How some choose to deal with loss

One of the recurring themes that I see in the world of conspiracy theories is that of loss and revenge. The conspiracy theorist has lost something or someone, and they do their own “research” in order to get back at whatever or whoever wronged them. There are also other conspiracy theorists that, although they’ve lost nothing and no one, will take it upon themselves to be the heroes.
You all know my policy on not naming any names on this blog. But that doesn’t mean I can’t link to their stuff, or to examples of their stuff. So hold on for some scary stuff.

Exhibit A in this thesis is the man profiled in this story from the Seattle Weekly. This man’s story is a sad one, really, because he lost a baby girl about 14 years ago. The girl died, from what we can tell in the story, about a day after receiving the hepatitis B vaccine:

“Lyla, who died a day after receiving the Hepatitis B vaccine shot 13 years ago. He wails in the song: ‘That evening, she stopped breathing/Her face turned blue/Oh Lord, her face turned blue.’”

Wait. A song? That’s right, he wails in his song because the man in question has built a top-of-the-line private recording studio in his home in order to make songs about vaccines. Actually, they are songs about the horrors of vaccines:

“[He] sees his band, pointedly called the Refusers, as akin to the antiwar protest-music bands of the ’60s and ’70s. The group’s music combines a toe-tapping, funk-rock beat with lyrics meant to convey the Nazi-like horror—as he and his allies literally portray it—of this country’s vaccination policies. “Vaccine Gestapo” is the name of one song. In a music video for another, his daughter Viola (also completely unvaccinated) portrays a scared Alice-in-Wonderland figure being chased by a mad doctor wielding a needle.

Because doctors chase children around to get them vaccinated, if and when they can get away from the long days at the office or the hospital, apparently.
So the man in question lost a daughter, and he vehemently blames the hepatitis B vaccine despite evidence to the contrary:

“Yet it soon becomes even more apparent that there are a lot of unanswered questions about his portrayal of Lyla’s death and its aftermath. Asked, for instance, if he is sure that the medical examiner talked to Merck before switching her assessment of Lyla’s death, he says: “I think so. I told her to.” In other words, [his] allegation is based on nothing more than his own suggestion to the examiner, prompted by his suspicions about the vaccine. He’s also not sure, now that he’s asked about it, whether it was the examiner or, as seems more likely, the police who came to his apartment looking for evidence of child abuse. “I don’t know . . . somebody . . . don’t ask me,” he says. Most crucially of all, [he] says he doesn’t know where the pediatrician’s notes are that prove that the examiner initially determined that Lyla had a swollen brain. “You have to take my word for it,” he says. Later, asked whether he would consent to having the case file from the examiner’s office released to Seattle Weekly, he declines. “To me, it’s a very invasive and intrusive request,” he says, questioning the Weekly’s “fixation” with Lyla’s death. “To me, it’s not the story.””

Oh, but it IS the story, very much. His rants and raves and songs about the evils of vaccination fall on the ears of those who can be swayed away from vaccines, placing them at higher risk for life-threatening – or at least harmful – infections. His evidence for his beliefs are based on his daughter’s unfortunate death. Yet, he doesn’t want to provide any supporting evidence?
Look, I know that it is very hard to lose a loved one, let alone a child. I don’t know this first-hand, but I have been in plenty of situations personally and professionally where someone loses a child. It is heartbreaking, awful. It’s like a personal hell, and I don’t doubt that he has gone – and may still be going – through it.
What I object to is his crusade against an enemy that just doesn’t exist. None of the assertions about vaccines made in his media have been proven, not by independent scientists, not by government agencies, and not by the epidemiology of sudden deaths in children. There is just no evidence to what he claims.
But he’s not the only one.
Exhibit B: There is this woman. Of course, she has her own anti-vaccine blog as well. Hers is also a story of loss, although not at the levels seen in “exhibit A”. This woman is the mother of an autistic child. She describes her situation thus:

“I am the mother of a child who regressed into autism following the simultaneous administration of the DTaP, Hepatitis B, Polio, HIB and Pnumo (sic) vaccines. When I discovered that none of the vaccines My son received that day had been studied for their relationship to autism, and that my pediatrician’s opinion that his vaccines did not cause his autism had no basis in science, I began to investigate and document the vaccine-autism causation theory and other vaccine injuries.”

So, again, we have a parent who is convinced that their child was injured by vaccines. She is convinced about it to the point that she seemingly has devoted her life and her career to promote the anti-vaccine agenda. You can head over and read the rest of what someone in the comments rightly pointed out to be a severe pimping of her book. (Aside: Dr. Offit writes a book and it’s “conflict of interest” this and “Big Pharma shill” that. This lady writes a book and she mentions it ad nauseum in a congressional hearing.) Unfortunately, many parents of autistic children are convinced that they have “lost” that child and will do and say almost anything to seek revenge on those who caused it.
If you don’t believe me that they truly think their child is somewhere between dead and dying, even if all they have is autism, take a read at exhibit C and his blog:

“’Look at me!’ I said hoping to end the tantrum, turning him so his face was in front of mine, but his eyes stared off to the side. ‘Look at me [child]!’ and he refused. This sent a chill up my spine. Not that I knew anything about autism, it was because this just wasn’t like him. I remembered noticing his lack of eye contact when his cousin was with us for the week. I thought that was just him having his feelings hurt and being jealous. But this was different, I was suddenly aware that I was attempting to break him, break his will and instead it broke me. I sobbed uncontrollably, something is wrong, this isn’t worth it, just let him bite, do anything he wants. I left the room, I left him to work it out on his own. I left him to run away. A little later he came into my office where I was hiding my shame, my self doubt, my heartache. He came in and climbed up into my lap and loved me. I cried so hard it made my wife cry. In the 9 years we have been together she has only seen me in this state 3 times, once for reasons I don’t want you to know about, this time when I had the come to Jesus with myself and the last time months later when I knew [he] was autistic… or something.”

The feeling of loss is palpable in his commentary. It really is. This discovery that his child was not neurotypical led this father to crusade against vaccines, as he was convinced that the hepatitis B vaccine his son received at birth and a few months later – since it is in a series – were to blame for the son’s autism. You can continue to read his posts, which suddenly stopped almost three years ago. You can read about his efforts to find out what happened to his child and who was going to pay for it:

“With new statistics coming out showing that the true number of children with autism is close to one in one hundred it is today that we need to pick up our weapon of choice and fight autism with every ounce of strength we have, but not alone, with others, within our community there are warriors of incredible strength and providers of impenetrable armor, find them, link hands and attack, attack as if your child’s life depended on it.”

Note the theme of loss: “(A)s if your child’s life depended on it”.
On the opposite side of the spectrum are the parents of children who have died from whooping cough and are now fighting hard to remind everyone that the vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent whooping cough. They have made their campaigns very public, and they have taken all sorts of abuse from the anti-vaccine crowd.
For example, the parents of Dana McCaffery have been on the receiving end of harassment by one of Australia’s most rabid anti-vaccine people and organization. I am proud to write little Dana’s name because she should be the one we name, the one we remember when dealing with loss. She died a horrible death from whooping cough, a disease that suffocates you. And hundreds of children just like her are dying of whooping cough, a vaccine-preventable disease. Her parents, instead of being angry and vindictive, have taken it upon themselves to stop this from happening to other families.
Sadly, they are not alone in their loss. Thankfully, they are not alone in their purpose.
Of course, someone is going to accuse me that the death of one child doesn’t override or make less the death of another. The death of one child by whooping cough does not take anything away from exhibit A’s loss. The actions of exhibit A do. You can choose to make something good happen from the loss of your child, or you can choose to be angry and vindictive to the point of spreading misinformation and fear about a safe and effective way to prevent more loss. It really is your choice… But it will have consequences beyond your control.

What happens in mouse liver cancer cells in a petri dish in a lab stays in mouse liver cancer cells in a petri dish in a lab

An anti-vaccine advocate – and a very angry one in my opinion – posted the following abstract of a research paper on her blog:

Hepatitis B vaccine induces apoptotic death in Hepa1-6 cells.Hamza H, Cao J, Li X, Li C, Zhu M, Zhao S.
Source Key Lab of Agricultural Animal Genetics, Breeding, and Reproduction of Ministry of Education, College of Animal Science and Technology, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, People’s Republic of China.
AbstractVaccines can have adverse side-effects, and these are predominantly associated with the inclusion of chemical additives such as aluminum hydroxide adjuvant. The objective of this study was to establish an in vitro model system amenable to mechanistic investigations of cytotoxicity induced by hepatitis B vaccine, and to investigate the mechanisms of vaccine-induced cell death. The mouse liver hepatoma cell line Hepa1-6 was treated with two doses of adjuvanted (aluminium hydroxide) hepatitis B vaccine (0.5 and 1 μg protein per ml) and cell integrity was measured after 24, 48 and 72 h. Hepatitis B vaccine exposure increased cell apoptosis as detected by flow cytometry and TUNEL assay. Vaccine exposure was accompanied by significant increases in the levels of activated caspase 3, a key effector caspase in the apoptosis cascade. Early transcriptional events were detected by qRT-PCR. We report that hepatitis B vaccine exposure resulted in significant upregulation of the key genes encoding caspase 7, caspase 9, Inhibitor caspase-activated DNase (ICAD), Rho-associated coiled-coil containing protein kinase 1 (ROCK-1), and Apoptotic protease activating factor 1 (Apaf-1). Upregulation of cleaved caspase 3,7 were detected by western blot in addition to Apaf-1 and caspase 9 expressions argues that cell death takes place via the intrinsic apoptotic pathway in which release of cytochrome c from the mitochondria triggers the assembly of a caspase activation complex. We conclude that exposure of Hepa1-6 cells to a low dose of adjuvanted hepatitis B vaccine leads to loss of mitochondrial integrity, apoptosis induction, and cell death, apoptosis effect was observed also in C2C12 mouse myoblast cell line after treated with low dose of vaccine (0.3, 0.1, 0.05 μg/ml). In addition In vivo apoptotic effect of hepatitis B vaccine was observed in mouse liver.

I realize that’s a lot of digest. As I wrote before, yes, you can do your own research, but you need to know what you are looking at and looking for so you don’t end up looking like a fool on your own anti-vaccine blogs. And I write “blogs” because more than a few anti-vaccine blogs looked at this paper, called it a “study”, and drew their conclusion that the hepatitis B vaccine is a horrible, horrible thing. Let’s look at the key things you need to know to understand this research paper and not be so scared so as to ignore the proper science behind its findings.
First, you need to know what apoptosis is. Not only is it the name of the journal in which this paper was published, it is also the scientific term for “programmed cell death” or just “cell death”. See, biological organisms are always reproducing. It’s not an accident that teenagers are so horny. We’re programmed to eat, grow, and reproduce. Eat. Grow. And reproduce. Everything from single-celled bacteria to whales all eat, grow, and reproduce. But we can’t reproduce forever. Some of our cells need to die to make way for the newer cells. As a result, mechanisms in our cells trigger cell death. Without apoptosis, we would have cancer.

Second, you need to know what “in vitro” means. In vitro is scientific jargon for “happening in a test tube” or “happening in a petri dish”. Basically, in vitro is something that happens in a lab and outside a living, breathing organism. This research was done just that way, in vitro. It wasn’t done in a living mouse. It wasn’t done in a primate. So it wasn’t done in a human. (But our anti-vaccine “friend” is trying to point out the horrors of the hepatitis B vaccine with this paper.) Yes, they mentioned something in the end: “In addition In vivo apoptotic effect of hepatitis B vaccine was observed in mouse liver.” We’ll address that in a second or two.

Third, you need to know what kind of cells were used. They were not human cells. They were not primate cells. They were mouse cells. In fact, they were mouse liver cells. Were they regular mouse liver cells? Nope. They were mouse liver cells from a hepatoma, a liver tumor. So they were already abnormal cells to begin with. Remember what I wrote about apoptosis up there? Without apoptosis we get cancer? These researchers are trying to draw conclusions about apoptosis as it relates to the hepatitis B vaccine using mouse liver cells from a mouse with liver cancer. (But our anti-vaccine “friend” is trying to point out the horrors of the hepatitis B vaccine with this paper. No, that’s not a typo. I’m emphasizing her aim as I emphasize the non-weight of the study she cites.)

Fourth, you need to know what they did. They poured hepatitis B vaccine over the mouse liver cancer cells in a petri dish in lab conditions and measured how many cells were alive after certain periods of time. They also measured chemicals put out by the cells at those times. They concluded, quite right, that pouring vaccine over mouse cancer cells in a petri dish leads to changes at the molecular level of the cells, so much so that they begin dying. Big surprise. Here’s why…

Living, breathing biological systems are quite complex. When we are immunized, our bodies begin to work on the vaccines from the moment they enter our skin, muscles, airway, or gut. (Contrary to what anti-vaccine people will tell you, vaccines are not given straight into the bloodstream.) The cells around the vaccine site begin to metabolize, break down, the vaccine. White blood cells respond to the site to begin the process of identifying the attenuated pathogen or bit of pathogen and begin production of antibodies for immunity. The whole thing takes many steps in many places beginning at the site of immunization and ending at the site where the byproducts of the vaccine exit our body – like the intestines, the kidneys, or, yes, the liver (which leads to the intestines).

People seem to think that hepatitis vaccines, because they are aimed at protecting the liver, somehow act upon the liver. This is not the case in humans. The vaccine acts upon our immune system, which creates antibodies to be on “standby” to protect the liver. When you get exposed to hepatitis B, the virus doesn’t enter the liver directly. It needs to elude the immune system and find your liver. This is why not everyone who is exposed gets sick, though they still make antibodies to show exposure.

In short, you and I are made up of trillions of cells which make up dozens of types of tissues and organs, and they all work together to protect and repair each other. Mouse liver cancer cells in a petri dish in a lab stood no chance no matter what you threw at them, short of nutritive broth. You could have put deionized water in there and see them swell up and explode due to osmosis. You could have put water with a high salt content in there and see them shrivel. Does that mean that drinking water will make your liver explode? Of course not! Our entire body will work together to keep osmotic pressures at a balance. That’s why you pee, to keep water levels in check.

But that’s not what the anti-vaccine people read into this. They just read the title of the paper, called it a “study”, and ran away with the results. Why? Because it suits their needs. Because they don’t understand the science. Because they want to scare you.

Oh, and about that last sentence in the abstract: Without having the full paper in hand, we cannot conclude a single thing about what happened “in vivo” (the scientific jargon for having occurred within a living organism). For all we know, the human vaccine is bad for mice, or they injected it right into their liver. But all that is speculation unless I have more information. I won’t speculate. I’m not an antivaxer.