pediatric housecalls Robert R. Jarrett M.D. M.B.A. FAAP

Immunization v. Vaccination: A Story of Gullibility, Fear, Despicable Avarice and Scams – Part 2

We’re (by that I mean I and I’m dragging you along with me) trying to make sense of and understand this mess we’re in about immunization; and I’m telling you of how a colleague decided to deliberately immerse himself in the vaccine-hater cottage industry to try and understand how otherwise seemingly rational parents make decisions which are clearly not in the best interest of their children.
Peter Salk receiving the Salk Polio Vaccine from his inventor/father Jonas with the support of his mother
For six weeks he read all he could from the anti-vaccine cottage industry. Their literature, their claims, their meetings. More than a solid month worth of their rhetoric and doctrine led him into understanding the history of immunizations, their problems, their solutions and how the multi-million dollar vaccine-hater cottage-industry was born.

He also came up with the 10 reasons parents most often use when deciding to delay or not immunize their children, which we’ll get to in part three; but, we’ve just mentioned in part two that: after Dr. Jenner developed the immunization (which eventually wiped out Smallpox) and had suffered venomous vehemence which Sir William Osler (the father of medicine) had to help quell, an immunization for whooping cough was developed which opened old worries.

Immunization: Guilty by Association
Fear, Gullibility, Avarice and Scams

Immunizations had come a long ways since its invention and public acceptance had gradually gotten better. Several individual shots had even been combined into one single injection (DPT) for convenience. However, a number of children would get a fever after receiving the first version of the whooping cough shot and a few went on to have a febrile seizure if the fever rose too fast.

For those who had actually seen a child with real whooping cough or diphtheria or tetanus, the fever side-effect didn’t dissuade, especially since no other adverse effect was apparent. But, by that time most new parents hadn’t ever seen anything like that, so they were worried.

The second version of the shot (the acellular immunization) has none of the previous side-effects; but… alas… the association with adverse reactions was back in parent’s minds.

Guilty by Assumption

Toddler with whooping cough, pertussis
Toddler suffering from whooping cough, Pertussis

Unfortunately, in 1979 one of the early large-scale population studies in Great Britain, perhaps unwittingly but definitely irresponsibly, published data gathered unselectively from a huge number of children who had neurological issues.

It’s data was so poorly gathered and unselective that they included 1200 children with severe diseases of all kinds (a very large number for 3 years observation) and reported that 30 of them had received the DPT within 7 days of symptoms being noticed. And they reported it in such a way as to give the impression that there was a causal relationship—at least in some people’s minds.

Before the study had actually done the verification they should have done in the first place and debunked the assumed correlation, the British press and nay-sayers had whipped the populace into a near panic with a decline in immunizations and the resulting re-emergence of whooping cough, including deaths.

Quickly others, going back to verify the data, discovered that it was not 30 children at all—not even close. Four of the children were listed completely in error because they had no neurological disease at all! And another 23 had their problems completely attributable to other known causes, totally unrelated to immunizations (like viral encephalitis, Reye syndrome etc.).

That left only three unexplained children in the “study” which under no circumstances rises to cause and effect and proved that it was nothing more than coincidental. However, the panic had occurred and now unimmunized children were dying of Pertussis again; so, large numbers of further studies were done all around the world for verification—this time with better statistical precision.

Study after study, all very large scale and using appropriate controls, showed NO CORRELEATION between DPT immunization and SIDS, epilepsy, encephalitis, behavioral problems, Guillane-Barre or death!

Vaccine-Hater Cottage Industry Born

Vaccine-haters, determined to be scared
Vaccine-haters, maintaining self-deception

That should have been that! But, the vaccine-haters had gotten a taste of fame, started businesses and enterprises (albeit based on lies) and discovered just how easily fear can be used for their own agendas. On the other side of the coin, physicians and scientists learned that “It’s hard to UN-scare people.”

Look, the false claims of that study caught most doctors by surprise because we already knew febrile seizures occurred all around the world whether or not children had ever been immunized! To right thinking scientists that number had to be verified for real because it just didn’t fit with what we had seen for years… everywhere… all over the world. It immediately was and was found to be false.

Association does not prove causation! If they had asked how many of those same babies had used the newly developed disposable diapers they would have reported even more than thirty—would that have proven they caused seizures? Of course not!

If a child’s fever and seizure occurred an hour before getting the shot (or completely unrelated to getting one, as the over 11,070 others in their study had done) would you want to blame the shot? No, that would be stupid.

If your grandfather died of a heart attack after eating a cherry pie one Sunday would you march to have cherry pies banned? No, that would be silly.

So how do we make sense of this? Very long experience with these matters has taught us that these issues require a careful analysis of a very large group of people (like the study wanted to do) using careful observation and meticulous verification of data (which the study failed to do).

In the short time it took to completely debunk the study however, the unscrupulous had enjoyed their “5 minutes of fame” and learned that busy, uninformed, fearful parents could be manipulated and deceived—a whole new cottage-industry was born of vaccine-haters. For some time thereafter, every disease we couldn’t explain was systematically “linked” to immunizations by the haters.

Substantial damage had been done to public health and children were needlessly suffering with diseases for which we had a cure and a prevention; but, logic and information finally began penetrating the public and, thankfully, immunization rates began to rise once more. Then came the despicable Wakefield.

Wakefield: Vaccine-Hating For Profit

Wakefield: liar, cheat, fraud, scammer
Wakefield: Found to be a fraud and lost license

The nefarious British Andrew Wakefield (former physician) carried vaccine-hating for profit almost into an art form. [Whole story in graphic novel form]

He had come up with a new diagnostic twist which he was trying to parry into an almost patented disease with patented cures to make millions. He was poised to make millions on a new single measles vaccine and, most damning of all, he was receiving nearly a million dollars from an attorney suing vaccine manufacturers.

None of that was known in 1998 when he submitted a paper to the Lancet for publication based on largely falsified data. That wasn’t known either and the poor hapless paper published it to tell the world that Wakefield claimed he had discovered a link between the MMR injection and autism.

England had already shown that it could be a vessel of acceptance of unproven data producing panic—and it happened all over again! And, just like before, it took a couple years before Wakefield’s underhanded schemes were discovered and he was exposed for the liar and cheat that he was. Just like in the Nixon tape debacle, it was a news reporter, a guardian of the public trust, who discovered the deceit.

Before it was over, all of Wakefield’s data had been thoroughly vetted to find fraud and deceit. The paper he submitted to the Lancet was thoroughly reviewed for credibility and in an unprecedented move gave the journal no other recourse but to denounce Wakefield and retract the article with an apology to the world!

Wakefield was brought before review boards of his peers, professional committees and governmental agencies where he was multiple times given the chance to explain himself—in light of fourteen major studies which had been performed following his report, none of which confirmed his findings. He was ultimately found to be a fraud and lost his license to practice medicine!

There has never been even a single reputable study which has ever shown an association between the MMR and autism since his one claim; but, yet again, suspicions about immunizations rose.

To condense the results of hundreds of studies done in the past 20 years:

Cumulative Research Results About MMR Immunization

  • There is no increase in autism in the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated.
  • There is no increase in gastrointestinal disease in autistic children.
  • There is no increase in gastrointestinal disease in children who have received the MMR.
  • In areas such as Japan where the MMR was temporarily suspended the incidence of autism in children who did not receive the MMR was actually significantly higher than in those who did.
  • To any person with any understanding of or belief in science this case is closed.

Methyl mercury – NON-issue

Known "bias traps" effecting the immunization issue
Known bias-traps effecting the immunization issue

Although actual intelligence is making some headway now that the dark and shady dealings of the “chief vaccine-hater’s” scams have been made public, it’s a slow effort because it’s very hard to un-scare people. People seem to be more compelled by fear than reason.

I’ll bet that there’s not one of you in a hundred who doesn’t already know that METHanol is poisonous while ETHanol is not. Methanol is the stuff that moonshiners make which can make you go blind (among other things) while Ethanol is the stuff sold in grocery stores which makes people feel good.

But, the vaccine-haters capitalize on the fact that most of you don’t also know that the same holds true for other related compounds such as Methyl mercury and Ethyl mercury. Methyl is toxic to humans – Ethyl is NOT toxic—and in fact a useful preservative.

When their chief vaccine-hater was defrocked and found to be lying, the movement frantically sought another front for a battle and decided on yet another lie: thimerosal, ETHYL mercury. “We’ll just leave off the ethyl part and people won’t know about it or bother to think about it” they schemed.

Despite the claim being totally absurd and having no basis in fact, the manufacturers switched to other preservation techniques because they saw that there was no need to fight the battle; and what did multiple follow-up studies reveal? There is NO RELATION TO AUTISM!

Autism

Illogic of vaccine-haters
The ILL-logic of vaccine-haters

Back before the tobacco scam was uncovered and prosecuted (I was a kid) I saw an article which touted that Utah cities could nearly resolve all juvenile delinquency by lowering the drinking and smoking age! As a kid I thought that was something to report to my teachers and parents; now, I know it for the crock of statistical crap it is.

To make the statistics crystal clear: if on Monday you define the “blond” kids as those with blond hair and blue eyes, on Tuesday you relent and add dish-water blonds, on Wednesday you rule that eye color doesn’t matter, on Thursday you define that albinism doesn’t count but Friday reverse that and add that anyone who wanted to could dye their hair blond—what would you see the “blondism” rate doing?

Unfortunately, those of us altruistic do-gooders have seemed to shoot ourselves in the foot by how we’ve focused and pushed schools and governments toward the issues of children with pervasive neurological disorders—like autism.

If you advertise heavily about how to diagnose autism, what happens to the numbers “discovered?” If you give extra help and allowances in school for kids with autism, what happens to the number of kids with “autism?” If you give extra money to schools earmarked only for autism, what happens to the pressure on doctors to give a diagnosis of autism? If autism-related agencies want to expand their influence (funding?), what happens to their deciding to add “related-conditions” to autism?

Every single one of these have occurred in just the past 10 years for autism. YOU might look at what you consider a simple rising graph of the autism rate; but, those of us in the trenches tasked with actually making treatment decisions for children must hold our heads trying to keep them from exploding! WHAT IS CALLED AUTISM TODAY IS NOT THE SAME DIAGNOSIS OF EVEN 5 YEARS AGO!

Was “autism” UNDER-diagnosed in the past? Is “autism” OVER-diagnosed today? Is “autism” increasing in the population? We’ll absolutely NEVER KNOW if we don’t quit changing the diagnosis! At very least we should be smart enough to clearly mark on graphs and statistics when diagnostic criteria and other governmental interventions change—and perhaps given them different names.

“The frustrating irony for everyone in the field is that the one and only potential cause of childhood autism which has categorically been ruled out beyond question is childhood immunizations. And yet these are the agents still most suspected by the public at large.”

So, that’s where we are and how we got here. The colleague I’ve been telling you about came to the conclusion, after 6 weeks immersed in the mire of half-truths, lies and out-right scams, that his patients which he was concerned about were, basically: “afraid.” That and the fact that the vaccine-haters have so toileted the internet with all their tripe that the parents of his patients couldn’t find their way out.

He came up with the “top 10 reasons parents give for not immunizing their children” – which we will summarize and give answers for in the next post.

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9 Posts in This Series