they do first hand.
    • Allegedly received $95,000 from pharma lobbyists before the bill passed, but I am not finding them among his top donors.
    • I mean, this film just spend a chunk of time being a commercial for homeoprophylaxis. They want to go to this direction?
  • The film claims the bill is an attack on parental rights. Of course, parents do not have the right to endanger communities, including school communities. 
  • The film claims that vaccine requirements will soon extend beyond education and employment; will be required for driver’s licenses, public events, etc. There is no way to debunk this because I can’t show something that isn’t happening. Prove to me that unicorns don’t exist. Ha! There! I win. 
    • Schools are reasonable places to require vaccine for entry because children are the most at risk for many diseases, the primary vectors of many diseases, and spend much time in close proximity to each other at school.
    • Healthcare settings, where vulnerable people congregate and where illnesses can also abound, are reasonable places to require vaccination for employment.
  • Healthy People 2020 – plans to get everyone vaccinated. Or more people, with the primary goal of reducing diseases.
  • Choose one of their crackpot theories that is the most offensive:
    • Plans to take away the right to vaccine refusal!
    • Plans to have extensive registries!
    • Mandatory vaccinations are completely contrary to America’s founding principles!
    • Forced vaccinations are legally assault and battery!
    • Can’t use one fundamental right to restrict another right; non-medical exemptions are at risk!
    • Losing informed consent makes us slaves!
  • The film proclaims that the anti-vaccine has united people of all backgrounds
    • In reality, most anti-vaccine activists are wealthy and white
    • They believe that they are a protected minority and their movement is akin to Black Lives Matter movement. This is a strategy that remind me of the Russian bot strategy recently discussed.
    • They call themselves “vaccine safety advocates,” claiming they’re against the toxins in them. This is where the film started, but I think the contents of this episode have proven that they are vaccine conspiracy theorists with something to sell you.

That’s it folks. Ultimately, this series ended with a commercial for things you can buy instead of vaccines. For this reason, I refer to the anti-vaccine movement as primarily fear-based marketing to promote alternative remedies.

Here’s what you need to know. The vast majority of experts across the world working in public, private, and educational organizations agree that vaccines are safe and save lives. There are some outliers, and scientific outliers are usually wrong. 

I’m going to go watch Fried Green Tomatoes now.

The Truth About TTAV Episode Six: Conspiracy Theory Extravaganza!

New to this series? Start here.

Episode Six: A Closer Look at the CDC, Chicken Pox and Rotavirus Vaccines & Retroviruses

The Cast

The Claims

CDC Conspiracy theories

  • The film claims that U.S.-based thinking on vaccines has shifted to ideology and dogma, as the scientific method has been rejected for the sake of rejecting unfavorable study results. 
    • If we are going to use the language of religion, it is important to note that the world’s major religions support vaccines.
    • But vaccines are not a religion, and the scientific method is deeply imbedded into the history and development of our current vaccine program.
  • The film thinks the public has a “misplaced faith in an undeserving authority” of the CDC.
    • The film claims that silences any kind of dissent so heretics get burned.
      • They mean that their wild theories are not taken seriously.
      • But spirited debate and dissent are done openly and publicly.
      • Heretics are religious dissenters. Researchers with differing conclusions are scientific dissenters. Replication of scientific conclusions proves who is correct.
    • They claim that if doctors question the dogma, they face retaliation
  • Claim: CDC-sponsored research is conducted in a manner to support the agency’s policies. However, the CDC is not the sole researcher of vaccines. Vaccines are researched across the globe and by labs in universities, corporations, and agencies everywhere. No one in any place in the world (outside the anti-vaccine community) thinks vaccines cause autism.
  • Claim: Doctors are taught to respect the CDC’s authority without question. In all of my research (googling ), I have yet to find this class.
  • Claim: CDC’s conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry are revealed through the vaccine schedule, as vaccines with questionable safety and effectiveness (i.e. Hep B vaccine for babies) are included.
  • Additionally, many high-ranking CDC employees end up working within the pharmaceutical industry with lucrative positions.
    • This isn’t completely incorrect, but keep in mind that people with expertise in such niche areas as vaccinology have few prospective employers.
  • Claim: CDC has a conflict of industry because they’re responsible for both vaccine safety and scheduling; impossible to objectively evaluate both areas 
  • The flilm called ACIP an agency to watch
    • Blah blah blah the CDC whistleblower William Thompson. 
    • Thompson supposedly lived with the fact that the CDC had found a causal link between MMR and vaccines for 13 years.
    • Recounted DeStefano study in Atlanta, the film alleged higher incidence of autism in African American boys upon MMR administration
      • In fact, the retracted Hooker reinterpretation of the data found a higher incidence of autism in African-American boys vaccinated late: between 24 and 36 months.
      • Likely, these children were diagnosed before being vaccinated, and were vaccinated so that they could enter early childhood special education services.
  • To prove they are conspiracy theorists, the film claims forced vaccines, or vaccine mandates, are in violation of the Nuremberg Code as their justification for “informed consent.”
    • The Nuremberg Code was written after the Holocaust to stop medical experiments done on people without their consent because the Holocaust was horrific and we can never let it happen again.This comparison is highly despicable.
    • Our vaccine program is not a medical experiment. Vaccines are well-studied before being added to the schedule.
    • By “informed consent,” anti-vaccine people mean they want their particular, disproven theories espoused to patients before vaccines are given. Before a vaccine, patients are informed about the vaccine, the diseases it prevents, possible side effects, and whom to contact in the unlikely event of a severe side effect.
  • The film claims that the number of vaccines on the CDC’s schedule was significantly increased when the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act was passed in 1986. Perhaps no longer being tied up by frivolous lawsuits, pharmaceutical companies were able to invest more money in research and development. Vaccines take 15 years to research and develop, and most do not make it out of the first phase of research.
  • The film claims that the CDC and other regulatory agencies suppress data by forcing researchers to sign away their rights to data proving issues with vaccines.  
    • When you are doing research on behalf of an organization or corporation, they usually own the intellectual property and have the right to do with it what they wish. This isn’t specific to vaccines. I really don’t understand what crazy train this theory is on.
    • The film claims researchers like Judy Mikovits faced bankruptcy and censorship as retaliation for her findings. However, Mikovits refused to let a colleague have her data. Eventually, scientists found she had manipulated her data. 
  • The film say the science of anything is never settled, so the science around vaccines is not certain.
    • However, degrees of certainty around science certainly exist, and vaccines have more than 60,000 studies showing they are safe and effective. Replicating findings over and over again increases our degree of certainty.
  • Remember that Andrew Wakefield was a fraud for pay and continues to work toward building his own wealth.

Chickenpox Vaccines Are Terrible

  • The film cited Gary Goldman’s story of his research on chicken pox being censored
    • His research, available right here, purported to show that adults were coming down with shingles at higher rates because they were no longer exposed to kids who have chickenpox. Other studies show that shingles was on the rise before the vaccine was licensed.
  • Chickenpox was a rite of passage!
    • No, it wasn’t. 
    • The film wrongly claims that deaths from the disease are rare and only occurred in immunocompromised populations. It is also important to note the 10,000 hospitalizations a year caused by chickenpox before the vaccine.
  • The film claims, wrongly, that because the chickenpox vaccine has been effective in curbing the disease, debilitating shingles cases have risen in adult populations.
  • The film says chickenpox vaccine contains human aborted fetal cells (diploid cells) to be produced as antigens for vaccine. These are, in fact, cell lines procured from an aborted fetus in the 1960s. The cell line is considered “immortal” in that it replicates endlessly, and no further tissues from aborted fetuses need to be obtained for vaccines.
    • The film incorrectly claims that the vaccine conflicts with religious beliefs

Rotavirus Vaccines Are Terrible

  • The film basically asserts that the rotavirus vaccine was added to the schedule because Dr. Paul Offit is evil and has made money developing the vaccine.
    • Dr. Offit is not evil. 
    • His rotavirus vaccine was not the only one added to the schedule.
    • Dr. Offit does not control ACIP or the CDC.
    • I’m really tired of debunking pharma shill gambits from a group of people who sell supplements on their websites.
  • The film claims the rotavirus vaccine is not appropriate for American children
    • As evidence, the film says nearly every child under 5 gets the disease and is easily cured through rehydration (I.V. fluids); benign disease that only causes dehydration in the U.S.
      • Before the vaccine, rotavirus caused up to 450,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. each year. I.V. rehydration is not a small deal. Going to the hospital is not a good outcome for a child.
    • The film claims wrongly that vaccinated rotavirus patients had more diarrhea, cases of gastroenteritis – the conditions the vaccine is intended to prevent. If a baby gets diarrhea after the vaccine, it is much milder than full-blown rotavirus.
    • The film asks why the rotavirus vaccine is dangerous for anyone over 9 months, but safe for 2 month old babies? This is a misunderstanding of the licensure of the vaccine. The burden of disease is in the youngest babies, and the older a child is when she receives the first dose, the (very slightly) higher their risk for side effects is.
  • The film claims norovirus has emerged since the emergence of the rotavirus vaccine, which is a far more virulent disease. The research into norovirus is young and interesting to follow, and we should still prevent rotavirus.

Retroviruses Are Because of Vaccines

  • The film claims mouse-related viruses were introduced to human populations through vaccines.
  • Claim: There is reverse transcriptase activity in MMR vaccines that has been formally recognized since 1994

And finally, Episode Seven: Natural Immunization, Homeoprophylaxis & Fundamental Freedom of Choice

Anti-Vaxxers Defeated by Twelve-Year-Old Whiz Kid

And they know they’ve been defeated. Do you want to know how we can tell? Because they are spending their time trying to tear this kid down.

Perhaps you are the last person in the world who hasn’t seen the phenomenal video by science whiz kid Marco Arturo. Marco presents all the evidence that vaccines cause autism–in a folder full of nothing. (I’m embedding the video at the bottom of this post–please watch it an up-vote it!)

The anti-vaxxers sure haven’t missed it. Some of our favorites have written rebuttals. Let me type that again so we can all understand what they are doing. The anti-vaxxers are rebutting a satirical video made by a 12-year-old. Surely they are taking this video in stride, right?

Uh, no. No they are not. They are losing their minds.

Blogger and salesperson Kate, who runs Modern Alternative Health, claims the video is “devoid of facts and amounts to little more than uninformed bullying” [emphasis hers]. Really, Kate? A 12-year-old is bullying you? I know a lot about bullying, about how people use their social power to make you feel excluded and to gain control over you. What kind of small person are you that a 12-year-old you have never met has social power over you? But she’s not done. Immediately after claiming that she is being bullied, she resorts to this classless diatribe:

Naturally, it’s being heralded by the kind of brain-dead pro-vaccine nut jobs that the internet regularly produces.  The kind of people who don’t understand the importance of actually examining new scientific information critically and having an honest conversation. . . . I kind of imagine them as “cavemen” of sorts — pounding on their keyboards, drooling, and thinking that they have won, while all of the actual intelligent people are smirking and shaking their heads at how painfully, obviously ignorant they are.

In the world of Kate (MAM) and other anti-vaxxers, a 12-year-old is a bully, pro-vaxxers don’t understand science, and only anti-vaxxers are intelligent (and smugly so). Also, up is down, black is white, and the sky is green.

From there, Kate’s post goes nowhere, repeating that the kid is a bully and that pro-vaxxers are terrible and dumb in all ways. It also doesn’t actually present any science showing that vaccines cause autism. In other words, she kind of proves Marco’s point.

By the way, here’s some evidence (okay lots of evidence) showing that vaccines DO NOT cause autism.

But MAMKate is not alone. National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is getting in on the act of rebutting a 12-year-old’s satirical video. (Because NO voices must ever say anything positive about vaccines without being actively shouted down.)

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 11.54.22 AM

NVIC has a history of classless, terrible behavior, including promoting the harassment of children. This time, they are getting in on the “take Marco down” campaign by posting a hit piece written by “Levi Quackenboss.”

The Quackenboss piece begins by claiming scientific pursuits concerning vaccines are a religious belief and intimates that Marco shouldn’t even be on Facebook because he is not the requisite 13-years-old yet. So actually, the piece begins by slamming Marco for being young and influenced by his parents (and science).

Then, in anti-vaccine style, she (Quackenboss) picks up the goalposts and moves them downfield. SV-40! Acellular pertussis! HPV! Monkey pox! Faked moon landings! Spaghetti at the ceiling! She discusses anything except, you know, how vaccines don’t cause autism–the actual topic of the video. It’s pure throat clearing written by someone who loves her own voice.

Then she goes on with a condescending and easily refutable diatribe, writing:

Little dude, I totally get that you love science but I’ve got some sad news for you: there’s very little science in vaccine science.

And following with every possible anti-vaccine trope she can find. Here are some answers for her:

After all these myths, Quackenboss ends with a smug little kicker, something meant to put a 12-year-old in his place:

Look, clearly you’re a smart kid in your knockoff Polo shirt and your eyeglasses that look like wraparound safety goggles.  I trust that one day you’re going to figure out that you’ve been lied to, not only by your parents but by your government and the leaders of this world, and you’re going to look back on this insulting video and say, “God, what a little prick I was.”

And that’s OK, Marco.  We’ll be here for you when you do.

But you know what, anti-vaxxers? Marco doesn’t need you and he isn’t interested in you waiting for him. One of you visited him, and he was ready for you.

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Credit: Karen Halabura

A final piece of advice for anti-vaxxers: pick on someone your own size. I mean that two ways: while Marco is smaller than you in stature, he is far larger than you when it comes to class and intellect.

Here’s Marco’s video. Please give it a watch. It will restore your faith in our future.

 

Is NVIC Anti-Vaccine?

Of course it is.

For those of you who do not know who NVIC (National Vaccine Information Center) is, I submit to you this simple and accurate definition by Michael Specter:

[A]n organization that, based on its name, certainly sounds like a federal agency. Actually, it’s just the opposite: the NVIC is the most powerful anti-vaccine organization in America, and its relationship with the U.S. government consists almost entirely of opposing federal efforts aimed at vaccinating children.

Of course, this is not how NVIC defines themselves. In an interview with NVIC president Barbara Loe Fisher, the author noted:

NVIC is not “anti-vaccine,” as mainstream news media might encourage the public to believe. Rather, it is pro-safe vaccines and exists to ensure the informed consent of the parents and patients who chose to vaccinate.

Of course, an organization that frames itself as being “pro-safe vaccines” should be able to answer what it would take to make a vaccine safe. In fact, one anti-vaccine parent DID ask NVIC what makes a vaccine safe, and received the clearest and most revealing response possible from NVIC’s New Hampshire State Director of Advocacy, Laura Condon:

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 10.17.16 AM

“Nothing can make a vaccine safe,” according to Laura Condon, speaking on behalf of Barbara Loe Fisher and NVIC. The assertion that it is impossible for vaccines to be safe is stunning, and it brings what is meant by “pro-safe vaccines” into focus.

Let’s keep this in mind the next time NVIC claims that they are for “informed consent” (meaning filling people with nonsense about how vaccines are never safe) and that they are “pro-safe vaccines” (even though they believe such thing is an impossibility. What they really want is for you to be scared witless about vaccines, to refuse vaccines, and to demand that it is as easy as possible to refuse vaccines without consequences (except, of course, leaving your children at risk for terrible diseases).

If you are for only safe vaccines, but safe vaccines are impossible, you are, by definition, against all vaccines. What is the name for someone who is against all vaccines? Oh yes, right. Anti-vaccine.

 

Why You Shouldn’t Shop for Medical Exemptions

Recently, filmmaker Leslie Manookian wrote a post for vaccine hesitant parents about how to pester physicians into giving them an inappropriate medical exemption. This interest in medical exemptions stems from the newly passed law in California that eliminates all non-medical exemptions. Parents who are now too scared to vaccinate their children are forced to make some tough choices. (Well, tough for them because of their misperceptions of the risks of diseases and vaccines.) They can either vaccinate their children or homeschool them.

Anyone following the anti-vaccine movement can understand how an otherwise reasonable but vaccine-hesitant parent feels about this choice. For them, the choice feels like deciding between certain death or certain economic doom. After creating the fears about vaccines, woopreneurs like filmmaker Leslie Manookian (and Bob Sears) have stepped in to capitalize on this fear by offering parents a way out of the vaccinate-or-homeschool conundrum. Thus Manookian’s “How to Claim a Medical Exemption in CA.”

Of course, the decision to shop for a medical exemption is unwise. To get a greater understanding about medical exemptions and how unwise they are, I asked two friends to weigh in. I talked to Dr. Anna Saporito, a family physician from New York, and Dorit Reiss, a professor of law in California.

Manookian claims:

More and more research is showing that individuals with a variety of conditions and genetic mutations are more susceptible to vaccine reactions.

These conditions and disabilities include already existing or a family history of previous vaccine reaction, eczema, food and environmental allergies, asthma, gut issues such as Crohn’s and IBS, autoimmune disease such as diabetes, lupus, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, ASIA, and others, chronic ear, sinus, strep or other infections, Lyme disease, PANDAS, POTS, learning disabilities, speech delay, ADD, ADHD, autism, seizures, bipolar, schizophrenia, thrombocytopenia, genetic variance, impaired methylation, detoxification impairment, and more.

Of course, most of us recognize this claim as fishing for an exemption. After all, can you imagine asking a doctor to forego vaccines for your child because he is prone to strep throat? (Why isn’t there a vaccine for that?) My supposition about this laundry list was right, according to Dr. Saporito, “There are actually very clear guidelines written by the ACIP and CDC outlining medical contraindications for vaccines.” You’ll notice that almost everything listed in Manookian’s litany is missing from the CDC’s guide to who cannot be vaccinated. In fact, many are actually listed on the CDC’s Commonly Misperceived as Contraindications list, including autoimmune diseases (such as diabetes, lupus, MS, etc.). Other items on her list are not included because learning disabilities and neurodevelopmental disorders are not contraindications to vaccines.

Manookian moves on to claim that parents can demand allergy and genetic testing before being vaccinated (with the assumption that something will pop and be used as reason for a medical exemption.) Again, Dr. Saporito notes that this approach is not warranted:

There is no evidence that genetic testing would provide any useful information in the prediction of vaccine reactions. Allergy testing might make sense, but not genetic testing. (If SCID [severe combined immunodeficiency] is suspected, that should be tested for, but usually that diagnosis is already known.) The American Association of Allergists and Immunologists have great guidelines about allergies and vaccines.

It is important to note that the American Association of Allergists and Immunologists’ document discusses how to test for allergies to vaccines after a vaccine is administered. It is not a standard of care to test children without a history of allergies for possible allergic reactions to vaccines they have never received.

Finally, I asked Dr. Saporito her stance on parents shopping for doctors who are more willing to provide medical exemptions for conditions that are not contraindications and whether or not family physicians are more likely to provide a spurious exemption:

The science is quite clear that vaccines are safe. I have vaccinated myself and my own child for this reason. I find it suspect that the doctors who offer this “service” of vaccine exemptions often do no take insurance. It seems there is more of a profit motive than a motive towards public and personal preventative healthcare, something I signed up for when I took my medical oath. In fact the AAFP [American Academy of Family Physicians] just this month came out against non-medical exemptions for vaccines.

From a medical perspective, the answers about medical exemptions to vaccines are as clear-cut as the case for vaccines themselves. However, I did want to find out about a legal perspective. What could happen, legally, to a parent or a doctor who presents a school district with a spurious medical exemption to vaccine requirements?

Dorit Reiss, who is becoming the foremost legal expert concerning vaccine issues, told me:

Manookian’s post is assuming someone can just pressure or get a doctor to give an exemption on false premises. First of all, I think doctors can and should consider reporting parents who are asking them to act dishonestly. The physician’s signature on a medical exemption should be based on true concerns/facts.

A parent getting a medical exemption based on things that don’t justify it doesn’t deserve the exemption.

But what about the doctors? What issues might they face if they become a mill for false medical exemptions?

The reality is that the doctor can probably get away with some of that. There is no mechanism in place for oversight now, and if doctor only gives a few, no one will look.

If a doctor is suddenly giving a lot of medical exemptions, there are a number of things that can happen. First, the Department of Health can try denying them as unjustified – which will probably be challenged in a court, and the department might lose. Second, the Department can bring a complaint with the medical board – and prove the problem. Third, the law can be changed to provide a penalty for abuse.

The doctor has to specify the conditions for exemptions. If a doctor is found to have lied, that could be a reason for disciplinary action.

Arguably, if a doctor provides an argument based on something that clearly shouldn’t be a contraindication that’s also reason for potential action. Most of the conditions Manookian lists aren’t caused by vaccines and are not contraindications. For example, a doctor choosing to help a parent not to protect a child with asthma from pertussis is arguably violating their responsibility.

The legal issues surrounding inappropriate medical exemptions for vaccine requirements, but there is enough gray area that parents should reconsider shopping for a family physician who will give them an exemption when none is warranted. Of course, the greatest disincentive to seeking an inappropriate medical exemption is the consequence of disease for a child left unprotected.

For a parent who has fallen prey to anti-vaccine scare tactics, skirting ethics and the law might seem a risk worth taking, but the real risk comes from the diseases that have historically sickened, maimed, and killed children.

Stealing from Dr. Bob

It’s hard not to be sarcastic about Dr. Bob Sears. His work promoting untested alternative vaccine schedules and stoking fears about vaccines (and autism and gluten and so forth) doesn’t seem to be enough for Time Magazine.

Dr. Sears writes: "DR PAN STOLE MY AWARD."
Dr. Sears writes: “DR PAN STOLE MY AWARD.”

Of course, Dr. Bob is joking. He’s always joking. That one time when he wrote a highly sexist Facebook post about how mothers and fathers parent differently?  “And to avoid offending both of you dads who read my blog, realize that this is a satirical poke at an unjust and inaccurate stereotype that has been unfairly thrust upon us men (insert emoticon that depicts me winking at moms everywhere).”

It’s always just satire–a joke with a winking emoticon. And so we can be assured that this, too, must be satire. Dr. Bob can’t really see himself as a hero of vaccination, can he?

After all, what is his record? According to Dr. Bob, he is pro-vaccine:

I give vaccines every single day in my office. I am pro-vaccine and understand that vaccines work and have reduced and eliminated many serious diseases. And that’s not just spouting a party line – I firmly believe that, and that’s why I give them in my office.

If the threshold for a vaccine hero is someone who does what every single other pediatrician and family physician in the country does, then all the doctors that give vaccines are heroes. And there is some merit to that, but it would be hard to feature them in Time. It would be an awfully thick magazine.

Of course, Dr. Bob doesn’t want to be remembered for preventing infectious diseases. He wants to be remembered for being nice to parents. He likes making parents like him (thus the sexist satire–oh wait). In a HuffPo article, Dr. Bob claims that he is one of the few doctors who respect parents by giving in to their fears and creating an alternative vaccine schedule for them. The need for doctors like him is apparently so great that he’s created a list of doctors who will eschew science in order to elicit warm fuzzy feelings from parents:

I’ve been creating a growing list of Vaccine Friendly Doctor’s on my website who WILL listen and respect these patient’s wishes and who will provide an alternative vaccine schedule for patients who want to vaccinate differently.

Earlier in that article, he claims that the AAP recommends creating alternative vaccine schedules for parents. This claim, of course, is untrue, as a recent statement about on-time immunization from the AAP shows: “There is no ‘alternative’ immunization schedule. Delaying vaccines only leaves a chil​d at risk of disease for a longer period of time; it does not make vaccinating safer.”

So actually, Dr. Bob isn’t doing what every pediatrician and family physician across the country is doing. Almost all of them (save those listed by Dr. Bob) are following a standard of care and AAP guidelines by giving those vaccines to their patients on time. And for patients who are nervous or hesitant, they are still recommending on-time immunization and doing their best to navigate parental fears while being aware of the needs of the child to be protected against disease. That last part, where we protect children, is lacking from Dr. Bob’s insistence that we respect parents’ fears.

Still, Dr. Bob bravely runs a Facebook page–wait, two Facebook pages, and writes his books and sells his supplements. Meanwhile, Dr. Pan, stealer of magazine hero awards, has not sold supplements. While being one of those doctors who follows the standard of care and the AAP guidelines, Dr. Pan, a state Senator, has also taken on legislation amidst outbreaks of measles to prevent future outbreaks and create healthier, disease-free schools.

Dr. Bob earns profits from his books and his supplements. Dr. Pan, meanwhile, received death threats from anti-vaxxers. He is facing efforts to recall him from office. Anti-vaxxers have portrayed him as Hitler. In fact, some of Dr. Bob’s supporters have gone full Godwin on Dr. Pan:

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On the other hand, Dr. Sears has used the California legislation to travel the state, speaking to parents about ways to circumvent the law. Dr. Gorski uncovered evidence suggesting Dr. Sears might be selling illegitimate medical exemptions for vaccines at these events:

At one point, a woman approached and told Dr. Bob that her pediatrician whom she otherwise liked would not issue an exemption, asking if he would see her for a one-time visit. His response? “I would be happy to provide that service.” He also confirmed that a one-time medical exemption visit is $180 and that he’d be willing to issue such an exemption and send the child back to his primary pediatrician.

In short: the legislation Dr. Pan crafted based on best medical practice earned him taunts, threats, and recall efforts. But this legislation that Dr. Bob opposed has earned him more earning potential.

While he might be joking, Dr. Bob’s assertion that Dr. Pan “stole” something from him has the kernel of truth that all satire (good or bad) has. Dr. Pan didn’t steal any prestige or accolades from Dr. Bob, but he did steal some publicity that would have been profitable to cash in on. Perhaps for that we can be glad.

Multi-Level Vaccine Refusal

Through Tupperware parties and by being the neighborhood Avon lady, multi-level marketing has a history of introducing women to financial freedom. It also has a history of over-promising profits in order to trick people into investing money they will never earn back. And now, multi-level marketing has a new toe-hold in vaccine refusal among those people who sell so-called Essential Oils (EOs).

I don’t have any experience with Essential Oils, other than witnessing the eventual hawking of them on social media any time someone posts about an illness. A friend might post that she is taking antibiotics for strep throat, only to have someone comment that they should meet up so that the friend can cure the strep with EOs–no antibiotics needed! On a local parenting group, one mother recommended EOs to the mother of an asthmatic toddler in order to ward of strep and influenza. (A dangerous recommendation I warned against.) Even HuffPo has chimed in on the healing wonder powers of EOs, claiming they treat everything from acne to purifying the mind.

If people only bought EOs at Walgreens, the health claims might not be so ubiquitous. After all, when mothers gather online or in real life and complain that their kids are stopped up, I might tell them about the wonders of Miralax, but I don’t really care if they use it or not. I’m not looking for opportunities to push the medications I give my child because I have no financial stake in them.

And that’s really the problem with multi-level marketing that makes health claims. It turns everyone into a healthcare provider. In order to sell these EOs, people have to recruit others to also sell in order to get a commission, so it is important to convert people into believing in the oils. The health claims that these distributors make have to get larger and larger in order to accommodate an ever-growing need to sell. That’s why, on social media, EOs cure everything. The FDA has taken note, advising Young Living Oils to stop marketing their wares as ways to treat and cure illnesses.

The cure-all, MLM healthcare issues associated with EOs is problematic enough, but not every child gets strep, not every person needs a mind purification, and so forth, so those distributing and marketing EOs can’t market them to everyone.

But everyone (except the very few with medical contraindications) should be vaccinated. Vaccines are given to health people to prevent disease, so immunization is an issue for everyone, not just those who are sick. Vaccines are healthcare for everyone at set, particular times. And the Essential Oils crew have picked up on this enormous market.

One Young Living distributor in Australia held a seminar about the dangers of vaccines (Do Not Link hyperlink) and the EOs a person would use instead to prevent disease. The claims on the website included those about mercury being neurotoxic and vaccines causing SIDS and Alzheimer’s. The claims about EOs instead of vaccines are not relegated to one distributor, of course. Like a virus, they spread from distributor to distributor, and there’s no EO to cure it.

Vaccine Choice Canada (Do Not Link hyperlink) claims that EOs are a great alternative to those who are afraid of both vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases, and their explanation about how the EOs work defies both all science and logic:

Essential oils can be diffused in the home and have the ability to increase the atmospheric oxygen, as they release oxygenating molecules into the atmosphere. They also increase ozone and negative ions in the home, which inhibit bacteria growth. When applied to the body by rubbing on the feet, essential oils will travel throughout the body in 20 minutes. Essential oils play a major role in their effect on blood circulation, not only in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues but also in assisting in the disposal of toxic waste from the tissues.

Of course, this explanation about oxygen, blood circulation, and toxic waste is magical thinking. Measles doesn’t care how much oxygen you have in your system. It wants to party in your lungs.

It appears that even the founder of Young Living believes in vaccine refusal. So much so, that he apparently started an entire vaccine-free school in order to corral vulnerable children into a potential outbreak epicenter.

This Facebook post is, of course, marketing for a particular distributor.
This Facebook post is, of course, marketing for a particular distributor.

The use of EOs in lieu of actual health care is frightening enough. Vaccine refusal is also a threat that needs to be addressed. But combining the two is an exponential threat.

In essence, EOs are becoming multi-level marketing of vaccine refusal. Keeping in mind that one distributor needs to sign on more distributors in order to make a commission (and those distributors ever more distributors), these distributors learn vaccine refusal as a marketing technique. Every frightening anti-vaccine rumor is sold along with the Essential Oils solution, as is this case for this distributor who uses a false accusation about the tetanus vaccine in Kenya to tell her clients that they don’t need vaccines at all because EOs:

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The worst part about this multi-level vaccine refusal marketing scheme is that the distributors are financially vested in it. Gone are the days when the people making a buck off of vaccine fears were the big guys like Mercola and Tenpenny. Now any mom with a bag full of oils might want you to be afraid of vaccines so that she can sell you something. Fear is a powerful motivator, especially when your income depends on it.

What can we do to combat a marketing scheme as old as Amway? While we do not want people to lose their livelihoods, we can also keep in mind that it is unlikely that selling EOs is going to make much money for the average person, and perhaps heralding them back to Tupperware could help. After all, we all need to store our leftovers, too.

Faux Pro-Vax Gambit

Anti-vaxxers do not like to be labeled as anti-vaccine. They see it as an ad hominem attack, though it is rarely meant to be. It is meant to describe what they are: against vaccines. As media attention moves away from legitimizing anti-vaccine sentiment and more toward exposing it as a threat to public health, anti-vaxxers have become more sensitive to being labeled as such.

Some have come up with their own labels. The favorites are “pro-vaccine safety” and “pro-choice.” The second is especially maddening because they want to have a choice over whether or not their children are protected against disease and a choice about whether or not their communities have high enough immunization levels to protect the most vulnerable. It is a choice born of privilege and of ignoring the needs of others.

Some simply dismiss it outright. Lucija Tomljenovic, a biochemist who has published papers promoting anti-vaccine myths, made this comment on a BMJ article:

I am NOT anti vaccine, I am anti bad science.
The reason so many dismiss even the possibility that vaccine can cause
damage is because they believe this to be true. This is religion and not
science.

Of course this is complete nonsense. People who promote the science behind vaccines do so because they have followed the science.

A prime example of the pro-science, pro-vaccine camp looking critically at the science is demonstrated in this article by Tara Haelle discussing a study that dubiously connected the Hib vaccine to leukemia protection:

couldn’t find evidence of this dramatic reduction in government health statistics.

When I turned to outside experts, I discovered my confusion was justified.

I asked Dr. Walter Orenstein, associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center, if he could help or recommend others. He sent me to Dr. Art Reingold, head of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, and Dr. Martha Arellano, an oncologist specializing in leukemia at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. Arellano also suggested I speak with Dr. Edmund Waller, an immunologist and oncologist also at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute.

Every one of them conveyed the same message: Nothing in this paper proves that the Hib vaccine reduces leukemia risk, much less helps prevent ALL.

Tomljenovic is not alone in eschewing the anti-vaccine label despite evidence that she is. After all, even Dr. Bob says that he “gives vaccines every day,” even though he has aligned himself with the anti-vaccine forces in California.

But the most maddening are those who come right out and claim that they are pro-vaccine. It’s a gambit meant to disarm the other person in a conversations. It looks like this:

I am a pro-vaccine parent who strongly opposes SB 277.

My child, now 20, received all of her childhood vaccines, with my informed consent.

Her pediatrician and I decided together to delay the hepatitis B vaccine until puberty, because it addresses a disease that is spread via needles and sex, and she was at almost no risk of coming in contact with it.

The above quote demonstrates the crux of the argument. Basically, “I must be pro-vaccine because I vaccinated my children. Except for this one bad vaccine. I didn’t do that because [insert various anti-vaccine myths and follow with lots of conspiracy theories.]”

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Basically, the Faux Pro-Vaccine Gambit is an introduction, a way of distracting you and throwing you off-balance so that when the anti-vaccine myths follow, you might not know what to do. But it’s possibly the worst gambit out there because the person using it has children who are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases to a degree, but wishes to cast fear, uncertainty, and doubt in order to encourage someone else to leave their children fully unprotected.

It’s the ultimate “I care about my children, and I really don’t give a damn about yours.” And it makes me furious.

It is really dangerous, though, when it is coupled with legislation. Advocates should be aware that people are contacting legislators claiming to be pro-vaccine and against legislation that aims to increase vaccination rates. They are liars, and they are muddying the waters.

So what can you do?

If you are online and encounter a faux-pro-vaxxer, ignore the fact that they claim to be pro-vaccine. Engaging in a discussion about immunization means debunking the misinformation, not taking apart the person. Anyone who promotes incorrect information needs to be corrected, especially in public, so that others are not misled by falsehoods.

If you are contacting a legislator, know that others are claiming to be pro-vaccine. If you are working closely with legislators on the matter, you might prepare them for this gambit. Be aware, however, that letting a legislators know that you are pro-vaccine probably does not mean much to them. Be prepared to use other labels for the anti-vaxxers with legislators such as “opponents to the bill” or “opponents to raising immunization rates.” Then, whether or not they vaccinated their children is an entirely moot point.

And know that whatever people claim, if they follow it up with anti-vaccine misinformation, they are not for vaccines. They are against them. In other words, they are simply anti-vaccine.