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May 01 2013

SSA May Day Madness Blogathon – 9 Questions that Stump every Pro-Vaccine Advocate and their Claims

Earlier this week I came across this article written in the inappropriately named Baby Centre website. It is a reposting of another article but the original site is down. In it is a series of questions posed by David Mihalovic; ND. These questions are allegedly meant to stump “medical professionals”.

It was reposted by an individual called alaskaiscold. If these are a common cross-section of anti-vaccine arguments, let us dissect them. Certainly as a medical student I have heard some of these. As a denizen of the internet some of these seem “rather out there”.

I think one of the reasons why the anti-vaccine movement is so strong is that doctors often argue from unfathomable knowledge. The knowledge that goes into the making of a doctor or a nurse is colossal and well out of the ken of most normal people who spent their post teenage years getting degrees that take 3 years unlike the medical students who spend anything from 5 years to 7 years merely to acquire a degree that they must then prove they deserve in the crucible of a real hospital. Clinical rotations soften the blow but as I see in my seniors, it is like being thrown to the wolves with the instruction manual on how to build a spear. Not only must you fight off the wolves, but you must also do better than your peers.

Naturally this is stressful and it causes a bit of exasperation. What you read here is a product of that exasperation. It is hard to remain lucid when your opponents are for all intents and purposes, daft buggers. People look at the argument differently, a person with a minor medical background would look objectively and find logical arguments. I have tried to do that but quite frankly every time I hear these questions I just want to say “Shut up and do as I say. I have spent x amount of years studying and quite frankly you have not. You aren’t being intelligent or savvy; you are being incredibly stupid and dangerously so since you are playing with the lives of your children”. But then it hit me that this is precisely what kind of response they are angling for.

 1. Could you please provide one double-blind, placebo-controlled study that can prove the safety and effectiveness of vaccines?

A simple search using key words of “vaccine efficacy” and “placebo controlled” on Pub Med finds more than a 100 articles, which is more than one. A more apt question would be if there are any double blinded studies showing the efficacy of naturopathy, or a comparative between naturopathy vs. Medicine.

2. Could you please provide scientific evidence on ANY study which can confirm the long-term safety and effectiveness of vaccines?

No vaccine is a 100% safe. No medicine is a 100% safe. Your body runs via homeostasis, anything you put inside that alters the homeostasis makes you sick. Even too much water can cause side effects. The effects of excess sugar are well known in diabetics. If you consume enough to overcome your homeostatic control of sugar you get the same symptoms.

Unlike water, your immune system remembers antigens. The way vaccine’s work is by increasing your resistance to the disease by sensitising your immune system. Each subsequent exposure to the disease is fought off re-sensitising individuals to the disease causing their immune systems to react faster to the disease. Even if your resistance is overcome and you do get a disease, your body responds a lot faster and you are sick for a shorter amount of time with less severity.

Nothing in medicine is perfect. If someone is offering you a perfect cure, be wary. Long term studies in medicine chart development from a few weeks to a few years. This is probably insufficient for the anti-vaccine movement who would simply shift the goalpost till it was outside the research range.

3.  Could you please provide scientific evidence which can prove that disease reduction in any part of the world, at any point in history was attributable to inoculation of populations?

Now do you see why doctors just get angry and swear a lot at these people? Smallpox is extinct and that was killing people like HIV is now. If that existed now we would have a giant epidemic of unbelievable proportions since HIV would increase the fatality rate of smallpox.

Medicine is a multi-factorial science. I have always stated that our first line of medicine are two things we take for granted. Sewage and Garbage are the first lines of disease control and a hallmark of low life expectancy. The flushing toilet and the garbage truck have done more to increase life expectancy than any single other invention in public health. (Give them a big hug next time!)

Now onto the nitty gritty, there are plenty of studies from the USSR into the Measles vaccine program. The stats are quite astounding as the rates plummet within 5 years. In the place where I work? The polio drives have reduced polio’s occurrence by 93%. But don’t take my word for it, there is plenty of research from the JAMA on this for you Americans who won’t listen to the words of a dirty foreigner or a dirty communist.

4. Could you please explain how the safety and mechanism of vaccines in the human body are scientifically proven if their pharmacokinetics (the study of bodily absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion of ingredients) are never examined or analyzed in any vaccine study?

The pharmacokinetics of a drug are studied in Phase 1 trials, Phase 2 trials are what the vaccine studies are all about. In order for us to inject vast numbers of people, we would need to know the pharmacokinetics anyways.

And the mechanism of how vaccines work, is an understanding of how the body fights disease. Via antibody/antigen reactions, the idea being that if you present the antigen or just use a less virulent pathogen, you would end up sensitising the body rather than triggering a disease.

5. Could you please provide scientific justification as to how injecting a human being with a confirmed neurotoxin is beneficial to human health and prevents disease?

This is easy. There are plenty of drugs that are technically neurotoxins. This has nothing to do with vaccination by the way.  Many drugs such as curare are neurotoxins themselves and have many uses such as in open heart surgery. Atropine is also a toxin and was used for optometry testing (the drops that make your pupils look like saucers is a nerve toxin).

I have heard of people who work with snakes using minute doses of venom to inoculate themselves with it. This is second hand information from my vet uncle so I hope that any zoology majors who do work with poisonous snakes will confirm this.

If this is about Mercury and Aluminium, then the amount of mercury and aluminium within a dose of vaccine is minute. You get the same kind of doses or higher eating anything from the ground such as root vegetables or using an aluminium foil to cover your food. And the presence of these as ions or as compounds is what is important. Hydrogen, Nitrogen and Carbon make up our amino acids but they also make up cyanide. Chemistry is important too.

Perhaps the issue is that this argument is usually brought up by homeopaths and their views on chemistry are based on the concept that the lower the concentration the greater the effect. Thus the minute concentrations of these metals would be of greater fear to them.

6. Can you provide a risk/benefit profile on how the benefits of injecting a known neurotoxin exceeds its risks to human health for the intended goal of preventing disease?

The treatment for myasthenia gravis is palliative. Neostigmine is given (which has neurotoxic effects) as a method of prolonging muscle use and improving quality of life. The drug in normal musculature would have terrible effects, however as a therapeutic agent for a disease where the muscular receptors are lost, this anti-cholinesterase effectively increases the half-life of acetylcholine increasing the strength of muscle contraction.

In terms of vaccination, plenty of studies look into the number of lives improved by reducing the lethality of various flu strains (contains aluminium).

From eight trials, the protective efficacy of the Hib conjugate vaccine was 84% (OR 0.16; 95%CI 0.08-0.30) against invasive Hib disease, 75% (OR 0.25; 95%CI 0.08-0.84) against meningitis, and 69% (OR 0.31; 95%CI 0.10-0.97) against pneumonia. Serious adverse events were rare.

7. Could you please provide scientific justification on how bypassing the respiratory tract (or mucous membrane) is advantageous and how directly injecting viruses into the bloodstream enhances immune functioning and prevents future infections?

To my knowledge not a single vaccine is provide via venous route. Every single one is subcutaneous bar some flu vaccines (nasal) and polio (oral).

It actually does not matter how vaccines are administered, if the conditions are met. It is just that most vaccines must be kept cold. Vaccines are maintained from creation to admin at a specific temperature via something called a cold chain. If administering via a different route the dosages need to be increased and the dose may not work perfectly as your lungs have a variety of cell mediated defences. What we wish to trigger is avoid that cell mediated defences and trigger the humoural immunity. Also by the logic of this question one would have to administer the tetanus vaccine by coating it onto a rusty blade or apply it to a ragged open wound. 

8. Could you please provide scientific justification on how a vaccine would prevent viruses from mutating?

No I cannot. Mutations in viruses (also in bacteria, while we are at it) are not linked to our immunities. We have no control over that.

Yes, the vaccine can act as a selection pressure for some strains of the virus or bacteria but quite frankly if one is immune to 9 out of 10 strains of a disease then surely that is better than not being immune to any of them.

However that is probably only the case in antigen only vaccines, in vaccines using either killed or live pathogens, there are multiple antigens involved and the immune response may actually prevent the outbreaks of mutations by dealing with mutations to one antigen via a different antigen.

9. Could you please provide scientific justification as to how a vaccination can target a virus in an infected individual who does not have the exact viral configuration or strain the vaccine was developed for?

It is not all or nothing. Resistance is a percentage, if you have a high resistance to a disease, you can still carry the disease without any of the associated disease issues. You may even fall sick but will recover faster. The flu vaccine actually provides a partial protection to future flu infections but the flu has a high mutation rate.

The terrifying thing about these arguments is that they are from a Doctor of Natural Medicine/Naturopathy. These individuals have rights to treat equivalent to a doctor where I am studying (and it greatly scares me that one day I will have to go back home to the UK and that the reputation of my education will be tarnished by such crummy thinking).  These individuals can tell patients what to do and where I live patients aren’t educated enough to make the choice between them and real medicine.

 

To close I leave you with some choice statements from David Mihalovic, ND.

I have never encountered one pro-vaccine advocate, whether medically or scientifically qualified, who could answer even 1 let alone all 9 of these questions. One or all of the following will happen when debating any of the above questions:- They will concede defeat and admit they are stumped- They will attempt to discredit unrelated issues that do not pertain to the question.- They will formulate their response and rebuttal based on historical arguments and scientific studies which have been disproved over and over again. Not one pro-vaccine advocate will ever directly address these questions in an open mainstream venue.

I think anyone with a few minutes of Google Time can find out these answers. The studies are extremely indicative and as one can see I have specifically answered questions.

I am willing to debate these questions. They aren’t particularly hard ones to answer. However I would suggest producing double blinded proof that natural medicine is indeed better than a placebo and indeed superior to actual medicine. Until then, it’s vaccination till I die (yo!).

Avicenna is blogging for the SSA over the May Day holiday and will be doing so on the Saturday/Sunday too. He is trying to reach the goal of $500 of your shiny American Dollars. Help him do so by donating here. And leave your suggestions on the concurrent hangout happening over here. [Long Post Started at 10 PM - Ended at 1:00 AM]

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  1. 1
    glodson

    I have never encountered one pro-vaccine advocate, whether medically or scientifically qualified, who could answer even 1 let alone all 9 of these questions.

    I’m hardly qualified myself, but I could answer those questions. These questions really do depend on his audience being ill-informed and ignorant. Really, these questions aren’t even for those who have even the barest of hints on how the human body works, but to convince those who don’t that they have some justification for falling for this nonsense.

  2. 2
    Avicenna

    I should really field them properly on a later date but this was the best I could do with the time constraints.

    I honestly got bored of doing this and I find swapping between posts to write up small ones and do a big one between them to be difficult!

  3. 3
    glodson

    I would think that for questions that leading, and that dishonest, you gave them their due. Medicine and biology are not strengths of mine, to be sure, but I’m used to seeing questions like that coming on the side of physics. The crackpot, or in my case a theist with a “science-based” reason for god, tries to play the same game.

    It works well enough on people who are dreadfully undereducated. It gets worse if the dialogue gets bogged down, as I’ve even ended arguing what even constitutes evidence. Sometimes, I suspect the ones producing the particularly dumb “gotcha” questions are hoping that I will headdesk myself into a coma.

    Sadly, that is a possibility.

  4. 4
    Marnie

    Mihalovic’s post reminds me of a lot of the creationist lists of questions that science can’t address, therefore, god, which may be fine and dandy if the readers all just nod their heads and agree that the author is very clever and smart, but woe betide the believer who actually tries to employ the list. The first question, right off the bat, will be hulk smashed by anyone who has heard of pubmed.

    What good is a list like Mihalovic’s? If the readers are working under the assumption that every scientist and doctor will be completely stumped by these questions, they’re not going to take the time to do any actual research and then they’ll just blind sided in the discussion. It’s kind of like he’s trolling his own “cause”.

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