That whole aborted fetus thing

Those who know me well know that I’m not big on the pro-life people. I totally understand their objections to abortion, most of those objections, anyway. I just don’t understand their obsession with telling women what to do with their bodies or telling people in general what healthcare decisions they should make in consultations with a healthcare provider. Well, one of the objections to vaccination that I hear a lot is that vaccines “contain aborted fetus cells”. This is akin to me saying that the house dust around me, uh, house contains dead people.

Let me explain…

Let’s establish some quick facts. First, vaccines have saved millions of lives and millions of dollars in resources by preventing diseases that kill or disable people of all ages. Second, whether we like it or not, we live in a utilitarian society, where the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. It’s sad, especially when you think of kids with a very rare genetic disease who have no hope for a cure because there is virtually no funding for research. But that’s the way things are. Third, it is our responsibility as moral and ethical human beings to learn from tragedies and wrongs so that some good can come of them. This is why surgeons write-up their worst mistakes, pilots give courses on accidents they’ve had, and recovering drug addicts speak to audiences of at-risk youths.

When someone who dies donates their organs, they are making a contribution to society that is very difficult to compare. Out of a tragedy comes life for others. This is the case with respect to the two cell lines currently used in the United States to make vaccines. First, let’s recap real quick how some viral vaccines are made.

Viruses, if you remember, are small organisms that replicate strictly inside of cells. Viruses don’t have their own multiplication mechanism. Because of this, it is necessary to have cells in petri dishes in a lab in order to grow viruses to study them and then make vaccines. These cells had to come from somewhere, and scientists have tried many different types of cells. They’ve tried cells from animals, from insects, from plants. They have tried kidney cells, lung cells, brain cells, etcetera.

In the 1960’s, two fetuses were aborted. One was 3 months gestation, and the other was 14 weeks gestation. One was a girl, and the other was a boy. Cells from their lungs were taken and grown in the lab. Those cells multiplied and created other cells. Then different viruses were placed in those cells and found to grow. Not only did the viruses just grow, but they grew well. The cells multiplied at a good rate. They were able to keep a steady supply of cells for research. The viruses placed in those cells also grew well. They were able to be attenuated and otherwise used for vaccines.

It’s been over 40 years since these cell lines were harvested from aborted fetuses and used to create life-saving vaccines. The cells in those petri dishes – simplifying a bit – are the daughters of the daughters of the granddaughters of the… Well, you get the point. The cells we have today are generations removed from the original fetal cells. Just like my cells are not the cells of my great grandfather. Just like the house dust is not me anymore. Know what I mean?

So, yeah, it’s a tragedy that those fetuses were aborted. Abortion is one of those things I wish didn’t exist. But to say that I can’t use a vaccine to prevent a deadly disease because cells used today for growing the vaccine strain of the viruses are derived from cells cultivated 40+ years ago? That’s one heck of a stretch. It’s not like we’re aborting fetuses left and right to make vaccines, for crying out loud.

Everything But The Cursed Vaccine

One of the big arguments that many anti-vaccine people will give you to downplay the importance of immunization is that “vaccines didn’t save us”. They will present as evidence the fact that deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases have been on the decline in the United States in modern times, particularly since potable water and sewer systems were installed in major population centers. They ask, then, that we do away with the US vaccine program and instead encourage good hygienic practices… LIKE WE DON’T DO THAT ALREADY.

If you were to read a public health message from any public health agency in October and November, that message would probably be about influenza, which peaks in the winter here in North America. In those messages, you will never read that the flu vaccine is the only way to prevent influenza. Better yet, you will even read from many public health professionals that frequent hand washing is the best way to prevent influenza, even better than the vaccine.

That’s right, anti-vaxers, the “Pharma Shills” are placing the interests of soap companies above those of Big Pharma. Shocking!

This is because public health professionals, for the most part, see public health problems as multi-faceted, multi-dimensional problems. No one problem is unique. Public health is not monolithic. Every single issue of public health concern has many sides to it, many causes, so it has many ways to approach it. When it comes to respiratory infections – like the flu – that are transmitted from person to person via respiratory droplets, we recommend to the public that they wash their hands, keep their distance if they’re sick and from sick people, and, if one is available, get vaccinated.

Let me explain it this way. What [expletive] general would ever send their troops to war without telling them all the ways they can defeat the enemy and equipping them with the best tools for the job? (Answer: One that doesn’t want to win.) So we tell the public all the evidence-based ways that they can prevent or control disease. It really isn’t all about vaccines.

But that is not what people in the anti-vaccine camp think. In their minds, we’re out there vaccinating at gunpoint. In their version of reality, we want everyone to develop autism from an imaginary conspiracy in their heads where vaccines cause autism while giving those of us who promote them some major profits. It’s almost like we’re not even on the same planet some times.

So you hear all of these talking heads – so-called experts – claiming that there are other ways, better ways to combat disease, so much so that vaccines are unnecessary and – in the minds of some of them – a dangerous proposition. There’s a pediatrician whose answer to childhood diseases is breastfeeding. There is a whacky lady down under whose answer to horrible things like whooping cough is everything BUT vaccines. (She has even denied that such a thing as whooping cough exists.) There are celebrities who trust homeopathy. And there are the poor parents who’ve believed these things and then lost – truly lost, as in dead – a child to a vaccine-preventable disease.

I’m not going to deny that potable water and sanitation have prevented a lot of death and disease in developed countries, nor am I going to deny that those systems are needed in developing countries to improve their standards of living. I’d be out of a job if I did. (Talk about conflicts of interest.) Potable water eliminates cholera. Draining swamps and installing nets eliminates malaria. Sewer systems take care of other waterborne infections.

But what about things like measles? It’s not waterborne. It’s not in the food. It’s in the air around an infected person, and it’s very infectious. What’s worse, the person is infectious to others before they have any symptoms. At least with diarrheal diseases – with the exception of asymptomatic carriers like Typhoid Mary – you have to get the diarrhea before you give it to others. That’s one good control measure we could instal: Diarrhea? Stay away! Yet that is not the case with measles or chickenpox. Even people with influenza are infectious about 24 hours before they are symptomatic.

The other thing about infectious like measles is that humans are the only reservoirs of the contagion. If we all got vaccinated, or at least the overwhelming majority (about 95%), we could eradicated – as was the case with smallpox. Then there wouldn’t be a need for any more vaccination. But no! Anti-vaccine advocates have done enough damage to the point that measles is making a comeback. I mean, those [expletive] will even go as far as to mail the [expletive] virus to other people!

So, yes, let’s have potable water. Let’s have sewer systems. Let’s give antibiotics/antivirals and continue research into their development and improvement. Let’s wash our hands, cook our food, and refrigerate the leftovers. AND let’s vaccinate, a safe and effective way to give these diseases the stab in the heart they deserve.

NVIC: Information that’s not. Exhibit C.

It’s one of the most widely used tricks to misinform the public. Take a quote from an official source and splice it to your advantage. One of the people associated with NVIC did just that. As always, I don’t name names, but here is the article. Here is the key part of that article:

“Researchers noted: “Despite widespread childhood vaccination against Bordetella pertussis, disease remains prevalent. It has been suggested that acellular vaccine may be less effective than previously believed. Our data suggests that the current schedule of acellular pertussis vaccine doses is insufficient to prevent outbreaks of pertussis.””

The writer then goes on an anti-pertussis vaccine rant. Read more below to see what he did.
The writer quoted the “Background” “Conclusions” section of this research paper. If you click on that link, you’ll read the ENTIRE “Conclusions” section. It reads (with the part that the writer failed to include in bold):

“Our data suggests that the current schedule of acellular pertussis vaccine doses is insufficient to prevent outbreaks of pertussis. We noted a markedly increased rate of disease from age 8 through 12, proportionate to the interval since the last scheduled vaccine. Stable rates of testing ruled out selection bias. The possibility of earlier or more numerous booster doses of acellular pertussis vaccine either as part of routine immunization or for outbreak control should be entertained.”

Here is the “Background” section (with the part that the writer failed to include in bold):

“Despite widespread childhood vaccination against Bordetella pertussis, disease remains prevalent. It has been suggested that acellular vaccine may be less effective than previously believed. During a large outbreak, we examined the incidence of pertussis and effectiveness of vaccination in a well-vaccinated, well-defined community.

Then he writes the following about “cocooning” and another research paper:

“Known as “cocooning,” this controversial practice is being promoted by the AAP and government health officials as a way of protecting babies from whooping cough and other infectious diseases like influenza by vaccinating their parents and other adult caregivers. However, there is little evidence to show that this works! In fact, research from Canada showed just the opposite. The Canadian study investigated how many parents would need to be vaccinated in order to prevent infant hospitalizations and deaths from pertussis using the cocoon strategy, and the results were dismal. They found the number needed to vaccinate (NNV) for parental immunization was at least 1 million to prevent 1 infant death, approximately 100,000 for ICU admission, and >10,000 for hospitalization.iv Researchers concluded: “… the parental cocoon program is inefficient and resource intensive for the prevention of serious outcomes in early infancy.””

What did the actual study conclude? In addition to destroying the writer’s assertion that the whooping cough vaccine doesn’t work by showing that the use of vaccine reduced both the number of cases and the number of deaths from whooping cough, the Canadian study had this conclusion (again, I bolded the part the writer failed to include):

“In the context of low pertussis incidence, the parental cocoon program is inefficient and resource intensive for the prevention of serious outcomes in early infancy. Regions contemplating the cocoon program should consider the NNV based on local epidemiology.

Imagine that! If your rates of whooping cough are high, or the burden of the disease is heavy, based on local epidemiology, then you should take those things into consideration in your cocooning program. In other words, don’t commit the ecological fallacy in applying Canada-level data to your local community. This is exactly what the writer does, only in reverse. He wants to apply “the incidence of pertussis and effectiveness of vaccination in a well-vaccinated, well-defined community” to the entire [expletive] country’s immunization program.

In conclusion, the writer – who is constantly associated with NVIC and whose opinion has been used by NVIC in its practices to misinform the public – took two studies and failed to include the complete “conclusions” part of the studies in his assessment of whooping cough vaccination practices. I’m sure it was just an oversight. After all, if you truly want to inform the public, you put all your cards on the table, even the science that disagrees with your theory, and then let the public decide. Right?

The Anti-Vaccine Reality Distortion Field

There used to be a time when diseases that are now vaccine-preventable used to be, well, non-preventable because there were no vaccines for them. Because we made it far as a species, it is the sincerely held belief from some anti-vaccine people that we don’t need vaccines. That, or they think that vaccine-preventable diseases are not deadly.

Take, for example, chicken pox (varicella). Before the vaccine was introduced in 1995, about 100 people or so died form it, and over 11,000 were hospitalized per year from chickenpox. In a country of several hundred million, 100 deaths don’t seem like a lot. You probably wouldn’t call chickenpox “deadly” at that rate. But try telling that to those 100 families. See if they agree with you.

Since the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine, the number of deaths per year from it in the United States has dropped to less than 5. Let that sink in for a little bit. Each year, 95 people who would have otherwise died from chickenpox are alive to be productive in society, to hug and love and be with those who love them. Let THAT sink in a little.
Ah, but no! Anti-vaccine advocates will go as far as organize chickenpox parties to expose their children to the virus. Willingly or not, they want to “up” that number from 5 to 10 or 20 or, why the [expletive] not, all the way back to status quo at 100 if we do away with the vaccine altogether. I think they do it because they are not the ones explaining to those 100 families why their loved ones died FROM A PREVENTABLE DISEASE.

That is, IF they believed that chickenpox kills. Perhaps because chickenpox deaths are rare, there are those in the anti-vaccine camp who believe that chickenpox doesn’t kill.

Exhibit A

The person on top was trying to show the person on the bottom that, yes, in fact, chickenpox does kill. It killed before, and it can kill again if we stop vaccinating. The person on the bottom would have none of it. The person on the bottom questioned the mental health of the other person for even suggesting that chickenpox kills. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the degree of denial that people who have swallowed anti-vaccine tropes hook, line, and sinker will go to.

In their version of reality, chickenpox doesn’t kill.

In the rest of the world’s version of reality, chickenpox not only kills. It can leave a child with all sorts of complications. It’s even worse for adults, causing swelling of the brain and other problems. In their version of reality, vaccines didn’t cause the >95% reduction in the number of deaths. In the real world, however, study after study, observational and experimental, has shown that the vaccine is nothing short of a gift from God.

In the real world, we had to explain to this family why chickenpox took their child.

NVIC: Information that’s not. Exhibit B.

So I’ve already told you about VAERS and how it’s not really true “evidence” of how mean and bad vaccines can be (because they’re not). I also told you that the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) takes information on vaccines and seems to only be presenting you, the consumer, with the bad parts about vaccines. Very seldom do they present the good side of vaccines. In fact, I’m yet to read anything from them that shows how vaccines have vanquished two viruses (one very bad for humans and one bad for cattle) and reduced the incidence of some very horrible diseases. For exhibit B in this little “indictment”, let’s look at how they misuse VAERS data themselves.
First, let’s look at the official page for VAERS, which you can find here. It has several sections. First, the guide to interpreting the data:

“When evaluating data from VAERS, it is important to note that for any reported event, no cause-and-effect relationship has been established. Reports of all possible associations between vaccines and adverse events (possible side effects) are filed in VAERS. Therefore, VAERS collects data on any adverse event following vaccination, be it coincidental or truly caused by a vaccine. The report of an adverse event to VAERS is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event.”

Did you read that? It reads “any adverse event following vaccination, be it coincidental or truly caused by a vaccine”. Furthermore, just to re-emphacize, a “report of an adverse event to VAERS is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event“. One more time, just to be clear: is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event. And again: is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event.

Are we clear?

This is what the NVIC page about VAERS, with access to the data, has to say about VAERS:

Oh, they’ll send you to the official link, like I did, but no where do they say that reports are not documentation that vaccines caused the events. Of course not. Also not that they write that the reports are of “adverse health events that follow the administration of vaccines”.

Let’s continue our comparison.

The official page reads the following:

“More than 10 million vaccines per year are given to children less than 1 year old, usually between 2 and 6 months of age. At this age, infants are at greatest risk for certain medical adverse events, including high fevers, seizures, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Some infants will experience these medical events shortly after a vaccination by coincidence.
These coincidences make it difficult to know whether a particular adverse event resulted from a medical condition or from a vaccination. Therefore, vaccine providers are encouraged to report all adverse events following vaccination, whether or not they believe the vaccination was the cause.”

Did you catch that last part? They state that “vaccine providers are encouraged to report all adverse events following vaccination, whether or not they believe that vaccination was the cause.” Again, “whether or not they believe that the vaccination was the cause”.

NVIC? What do they say about causality?

Well, nothing. The two previous screenshots are all that NVIC has to say about causality as it relates to VAERS reports. Well, all they have to say before you access the data.

CDC, on the other hand, has one more section for you to read:

“When reviewing data from VAERS, please keep in mind the following limitations: VAERS is a passive reporting system, meaning that reports about adverse events are not automatically collected, but require a report to be filed to VAERS. VAERS reports can be submitted voluntarily by anyone, including healthcare providers, patients, or family members. Reports vary in quality and completeness. They often lack details and sometimes can have information that contains errors.
 “Underreporting” is one of the main limitations of passive surveillance systems, including VAERS. The term, underreporting refers to the fact that VAERS receives reports for only a small fraction of actual adverse events. The degree of underreporting varies widely. As an example, a great many of the millions of vaccinations administered each year by injection cause soreness, but relatively few of these episodes lead to a VAERS report. Physicians and patients understand that minor side effects of vaccinations often include this kind of discomfort, as well as low fevers. On the other hand, more serious and unexpected medical events are probably more likely to be reported than minor ones, especially when they occur soon after vaccination, even if they may be coincidental and related to other causes.
 A report to VAERS generally does not prove that the identified vaccine(s) caused the adverse event described. It only confirms that the reported event occurred sometime after vaccine was given. No proof that the event was caused by the vaccine is required in order for VAERS to accept the report. VAERS accepts all reports without judging whether the event was caused by the vaccine.
 DISCLAIMER: Please note that VAERS staff follow-up on all serious and other selected adverse event reports to obtain additional medical, laboratory, and/or autopsy records to help understand the concern raised. However, in general coding terms in VAERS do not change based on the information received during the follow-up process. VAERS data should be used with caution as numbers and conditions do not reflect data collected during follow-up. Note that the inclusion of events in VAERS data does not infer causality.”

Wow, that’s a lot of information before you even start looking at the data! I thought information was NVIC’s job, being the “information” center and all. But, no, they link to the official site, but then they allow you to dive into the data.

We’re going to dive into the data as well, comparing the two systems for accessing the data. For [expletive] and giggles, let’s look at reports of deaths following the HPV vaccine, a subject that’s all the rage lately. The official site has one more thing for you to acknowledge:

NVIC doesn’t ask you to read and understand the statements about causality. Those “pharma shills” from CDC do.

Here is CDCs search page. And here is NVICs search page. Using the same criteria, death associated with any of the three HPV vaccines, the official page gave me 74 entries. NVICs page gave me 110 or 143 entries, depending on what you’re counting. So, either CDC is hiding something or…

Ah, the “information center” database is counting a single event as multiple entries “because some events have multiple vaccinations and symptoms”. The HPV vaccine is given in a series of shots, so they’re counting one associated death several times, depending on how many of the vaccine’s series shots were given.

To be fair, let’s look at the first five reports from both systems, and you tell me if they’re definitely caused by the vaccine, as many anti-vaccine advocates would want you to believe.

First case is VAERS ID 275428-1:

“presented to ED with Ventricular tachycardia. Preliminary autopsy finding of myocarditis. 4/3/07 Spoke w/ME who stated prelim COD as acute myocarditis, presumably viral. States patient had PMH of heart murmur which was evaluated by ped cardiologist who found mild aortic & mitral valve insufficiency & regurgitation. ME states did not see evidence of that on autopsy but did find cardiomegaly. Also states patient had been taken to ER on day of death for abdominal pain w/fever & was dx w/gastroenteritis. CXR at that time revealed cardiomegaly. No EKG or cultures were done. Was d/c to home & continued to not feel well. Parent found patient in bathroom unresponsive at approx 2AM & was transported to a second ER where she expired. ME states patient had approx 2 week hx of cough & runny nose prior to death. 6/12/07 Received final Autopsy Report which reveals COD as acute probable viral etiology myocarditis & manner of death as natural. 6/29/07 Received ER records from hospital where patient expired which reveal patient was in respiratory arrest & had been intubated by EMS. ACLS measures were unsuccessful & patient pronounced. 8/24/07 Received cardiology consult which reveals patient evaluated for heart murmur in 2005 which had been diagnosed for long time but never evaluated. Patient admitted to palpitations & nervousness. Patient history did not reveal any evidence of rheumatic fever. Antibiotic endocarditis prophylaxis recommended prior to dental & surgical procedures. Patient was to f/u w/cardiology in 2-3 yearrs to document progress of valvular insufficiency. FINAL Cardiology DX: Aortic & mitral valve insufficiency of unknown etiology.”

So we have a patient who unfortunately died of myocarditis causing a ventricular tachycardia. Ventricular tachycardia is a heart malfunction where the heart beats are irregular. This is not a good thing. The patient’s heart was not right. Was it caused by the vaccine? Well, look at this part: “Received cardiology consult which reveals patient evaluated for heart murmur in 2005 which had been diagnosed for long time but never evaluated. Patient admitted to palpitations & nervousness. Patient history did not reveal any evidence of rheumatic fever. Antibiotic endocarditis prophylaxis recommended prior to dental & surgical procedures. Patient was to f/u w/cardiology in 2-3 yearrs to document progress of valvular insufficiency.”

Without knowing more, we can still infer that this patient had heart problems for a while. Did the vaccine aggravate these problems? Was it mere coincidence? Would this lethal heart condition have caused the patient’s death eventually, vaccine or not? We will never know, but that doesn’t stop conspiracy theorists from declaring the vaccine culpable:

The second case is VAERS ID 275438-1:

“Given Gardasil vaccine dose #1 3/12/07. No adverse reaction reported. Collapsed and died on 3/26/07 secondary emboli (records unavailable). 4/3/07 Spoke w/investigating deputy who stated autopsy done at Medical Center. T/C to physician at Medical Center who is actually a cardiologist, not pathologist, who had responded to the code & pronounced. Spoke w/secretary who states from Death Certificate COD is sudden cardiac death and pulmonary embolism. Echocardiogram revealed very enlarged right ventricle & small left ventricle as well as large blood clots within both the right atrium & right ventricle. 6/25/07 Received Autopsy Report which reveals following anatomic diagnosis: 1. Pulmonary embolism, occlusive a. pulmonary trunk, left hilar & peripheral vessels b. acute cor pulmonale (by echocardiogram) 2. Pulmonary congestion & edema, bilatera a. no evidence of anomalous coronary artery distribution b. no evidence of ventricular dysplasia This is in follow-up to report(s) previously submitted on 6/11/2007. Information has been received on request from the FDA under the Freedom of Information Act and from a physician who presented at the “”Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety World Health Organizaqtion”” concerning a 19 year female nonsmoker with no history who on 12-MAR-2007 was vaccinated IM into the left arm with a first dose of GARDASIL lot #655849/0263U). Concomitant therapy included oral contraceptives. There was no adverse reaction reported. Subsequently on 26-MAR-2007 the patient, while exercising on a field collapsed, began convulsing and died secondary to emboli. An autopsy was done and on the death certificate the following is documented “”sudden cardiac death and pulmonary embolisem.”” An Echocardiogram revealed a very enlarged right ventricle and small left ventricle as well as large blood clots within both the right atrium and right ventricle. Coronary artery thrombosis and thrombosis were alsor reported. Upon internal review convulsing was considered an other important medical event. The original reporting source was not provided. A standar lot check investigation was performed. All in-process quality checks for the lot number in question were satisfactory. In addition, an expaned lot check investigation was performed. The testing performed on the batch prior to release met all release specifications. The lot met the requirements of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and was released. No further information is available. This report was filed with the FDA. The VAERS number is 275438.”

Here is another unfortunate death from a blood clot to the lung (pulmonary embolism). The patient was vaccinated on March 12 and collapsed and died on March 26. But, did you catch one key piece of information? It’s right there, and it’s significant. Here it is:

“Concomitant therapy included oral contraceptives.”

Why is it key? It’s key because oral contraceptives (“the pill”) are associated with increased risk of – you guessed it – blood clots. But the conspiracy theorists won’t tell you this. Instead, they’ll paint a scary picture that this patient got the shot and died two weeks later, so it must have been the shot. No similar line of reasoning with regards to the pill.

The third case is VAERS ID 275990-1:

“Information has been received from a physician’s assistant (PA), via a company representative, concerning a female patient who was vaccinated (date unspecified) with a dose of Gardasil the PA reported that “”the patient died of a blood clot 3 hours after getting the Gardasil vaccine.”” The PA clarified that the patient was not vaccinated at her office. Additional information has been requested.”

A rumor. Let’s go to the fourth.

The fourth case is VAERS ID 278865-1:

“Onset of symptoms on 3/1/07: fever, sore throat, cough, and myalgia. Respiratory failure on 3/6/07. 6/1/07 Received Death Certificate from epidemiologist which reveals COD asmultiorgan system failure and influenza B viral sepsis with contributing cause of staphyloccoccal secondary infection. Medical records included w/death certificate indicate patient was transferred to higher level of care on 3/6, was intubated & in PICU w/pneumonia & ARDS. Reportedly had been in good health until 3/1/07 when she developed sore throat, nasal congestion, rhinnorhea & low grade fever. COntinued to worsen & developed myalgias, chest pain & nonproductive cough w/higher fever. Seen by PCP on 3/5 & rapid strep was neg & dx was probable influenza. Sent home & developed nausea, vomiting & diarrhea as well as petechial rash over abdomen. Taken to outlying ER on 3/6 & found to be in respiratory failure, intubated & transferred to higher level of care. Respiratory status declined further & was placed on oscillator & ECMO. Peds ID consult done. Consult states had HPV vax at PCP on 3/2 & no other recent vaccines. 6/1/07 Received fax medical & vaccine records from CDC who had contacted provider. Reveals that on 1/2/07, patient received TDaP & HPV. On 3/2/07 received HPV #2. VAERS database updated w/same. On day of vax patient also dx w/right CTS, migraine HA, scoliosis. She was referred to Neuro & PT for the CTS & HA.”

This one is simple. The patient had influenza B sepsis and a secondary Staph infection. This is not unheard of. In Maryland, there was a recent cluster of cases where several people died from influenza and Staph. Why are they linking it to the vaccine? Because the patient had the vaccine on June 2, a day after the onset of symptoms and four days before the patient died.

Last case is VAERS ID 279592-1:

“Information has been received from a licensed visiting nurse via a nurse practitioner. The nurse practitioner was told by a friend that a female patient was vaccinated with Gardasil and two weeks alter developed a blood clot. Subsequently the patient died. The cause of death was from the blood clot. The reporting licensed visiting nurse considered the blood clot to be immediately life-threatening and disabling. Additional information has been requested.”

But wait. Isn’t the medical establishment in league with Big Pharma? Why would a nurse report something against a product from Big Pharma? Never mind that. Notice that this one is also a bit of a rumor. The patient is somehow related to a person who told the nurse that someone died of a blood clot two weeks after the vaccine. The nurse then reported it to VAERS. And this is somehow evidence. For all we know, this case could be the second one in our analysis, leading to a question of how many of these cases are duplicates. (And don’t even get me started on how many of these blood clots may have been due to contraceptive use.)

But let’s look at a bonus case, VAERS ID 287888-1:

“Information has been received from a nurse practitioner concerning a 22 year old female patient with no pertinent medical history or drug allergies who on 21-MAY-2007, was vaccinated IM with a 0.5ml dose of Gardasil (Lot# 657736/0389U). Concomitant therapy included hormonal contraceptives (unspecified) (“”MERCET””). On 23-MAY-2007, the patient died suddenly. The cause of death was unknown. Unspecified medical attention was sought. Laboratory diagnostic studies included an autopsy which showed no findings. No product quality complaint was involved. The reporter stated that Gardasil did not cause the patient’s death. Additional information is not expected. 7/2/08-records received-Adverse effect of drugs.Toxicology survey findings:urine positive for methadone, benzodiazepines, benzoylecgonine (from cocaine), cannabinoids, nicotine, diphenhydramine and naproxen.”

Did you read the last part? “Cocaine, cannabinoids, nicotine, diphenhydramine and naproxen.” No, no, no, I’m sure it was the vaccine.

One more thing…

There is this guy who claims that he analyzes the data in VAERS and puts together some fancy graphs. He writes for the NVIC blog about VAERS. Here is his entry on the HPV vaccine and pregnant women. He created this very scary tree of symptoms and conditions associated with pregnancy and HPV vaccine (click to see larger):

Without placing ANYTHING in context, he makes it look like all these horrible things are caused by the HPV vaccine if you give it to a pregnant woman. He even writes:
“As you can see, the most common issue is “Foetal complications” followed by “Abortions and stillbirth” and “Maternal complications”. The graph continues deeper, showing more symptom detail. So it appears that, according to VAERS reports involving pregnant women who received the HPV vaccine, they indeed had substantial pregnancy-related difficulties and the pattern of symptoms appears to be different than what is generally reported to VAERS.”

Information? Maybe. The correct information, one that includes the risks of HPV-related tumors – or other vaccine-preventable diseases – and the real numbers (nominators and denominators) as well as the fact that studies (case-control ones) have been done on vaccines and have not found them to be unsafe… That information seems to be somehow missing from NVIC, the “information” center.

Exhibit C coming soon.

NVIC "Information". Exhibit A

If you don’t know who or what the NVIC is, I suggest you read the Wikipedia page for it. Don’t bother yourself with their “about” page. You won’t get the whole story there. You’ve got to Google it and do your own research, man. (See what I did there?) Seriously, thought, we can talk all day about who runs the NVIC or what kind of agenda they have, but it is all meaningless without evidence of their anti-vaccine slant.

So I have the evidence here of that anti-vaccine slant, right out of their own webpage.
Exhibit A is their own page on Hepatitis A. Let me tell you about Hep A. It is an infection of the liver that is very infectious. It doesn’t take a lot of virus to get you sick. And, when you get sick, you get really sick. You get so sick that you better make sure that your liver is up to code. If you are on certain medications of have had other liver infections like Hep B or Hep C, you better get yourself to a doctor immediately. Heck, you better get yourself to a doctor even if you don’t have underlying liver disease. Why?

Hepatitis A causes a liver infection that really messes with the liver’s ability to function. The liver is integral in “cleaning” your blood by removing toxins. The classic example of what the liver does is its ability to clear out alcohol. You drink alcohol, a toxin, and the enzymes in your liver turn the alcohol to more water-soluble compounds so you can just pee it out before it harms your brain. If you get Hep A, your liver is not able to do this with alcohol or any other toxin (or medication), placing you at risk for the most severe of complications.

Of course, Hep A is totally manageable, and most people who get it recover from it in time and live a long life afterward. But, seriously, why would you want to gamble with it? So there’s a vaccine that is safe and effective for you to protect yourself from Hep A if you are traveling to countries where it is endemic, work in group settings such as prisons or hospitals, work with it in the lab, or use/abuse IV drugs, or have an underlying condition like Hep B or Hep C that would make Hep A a very deadly ordeal. The vaccine is licensed in the United States for people age 1 and older.

Okay, so now you know about Hep A, and you know there is a vaccine. What about that vaccine? Merck and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) both make a Hep A vaccine. Merck’s vaccine is given in two doses. GSK’s vaccine is given in up to four doses because one of the two GSK vaccines combines Hep B vaccine as well. Studies show that the immunity lasts about 25 years for adults and 14-20 years in children. Immunity may last longer if you get “boosted” through exposure. Natural immunity after infection is not known to last any differently, mostly because there just haven’t been the studies where we intentionally infect someone and follow them for years while preventing them from being boosted.

What about the vaccine’s safety? Well, it can cause pain, redness, and maybe swelling at the site of the injection. Death? Nope. Disability? Nope. Autism? Nope.

At least that’s what the science tells us. What does the NVIC tell us? Here:

“The following information is provided to as a public service by the National Vaccine Information Center to help you understand the disease hepatitis A and the hepatitis A vaccine so you can make an informed decision regarding the use of this vaccine. This information is not intended to serve as medical advice but as background information that you can use to educate yourself and ask your doctor questions.”

Alright. Sounds reasonable. What else?

“On December 1, 2004 Hepatitis A vaccine was added to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program’s (VICP)  Vaccine Injury Table, as published in the Federal Register.  If you feel that your health problems are related to the Hepatitis A it is your right to file for compensation.  To learn more about the VICP and how to file a claim, please visit our injury compensation webpage.”

Ah. They want you to know that there is a vaccine injury table, almost as if to say that the vaccine is known to cause injuries. Their link, by the way, is broken. Here is the live link. I’m sure it’s just an oversight. After all, when you’re misinforming the public, you might not have time to check your webpage much. And NVIC won’t tell you what the table states about Hep A vaccine. Go check it out yourself and tell me if it’s worthwhile to scare people by saying that the vaccine is on that table.

Alright, I’ll show you. Here is what the table says about the vaccine:

In other words, contrary to what NVIC will tell you about the table, you will get NO compensation immediately if you claim the Hep A vaccine did something because it has not been shown to be even remotely associated with anything.

Okay, what else?

“Hepatitis A is a viral disease of the liver that is contracted through contact with, or swallowing of human fecal waste, generally through eating or drinking contaminated food and/or water.
Hepatitis A thrives in areas with poor sanitation and is spread when people eat or drink something that has been contaminated with human body waste products. Children often show no symptoms and the disease is more serious in adults.”

And…

“Hepatitis A is spread almost exclusively by the fecal-oral route and is most often associated with poor sanitation and hygiene, and overcrowded living conditions.
It also is associated with lower socioeconomic status, certain sexual practices, and injected drug use. However, outbreaks of hepatitis A have also occurred in restaurants, daycare centers, nursing homes, and other institutions and community settings.
Some outbreaks of hepatitis A have been traced to contaminated food, water, milk, frozen raspberries and strawberries, and shellfish.
Among adults with identified risk factors, the majority of cases are among men who have sex with men, persons who use illegal drugs, and international travelers. Because transmission of hepatitis A during sexual activity probably occurs because of fecal-oral contact, measures typically used to prevent the transmission of other STDs (e.g., use of condoms) do not prevent hepatitis A transmission.
Hepatitis A infections also have been linked to children adopted from certain countries.”

See what they did there? They’re setting it up so that God-fearing, all-American, heterosexual, drug-free, church-going, money-making people have nothing to fear. I mean, you might get it from contaminated food, but that’s a low risk and you’re better off just washing your hands, having sex only with women, staying away from needles, and not traveling to those countries. Just wash your hands and you’ll be okay, they seem to say. (My opinion.)

In case you didn’t catch that last part about who is at risk and why, they mention it once again:

“Poor personal hygiene can increase the chances of spreading hepatitis A. That is why frequent hand washing with soap and water, particularly after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before preparing or eating food, is very important in preventing the spread of hepatitis A.
It also has been identified as a risk factor in daycare centers and intensive care neonatal units.
Travel to Third World countries, where hepatitis A is more prevalent, also is an identified risk factor for getting this infection.”

Wash your hands, Jose! Wash your [expletive] hands!

What about the vaccine? Well, I’m trying to get there, but NVIC keeps hammering the whole hygiene, not in my America, and sexual practices thing. I mean, they mention it again:

“In 2007 (the latest year for which data are available) 18 percent of all cases of Hepatitis A were attributable to international travel. Approximately 85 percent of all travel-related cases were associated with travel to Mexico and to Central or South America.”

And again:

“Waterborne outbreaks, though infrequent, are usually associated with sewage-contaminated, or inadequately treated, water.”

Dammit! What about the [expletive] vaccine?

“The ACIP has approved three inactivated , injectable vaccines for hepatitis A: Havrix; Twinrix; and Vaqta.”

Thank you!

But here is where NVIC gets all weird. Remember that the vaccine is not associated with adverse events. It only causes redness and swelling at the site of the injection in some people. It hasn’t caused death. It hasn’t caused disability. It hasn’t caused tumors, autism, or anything else. It has only prevented Hep A. But NVIC, true to form, wants to scare us with the ingredients:

“Havrix contains viral antigen and aluminum hydroxide (an adjuvant) with amino acid supplement in a phosphate buffered saline solution, polysorbate 20 (an emulsifier). The virus is propagated in human diploid cells. It also has neomycin (an antibiotic) in it. It does not contain preservatives.
The tip cap and the plunger on the syringe have latex in them.
Twinrix is a combination vaccine that is intended to protect against both hepatitis A and hepatitis B. It is manufactured using MRC-5, which was derived from a cell line that was developed in 1966 from lung tissue taken from a 14-week aborted fetus and contains viral antigens, yeast, aluminum phosphate, aluminum hydroxide, neomycin and formalin (formaldehyde and water). It does not contain preservatives.
The tip cap and the plunger on the syringe have latex in them.
Vaqta contains inactivated whole virus grown in human MRC-5 human diploid fibroblasts from lung tissue taken from an aborted fetus.
It is formalin inactivated and adsorbed onto amorphous aluminum hydroxyphosphate sulfate. It also has traces of bovine albumin and formaldehyde. It does not contain preservatives. The tip cap and the plunger on the syringe have latex in them.”

I’m not going to deny that it contains all of these things. What NVIC is not telling you is HOW MUCH of these things does it have? Further, they mention latex to scare away people with latex allergies. (Guess what? The latex never comes into contact with you, or goes into you.) And then there’s the whole “cells from an aborted fetus” gambit.

So, back in 1966, a fetus was aborted. For research purposes, some lung tissue was taken. During research, scientists discovered that the fetus’ lung cells worked really well in the lab to grow viruses in it. It was stable, the cells multiplied well, and the viruses really liked it. Instead of just discarding the fetus, scientists decided to give that irreversible abortion meaning by using those cells to create vaccines and therapies that have saved thousands if not millions of lives. It’s been 46 years and counting. I’m pretty sure those cells are not from the fetus anymore than the house dust on my window sill is any part of me. (House dust is mostly dead skin cells.)

Whatever.

NVIC also mentions all those adjuvants and emulsifiers because… Well, because they want to link them to adverse reactions. But remember what I wrote up there about known complications. They just don’t exist. They don’t.

That doesn’t stop NVIC from this:

How Effective Is the Hepatitis A Vaccine?All three Hepatitis A vaccine package inserts warn that the vaccines may not, or cannot, prevent or treat the disease in someone who is already infected or has been infected with hepatitis A. They also warn that some immunocompromised individuals may not be fully protected, either.”

That doesn’t answer the question about effectiveness, does it? The question was how effective the vaccine is, but the answer was that it doesn’t cure the infection once the infection occurs. It’s a clever play with words to say that “vaccines may not, or cannot, prevent or treat the disease in someone who is already infected or has been infected with hepatitis A.” In fact, that last part is puzzling. There is a difference between “someone who is already infected” and someone who “has been infected with hepatitis A”.

Confused? I am.

Oh, and then there is this:

Can the Hepatitis A Vaccine Cause Injury and/or Death?There is a gap in medical knowledge in terms of predicting who will have an adverse reaction to the hepatitis A vaccine and who will not.
However, reading the manufacturer’s product package inserts (see below) under “contraindications, warnings and precautions, and adverse reactions,” will help you weigh the vaccine’s benefits and risks before making a decision for yourself or your child.
Within the hepatitis A manufacturers’ vaccine package inserts, some of the adverse events reported ranged from fever, to nausea and loss of appetite, to dizziness, and neuromuscular symptoms, including Guillian Barre Syndrome.”

Followed by this:

“Since the vaccine was licensed in 1996, there have been thousands of serious adverse events to this vaccine reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), including deaths.”

I don’t get it. Either there have been no known deaths associated with the vaccine or there have. But you, dear reader, should already know how anti-vaccine groups use VAERS to their own aims. But let’s humor NVIC and look at VAERS for those deaths associated with Hep A vaccines.

I found 57 VAERS reports of death and any of the Hep A vaccines. Here are some chosen ones:

VAERS ID 113911-1: “pt recv vax DEC96 & JUL97 blood work in MAR showed no sign of disease;cancer of colon w/advanced metastases to liver detected in AUG because of rapid onset, want this on record;”

VAERS ID 160423-1: “Post vax, the pt was playing badminton in high school physical education class when he collapsed. CPR started by PE teacher and school nurse until paramedics arrived. Expired at hospital. Autopsy performed. Pathology tissues of heart sent for conduction studies.”

VAERS ID 166212-1: “Pt was given Hep-A vaccine at 18:00-18:15. He was a chaplain with the Police Dept and was riding with a Police Officer. The Police Officer took the pt home at 23:30. States that the pt had no complaints at that time. At 02:15, the Police Dept was informed by the pt’s wife that he had been sent to the hospital and died. Autopsy states cause of death as atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Other significant conditions: diabetes, hypertension, obesity.”

VAERS ID 175712-1: “The parent reported some fever the evening of the vaccine. Normal day of 09/21/01. The family put the child down to bed, no symptoms 09/21/01 at 8:00 pm. Family checked at 9 pm, the child’s color was white, unresponsive. Rushed to the hospital, the child arrested. Autopsy findings for cause of death were bronchopneumonia, laryngitis, cerebral edema.”

VAERS ID 207834-1: “administered on 11/14/02. All vaccines were administered on the same date. The patient died on 12/15/02. The CDC investigation confirmed that the patient was positive for serogroup C, Meningococcal infection. The onset date of signs and symptoms were not reported… From additional information received on 08/12/2003 from a pathology department, it was reported that the patient presented with an acute onset of a rash on his feet that spread to his face over a period of a few hours, after a 3 day history of a cough and sore throat. The symptoms progressed rapidly to severe respiratory distress and shock. The patient was treated with advanced cardiac life support in the ICU (intensive care unit) and died within three hours of presenting to the hospital. The patient died at 1:01 pm on 12/15/2002; the autopsy was done the following day and showed that the cause of death was Neisseria Meningitidis Septicemia (Meningococcemia). Gross autopsy findings included evidence acute shock syndrome with diffuse petechia and hemorrhage to multiple organs, visceral congestions, shock kidneys, and a blothcy erythematous rash to the organs and a few scattered foci of acute inflammation within the myocardium and meninges. The clinical presentation, autopsy findings, and laboratory PCR results were consistent with Neisseria Meningitidis (meningococcal) Septicemia.”

VAERS ID 211782-1: “Pt did vigorous physical training session just before dinner, went to dinner, didn’t feel well (upset stomach), went to baracks, apparently fell out of top bunk, was unresponsive. CPR started promptly with physician assistant attending. EMS arrived, pt was in asystole with no response to ACLS protocols. Transported to ER and ACLS continued with no response. Post-mortem x-ray showed no skeletal fracture or dislocation. Well known to unit PA; high blood presure; 15-year smoking history, new heart murmur 1/6 systolic. Diagnosed with URI on 09/30/2003 and treated with Deconamine SR BIDx 10d. Preliminary autopsy findings: ASCVD with left main coronary artery occluded 90%, left anterior descending cornonary artery occluded 85%. Final autopsy report awaits tissue and toxicology findings. Nurse follow up on 11/08/04 states: “”Severe Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease.”””

VAERS ID 252079-1: “The subject is a female with the date of birth of 10/18/2000, who expired due to cancer while enrolled in a comparative post marketing safety study of Daptacel (Diphtheria and Tetanus toxoids and Acellular pertussis vaccine absorbed) administered with other recommended vaccines according to standard of care at 2, 4, and 6 months of age in infants and as a booster to toddlers. The subject received the study vaccine on 5/13/2003. Other vaccines administered on that day included a dose of IPOL, lot number W01972, a dose of hepatitis A vaccine, lot number 0498N, a dose of MMR/measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, lot number 0858M, and a dose of VZV, lot number 0485N, manufacturer unknown…”

Of course, there are rumors like this one:

VAERS ID 271331-1: “I read the patient’s obituary in the newspaper, please refer to primary care physician for more details. I never received any call regarding any adverse event regarding actual vaccines.”
Not that it will stop NVIC from saying this is an adverse event to a vaccine.

Of course, there are many more cases in there for which we don’t have the whole story. But you know from my previous post that VAERS is not evidence. It’s a good jump-off point to form theories or watch out for patterns. Evidence it is not.

So let’s finish reading what NVIC has to say about the Hep A vaccine, namely, why it should not be given:

“Hepatitis A does not cause chronic, long term infection and very rarely causes death. Infection with hepatitis A gives a person lifelong immunity and, in some populations around the world, close to 100 percent of all inhabitants have antibodies to hepatitis A.
The CDC states that persons at high risk for hepatitis A are household and sexual contacts of infected persons; drug users; persons traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common; and persons living in regions where there are “consistently increased rates of hepatitis A.”
The best tool for prevention of hepatitis A is to wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper or preparing and eating food.
While the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) supports the availability of hepatitis A vaccine for all who choose to use it, NVIC opposes the mandated use of hepatitis A vaccine for the following reasons:

  • Hepatitis Does Not Cause Chronic Infection and Rarely Causes Death:
  • Hepatitis A has a mortality rate of less than one percent (0.6) and over 70 percent of deaths occur in adults over the age of 49. Almost everyone who gets hepatitis A recovers from it without any treatment. Plus, it is so rarely fatal that the CDC does not show a record of deaths from it some years.

  • Hepatitis A Gives Lifelong Immunity But the Vaccine Does Not:
  • Children often show no symptoms if they get hepatitis A and then develop lifelong immunity to the infection, but nobody knows how long vaccine-induced immunity will last. (All vaccines give only temporary immunity).

  • Child-to-Child Transmission in School is Rare:
  • According to the CDC, “Child-to-child disease transmission [of hepatitis A] within the school setting is uncommon.”  

  • Hepatitis A Vaccine Can Cause Reactions:
  • The vaccine can cause unpleasant or even health- or life-threatening conditions, such as Guillian-Barre Syndrome (see vaccine side effects under “Can the Hepatitis A Vaccine Cause Injury and/or Death”).”

There you have it, folks. Hep A is nothing to worry about if your lifestyle is the right one, or just wash your [expletive] hands. Hepatitis A vaccine has “caused” death and disability (in obituaries, apparently), and it contains toxins and aborted cells. NVIC doesn’t mention the concentrations of these chemicals in the vaccine. They don’t mention the real story behind those “aborted” cells. They won’t mention that there are more people than ever with conditions that could be enormously exacerbated by an infection with Hepatitis A.
It’s all cons, cons, cons. No pros.
That, dear reader, seems to be their idea of “information”. But this is only exhibit A.

G.A.M.E.D.

The human immune system is not short of fantastic. If you were to think of it as an army, it’s an army that can take heavy losses but keeps on going. It’s an army that has an almost limitless amount of raw material to act against invaders. It’s an army that can follow a “scorched earth” policy if it needs to. It’s an army that learns its lessons. It’s phenomenal, and I am never disappointed when reading about some new finding about the immune system.

Like any other army, our immune system needs time to mature after we’re born before it can successfully take on all invaders. Lucky for us, we have some help in the way of antibodies. These little proteins can be specific and attack only a certain type of pathogen (virus, bacteria, fungus, etc.). They can also be non-specific and attack anything that is not our own.

Antibodies are created by white blood cells called “B lymphocytes”. When pieces of a pathogen are “presented” to the B lymphocytes, they create antibodies that match the antigens (proteins or sugars) on the pathogen. The antibodies will then attach to those antigens and either immobilize the pathogens – making them useless – or “tag” the pathogens for destruction. Once tagged, the pathogen is consumed by another type of white blood cell. Again, it’s a pretty phenomenal thing to imagine.

The easy acronym to remember the five types of antibodies is “GAMED”. Each antibody type is also known as an “immunoglobulin” or “Ig”. IgG is the most common one in the body, followed by IgA, then IgM, then IgE, then IgD… Hence the “GAMED” acronym. Here’s the thing, though: IgM appears first in the body after an infection, followed by IgG and the others. IgA and IgE are more present in body secretions like tears and saliva. While IgD is more found in tissues or attached to other cells (as are some IgE).

The other thing you need to remember before we dive into the meat of this post is that IgG is the only antibody that crosses the placental barrier between mother and unborn fetus. IgM is too big to cross, and the others are only found on secretions or in cells that do not cross. Finally, remember that IgG is specific. That is, you MUST be exposed to the pathogen (or its antigens, when you get a vaccine) in order to have the IgG antibodies in your blood.

Now, onto the meat.

When a women gets pregnant, her immune system is toned down. It’s not shut down, of course. That would be an evolutionary disadvantage of the highest kind. It is toned down because the fetus developing in her womb is different than her. The fetus has half of its own cells (and antigens) from the father. Unless the mother and father were closely related (a whole other post), the mother’s immune system will really not like the child if it were to encounter it. So the mother’s immune system is told to chill, AND the placenta forms a barrier to keep the mother’s white blood cells and non-specific antibodies from coming over and attacking the child.

Once born, the child has mother’s IgG antibodies for about six months, maybe a little longer. The child also has their own white blood cells, many of them. If faced with a pathogen, the child’s immune system WILL defend the child vigorously. This is why a newborn can and will have a fever from an infection. This is why a newborn can fend off the millions or billions of antigens that land on it within minutes of being born. (Think of all the hugging and kissing done those first few days after delivery. And think of where the child came through if delivered vaginally.)

Check that, don’t think about it much.

Now that you are armed with this knowledge, you can begin to understand why it is necessary for a mother to be up to date on all her immunizations. Her IgG antibodies created through exposure to diseases or through immunization will be passed on to the child and HELP protect the child for about six months after delivery. Mom’s IgA and IgE in breastmilk will also help protect the child’s airway and stomach in specific and non-specific ways. That’s why, when faced with the choice between breastmilk and formula, breastmilk is the way to go.

One more thing before we’re done here. Another thing that crosses the placental barrier is a virus. One particularly nasty virus that does this is Rubella, the virus that causes German measles. Rubella in a pregnant woman means a lot of trouble for the developing fetus. Many times, it means death. Congenital Rubella Syndrome – the name for the infection of the fetus – is horrible. You don’t wish it on your worst enemy. It causes deformities, mental retardation, blindness, and skin rashes subject to infection on the child.

There was a time when Congenital Rubella Syndrome was common in the United States. Mothers who became pregnant had to be watched carefully if they came into contact with a person who had German measles. Others were given medications and even serum from people who already had German measles in an attempt to stop the infection from reaching the fetus. Those were some dark days.

Then the vaccine (MMR in the US) came along and all that faded away into the back of our minds. Babies born with CRS are very rare in the United States, and they are usually born from mothers who were exposed to Rubella in another country. Unfortunately, this rarity also means that the anti-vax brigades say things like “Why vaccinate if it’s not around anymore?” They’re asking the wrong question, of course.

The question they should be asking is, “Why is Rubella not around anymore?” But that means that they’ll have to admit that it’s because of vaccines, and that is not happening any time soon.

VAERS as "evidence" of vaccine harm

Another common anti-vaccine attempt at rationalizing the fear they want to instill in you is to point at the “Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System”, or VAERS. It is a system set up as a repository for reports from the public of “adverse” events following immunization. The vaccine injury act created it. Just about anyone can post an event to the system, and it is up to epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to look into the reports and investigate them. In most cases, it is determined that the event had a cause other than the vaccine. But that doesn’t stop the anti-vaccine groups from scaring you through quoting numbers they got from VAERS.

It is as if you were to look at the nightly news and determine that you’re not going to interact with the world because, hey, bad things happen out in the big, bad world. Though only the bad news gets reported, many times, what you get in a 2-minute blurb is not a true picture of reality. Want proof?

Let’s do this step-by-step, so you can follow along and discover the “evidence” along with me. Before we do that, let me warn you about a site that purports itself to allow you to analyze VAERS data. The site is called “medalerts.org”. If you look at the site’s disclaimers, you’ll learn that it’s run by an anti-vaccine group. Furthermore, some of the conclusions drawn from the data in there seem to be based only on the raw numbers. I can’t find any critical thinking there. So let’s do our own thinking. Let’s look at reported deaths associated with vaccines.

First, go to the VAERS website here. After you’ve read through all the caveats of the VAERS database, click on the bottom link to proceed.

Alright, so you’ve agreed that “the inclusion of events in VAERS data does not infer causality”, contrary to everything the anti-vaccine groups will tell you. Next, you’ll get to the following web page:

If you’re not tech-saavy enough to download the data and analyze it yourself, no problem. CDC has it’s own software program called “CDC WONDER” to analyze it for you. That’s what we’ll use for this demo. So click on “CDC WONDER“. You’ll get to this site:

Once there, we only need to adjust a couple of variables to look at all reported deaths. Under “1. Organize table layout”, you want to group results by VAERS ID and check the box for “Adverse Event Description”, like so:

Next, under “4. Select event characteristics”, you want to select deaths, like so:

That’s it. Now click on “SEND” at the bottom of the page. You will not be presented with all the reported deaths submitted to VAERS, for all ages, genders, and locations. It’s a huge file, so give it some time.

As of 12/14/11, a total of 3,504 deaths have been reported to VAERS. Anti-vaccine groups will tell you that all those deaths are from vaccines and that they’re evidence of how deadly vaccines are. Are they?

Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff.

CAR ACCIDENTS?

First, let’s look for deaths related to car accidents. Car accidents? Yes, deaths related to car accidents have been reported to VAERS because, hey, the accidents happened after the vaccination, so they must be related, right? Sadly, because people died, we find the following (all bolding mine):

VAERS ID 168749-1: “No data obtained. Parents are awaiting final autopsy report and the death certificate. These will not be produced until a final toxicology report is obtained. All of this is per the coroner. Autopsy states cause of death as undetermined. Death certificate states cause of death due to cerebral laceration w/open skull fracture due to an automobile accident.”

VAERS ID 209245-1: “This subject is a three month old female, who suffered a fatal head injury while enrolled in a comparative post marketing safety study of Daptacel (diptheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine absorbed) administered with other recommended vaccines according to the US standard of care. The subject received one dose of study vaccine: the last dose prior to the event was given on 01/14/2003. The subject “”expired instantly due to blunt head injuries in motor vehicle accident described as “”auto vs. fixed object, ejected,”” 18 days post immunization and expired the same day. No other information was reported. Death Certificate has been received. Autopsy has been performed but report not yet received. The event of fatal head injury was reported by the investigator as unrelated to the study product. The autopsy report states accident automobile, death. Follow up on 09/30/2003: “”Autopsy Report received by medical affairs on 09/16/2003. This three-month-old female is a victim of an apparent accidental death. “”Auto (passenger) vs. F/O, rollover, ejected“”. The base portion of the car seat strapped in the center of the back seat. The car seat carrier was facing rear, however it was behind the passengers seat of the vehicle (not locked in the base) with the seat belts in use. The car seat canopy was found with the descedent. She was about 100 feet north of the vehicle, face down with her head against a rock. There was a blanket covering her. Death is probably instant and is clearly from crushing blunt injuries to the head. Other injuries also listed in the autopsy report include a crushed head and multiple severe abrasions and probable compressed chest event due to collapsed lungs and areas of hemorrhagic discoloration on lungs. This can happen in infants without fractures of the ribs, etc. Other injuries included fracture of the left femur as well as crushed and avulsed toes of the right foot. There was no signs of internal torso injuries except for the lungs. No further information is anticipate”

VAERS ID 308661-1: “We received on 12 FEB 2008 from a healthcare professional the following information: A 7-year-old male patient, born on 21 JUN 2000 was vaccinated with FLUVIRIN (batch no. unknown) on 19 NOV 2007. The patient was killed in an automobile traffic accident on 01 FEB 2008. The subject had participated in a clinical trial sponsored by MedImmune. FLUVIRIN was used in that trial as a control, and Novartis Vaccine & Diagnostics (NVD) has donated the FLUVIRIN, but other than that has not been involved. Although the event did not occur during the duration of the trial, and the investigator did not see any causal relationship to the vaccination with FLUVIRIN, he reported the event to the IRB and NVD because the child had died.”
VAERS ID 367379-1: “Killed in a car accident while pulling out of the street where the clinic was located. Was turning left onto a divided highway when the driver’s side door was hit by an oncoming vehicle. Died on impact.”

SUFFOCATION?

All deaths are tragic, and nothing – in my mind – is more tragic than the death of a young child. Unfortunately, there are times when well-meaning parents place the child in an awkward position in their cribs or on their beds. There are other times when the parents fall asleep with the child next to them in bed, eventually rolling over and asphyxiating/suffocating the child. Again, because these accidents happened after the child was vaccinated, they were reported to NEDSS…

VAERS ID 082237-1: “pt recvd vax 24NOV95 & was sleeping w/father & found pulseless & unresponsive;brought to ER & pronounced dead;autopsy done conclusion accidental suffocation as COD

VAERS ID 161098-1: “Pt received vaccines on 10/25/00 and on 10/26/00, infant asleep with 16 year old sibling. Mother found arm of sibling across baby’s face and baby was not breathing. CPR was administered and intubation to no avail. Autopsy shows found unresponsive, congestion of lungs, kidneys congested. Final cause of death stated as suffocation by mechanical asphyxia.”

VAERS ID 204529-1: “Infant found unresponsive laying on stomach am of 6/3. The autopsy states suffocation.”

VAERS ID 215994-1: “Per EMS, found face down in crib not breathing. CPR initiated. Patient intubated and received O2, epinephrine 2 times, Atropine 1 time per ER record. Autopsy Report received on 4/27/2004 states COD was suffocation.”

There are plenty more related to suffocation, but you can see those for yourself now that you know how to access the data. So let’s just look at one more.

DROWNING?

As with car accidents, these accidental drownings were also submitted.

VAERS ID 206893-1: “This subject is a 9 month old female, who was enrolled in a Phase IV P3T08 (Daptacel) study. The subject received two doses of study vaccine; the last dose prior to the event was given on 12/27/02. The subject died of multiple system organ failure due to near-drowning, 163 days post-immunization. The event of drowning was reported by the investigator as unrelated to the study vaccine. Autopsy results are pending. From additional information received on 11/4/03 from the autopsy report: It was determined by an investigation that an autopsy would be necessary to establish the cause of death. Based on the known circumstances and cause of death, the manner of death is an accident. The drowning occurred in a wading pool. Follow up on 11/25/2003: “”Information has been received from an investigator concerning a 9 month old Hispanic female patient who was enrolled in a phase IV diptheria toxoid/pertussis vaccine/tetanus (DAPTACEL) study. On 12/27/2002, the patient was vaccinated with a dose of hepatitis B virus vaccine rHBsAg (yeast) (manufacturer unknown). Concomitant vaccination on 12/27/2002 included a second dose of diphtheria toxoid/pertussis vaccine/tetanus (DAPTACEL), a dose of poliovirus vaccine (IPOL), a dose of Haemophilus influenzae vaccine (+) tetanus toxoid and a dose of Streptococcus pneumoniae vaccine (PREVNAR). 163 days post vaccination on 06/08/2003 at 15:52, the patient died. The cause of death was “”multi-organ failure due to near drowning.”” Autopsy findings included: heavy lungs with hypostatic pneumonia and diffuse alveolar damage; ischemic encephalopathy; thymic involutional changes; congestive hepatomegaly; generalized visceral congestion; minor contisions of legs. External examination revealed a normally developed, adequately nourished Hispanic female infant who appeared consistent with the reported age of almost ten months. Internal examination revealed histology-sections of all major viscera were submitted per the SIDS protocol; X-rays-total body X-rays showed no recent healing fractures or”

VAERS ID 331195-1: “Information has been received from a study concerning a patient (age and gender not reported) who was vaccinated with a dose of PROQUAD (date, dose, route not reported). It was reported that the patient died due to drowning (date not reported). This is one of several reports from the same source. Additional information has been requested.”

But what about all the others? Well, look at the data yourself. You know how to do it now, and – if you’re reading this – you’re a pretty smart person. You’ll see cases like this one, where it is painfully obvious that the vaccine did not cause the unfortunate end of this person:

VAERS ID 177955-1: “It was reported that a 44 year old white male was vaccinated in 1995 with a dose of pneumococcal vaccine 23 polyvalent and a dose of influenza virus vaccine. At the time of vaccination, the pt’s CD4 count was 250 cells/microL (19%) and he was prescribed concomitantly zidovudine, lamivudine and sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim. It was noted that over the subsequent 2 years, there was a transient increase of his CD4 count to a maximum of 370 cells/microL and then a slow decline. The pt presented in 4/97 to the ER with a 6 day history of violent shaking chills, night sweat and malaise. The pt reported shortness of breath, occasional blood-tinged sputum and pleuritic chest pain for 3 days. The pt was known to have been HIV (+) for 8 years, with risk factors including IV drug abuse. It was noted that the pt had received medical care at the infectious disease clinic at the same hospital. It was noted that at his last appointment, 3 months prior to his presentation to the ER, the pt had a CD4 cell count of 216 cells/microL (16%) and his viral load was 1270 copies/mL. It was reported that the pt completely recovered from a hepatitis b infection, but hat a history of chronic sinusitis and hepatitis C. The pt had never suffered from the opportunistic infections common in AIDS. It was reported that in the ER, the pt was poorly cooperative, appeared pale and coughed occasionally. He was afebrile, hypoxemic and had oliguria. Septic shock with severe bacterial pneumonia was dx’d. Ceftazidime, erythromycin, sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim and IV hydration were administered. It was reported that the pt required orotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation. About 11 hours after presenting to the ER, the pt developed recurrent ventricular tachycardia and expired. It was noted that with the exception of minimal aseptic leptomeningitis, the neuropathological findings were unremarkable. There was no evidence that the pt had a concurrent influenza infection. It was reported that Streptococcus pneumoniae was cultured from various blood

Unfortunately, I’m sure many anti-vaccine advocates will not hesitate to make giant leaps based on these reports. I’m not kidding you. Someone actually suggested that the person who drove out in front of a car was “disabled by the vaccine and couldn’t drive” the car or that the accident was done “to cover up the vaccine damage”.

Risks and rewards

If I told you that you had a better chance of surviving a car accident while wearing a seat belt, and I backed it up with solid evidence – including a movie of crash test dummies – the reasonable person in you would agree with me, right? Besides, it makes sense that you’d survive because you’re not being tossed around the inside of your car or out your window like a rag doll. There would be no controversy, right?

Wrong.


There was a time in this silly country of ours when a large portion of the population opposed using seat belts. It wasn’t that they had some death wish or anything. The issue was that they were fed a set of outright lies about using seat belts by people who didn’t like seat belts. We’ll call those opponents “anti-belters”.

The anti-belters were opposed to seat belts because of one main thing: government mandates. They saw the government requiring seat belts in cars and people to wear them as an erosion of their rights and of the free market.

Sound familiar?

It should sound familiar because there is one huge troll in the anti-vax circles who – ironically enough – makes circular arguments against vaccines based on his anti-government ideas. He writes for several anti-vax blogs and his own that, of course, big pharma has paid-off the government to have the government mandate vaccines for schools. The troll argues that vaccines shouldn’t be a requirement to go to school but then rails against schools and other forms of collectivism in the same breath. You’re probably asking yourself, much like I am, what the (expletive deleted)? Right?

The reason the government mandated the use of seat belts is because seat belts save lives. Save lives, and you get more people to live and grow old and work and pay taxes and become productive citizens who improve the lives of others. Reduce the number of fatal car accidents and you get affordable car insurance that protects our free market economy by making it affordable to not go broke if you crash into someone and can’t work or you’re at fault and must pay.

It wasn’t a bad thing or a plot of any kind to have seat belts just like it’s not a plot or a bad thing to get enough people vaccinated so that those who cannot can grow up and grow old. I mean, Jesus Christ, why would anyone want smallpox-like plagues to come to us again for, what, a free market economy? A freedom to die for a stupid reason?

Look at me, I’m all worked up in a bar in Boise as I write this on my phone. (Expletive deleted) anti-vaxing troll. Get a (expletive deleted) clue!

Waiter, give me something stronger!

Shingle all the way

Remember how I told you last time that anti-vaccine people will throw a true statement at you but not put in context in order to deceive? Well, they’re at it again. Actually, this is nothing new. This particular “gambit” has been around for a while, but I just recently encountered it in a blog with several people actually believing it. The gambit?

“Varicella vaccine is the cause of the rise in cases of shingles!”

Really?

To understand why this is an anti-vaccine gambit, it is necessary to understand three things: chickenpox, the varicella vaccine, and shingles. First, chickenpox is an infection with the varicella zoster virus (VZV). The infection causes respiratory problems, a diffused rash over the body, fever, and all sorts of other unsavory symptoms. You feel crappy. Worse yet, there are those who go on to develop all sorts of severe complications from it. I personally know a person who, as a child, lost their hearing because of it. Then there are those who get meningitis from chickenpox. A less severe complication, but one that weighed heavily on society, was that parents had to stay home with their sick children, and sick children could not go to school. Lots of productivity was lost when chickenpox was wild.

The thing about wild chickenpox is that once you get it, you have life-long immunity to it. At least that’s the idea. It’s changing a little bit because less and less children are coming down with it and exposing others. The less we are exposed, the less of a booster effect that our immune system gets from those exposures. On the other hand, the chickenpox vaccine gives the same type of immunity that you’d get from the infection, only without the infection. One shot, no symptoms, lots of immunity.

As the vaccine proliferated, more and more of us became immune without the wild virus out there to make the un-vaccinated sick. As that happened, those who already had chickenpox at some point in their lives missed out on the booster effect. As they missed those boosters from being exposed to kids with chickenpox, immune systems waned. As immune systems waned, shingles happened.

Shingles is a reactivation of the VZV in your nerve endings (usually around the abdomen or back). That’s right, VZV hides in your nerves and goes dormant. It may reactivate once in a while, but your immune system is so good at taking it out (after having learned how to do so the first time they met) that you don’t get the full rash. However, if your immune system is waning because it hasn’t been boosted, then you get shingles.

Let’s recap. If you get the wild virus:

  1. You get the infection and are subject to the complications thereof.
  2. Your immune system “remembers” the virus.
  3. Any leftover virus is dormant.
  4. If the dormant virus reactivates, your immune system knows how to deal with it.
  5. Your immune system gets boosted by being exposed to the wild virus.

If you get the vaccine virus:

  1. You don’t get the infection or the complications of chickenpox.
  2. Your immune system still “remembers” the virus, should it come into contact with either the wild or the vaccine again.
  3. There is controversy as to whether the vaccine virus goes dormant like the wild one does. We just haven’t had the vaccine long enough to see adults with shingles directly attributed to it. (Adults who never had chickenpox but develop shingles.)
  4. Your immune system gets boosted by being exposed to the wild virus.

Notice number 5 and number 4, respectively. If you don’t get exposed to the wild virus, you don’t get boosted. The wild virus is being averted by the wider and wider use of the chickenpox vaccine. Without that boosting, the immune system wanes and any dormant virus is allowed to be reactivated and give you shingles.

So, yes, the wider use of the vaccine is causing shingles, but not directly. Furthermore, there now is a shingles vaccine – which is basically a booster. You get that as an adult, and it “reminds” your immune system about VZV, keeping it at bay if it decides to reactivate. Both vaccines, the one you get as a kid and the shingles “booster” have been found to be safe and effective… And don’t cause shingles.

Next time someone tells you that the chickenpox vaccine causes shingles, give them the explanation above.