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“Vaccines didn’t save us” (a.k.a. “vaccines don’t work”): Intellectual dishonesty at its most naked

If there’s one thing about the anti-vaccine movement I’ve learned over the last several years, it’s that it’s almost completely immune to evidence, science, and reason. No matter how much evidence is arrayed against it, its spokespeople always finds a way to spin, distort, or misrepresent the evidence to combat it and not have to give up the concept that vaccines cause autism. Not that this is any news to readers of this blog, but it bears repeating often. It also bears repeating and emphasizing examples of just the sort of disingenuous and even outright deceptive techniques used by promoters of anti-vaccine pseudoscience to sow fear and doubt about vaccines among parents. These arguments may seem persuasive to those who have little knowledge about science or epidemiology. Sometimes they even seemed somewhat persuasive to me; that is, at least until I actually took the time to look into them.

One example of such a myth is the claim that “vaccines didn’t save us,” also sometimes going under the claim that “vaccines don’t work.” The anti-vaccine website Vaccine Liberation has a large set of graphs purporting to show that the death rates of several vaccine-preventable diseases, including whooping cough, diptheria, measles, and polio were falling before the vaccines for each disease were introduced. The the article quotes Andrew Weil:

Scientific medicine has taken credit it does not deserve for some advances in health. Most people believe that victory over the infectious diseases of the last century came with the invention of immunisations. In fact, cholera, typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough, etc, were in decline before vaccines for them became available – the result of better methods of sanitation, sewage disposal, and distribution of food and water.

Bill Maher has said similar things about vaccines, and the “vaccines didn’t save us” gambit has become a staple of anti-vaccine websites. For example, one particularly ignorant blogger (URL Removed – Malware -webmaster) wrote:

The mythology surrounding vaccines is still pervasive, the majority of the population still believes, in faith like fashion, that vaccines are the first line of defense against disease. The true story is that nutrition and psychological/emotional health are the first line of defense against disease.

Vaccines are a concoction of chemical adjuvants and preservatives coupled with virus fragments and have clearly been implicated in the astounding rise in neurological disorders around the world, yet the ‘popular’ media has embedded itself as a spokesperson for the pharmaceutical cartel and simply does not report in any responsible way the real situation.

Ah, yes, the “toxins” gambit! Of course, it is true that better sanitation is a good thing and has decreased the rate of transmission of some diseases for which sanitation can do so, many infectious diseases are transmitted person-to-person through the air from aerosolized drops of saliva from coughs and sneezes or from being deposited on objects that people touch frequently, like doorknobs and other fomites.

The “vaccines didn’t save us” strategy is a distortion, as I will show. The best way to demonstrate this is to go on to the very first website that currently shows up on a Google search for “vaccines didn’t save us.” Although the post is from November, it’s the main post that’s been spreading this lie since then. Entitled Proof That Vaccines Didn’t Save Us, it’s one of the most breathtakingly spectacularly intellectually dishonest bits of anti-vaccine propaganda that I’ve ever seen. I say that not because it uses a common anti-vaccine distortion, but rather because it ups the ante by adding a new one clearly designed to address the criticism of the old one. That new distortion hides it in plain sight, too, which is why I have to give the blogger props for sheer chutzpah. Actually, I have to give some backhanded kudos to the person who devised the graphs used in this post, Raymond Obomsawin, PhD. They represent the classic anti-vaccine lie, combined with some very clever cherry picking. I won’t take them all on in this post. Maybe I’ll take some of them on in a future post. In the meantime, what I will do is to take on the first several, because they represent a common anti-vaccine theme that is very similar to the one sounded by the this disingenuous post.

In fact, let’s look at the Vaccination Library claims first. Notice that there are six graphs, four of which are for vaccine-preventable diseases for which widespread vaccination was undertaken, two for which it was not. All of them show decreasing death rates from various diseases. Wow! It seems like slam dunk evidence, doesn’t it? Vaccines didn’t save us! After all, death rates were declining years before the vaccine, and they were declining for the diseases that didn’t even need a vaccine!

Death rates.

Here’s the problem. It’s not surprising that death rates were declining before introduction of the vaccines. Medicine was improving. More importantly, supportive care was improving. For example, take the case of polio. Before the introduction of the iron lung and its widespread use, for example, if a polio patient developed paralysis of the respiratory muscles, he would almost certainly die. The iron lung allowed such patients to live. Some even survived in an iron lung for decades. No doubt improved nutrition also played a role as well. However, if you want to get an idea of the impact of vaccines on infectious disease, take a look at this graph from the CDC of measles incidence, not death rates:

CDC Measles Incidence Graph

Similar results were seen most recently from several other vaccines, including the Haemophilus influenza type B vaccine, as the CDC points out:

Hib vaccine is another good example, because Hib disease was prevalent until just a few years ago, when conjugate vaccines that can be used for infants were finally developed. (The polysaccharide vaccine previously available could not be used for infants, in whom most cases of the disease were occurring.) Since sanitation is not better now than it was in 1990, it is hard to attribute the virtual disappearance of Haemophilus influenzae disease in children in recent years (from an estimated 20,000 cases a year to 1,419 cases in 1993, and dropping) to anything other than the vaccine.

In the post to which I referred, the most intellectually dishonest graph is this one:

Fake Measles Graph
(Click to see full size figure.)

Note how this graph, unlike all the other graphs used to make the claim that “vaccines didn’t save us” actually uses incidence data, in this case from Canada from 1935 to 1983. I was immediately suspicious of this graph, though. The reason should be obvious; the decline in measles incidence is far too smooth. Measles incidence typically varies greatly from year to year. Fortunately, in his chutzpah, Obomsawin included a link to the actual source of the graph. Naturally, I couldn’t resist checking it out, and I found that the link leads to the Canadian Immunization Guide section on the measles vaccine. And this is the actual graph from which Obomsawin allegedly extracted his data:

MeaslesCanada
(Click for full-sized version.)

Note how Obomsawin left out a section of ten years when measles was not nationally reportable. Also note how he has, to be charitable, cherry picked the years to produce the impression of a smoothly declining measles incidence from 1935 to 1959. As I said, it doesn’t get much more intellectually dishonest than that. But it’s even worse than that. The graph above still gives the impression that measles incidence was falling before the ten years for which there is no data. Steve Novella points out that there is a better version of the graph in this reference, and he was kind enough to send it to me, given that, for whatever reason, my university doesn’t have a subscription to the relevant journal:

measles canada
(Click for full-sized version.)

Note how this graph looks at raw case numbers and shows 40,000 cases of measles in Canada the year before the ten year interruption in the data. All in all, it’s a much clearer representation of the data than the first graph, showing a clear drop that occurred during the ten year period, in the middle of which the measles vaccine was introduced. It also shows another obvious drop in measles incidence later on in the 1990s, when the two-dose measles vaccine program was started. As for why it appears that there is a steep dip in the first graph before the ten year gap, that actually appears to be an artifact. There is no data for 1959, the first year that measles was not nationally reportable in Canada, but the line appears to go to a datapoint at 1959 or 1960. My guess is that whoever made the graph decided to set the value for the beginning of the ten year gap to equal the first datapoint at the end of the ten year gap. In other words, the graph a rather poor representation of the data, and the Canadian government would do well to replace it on its website with something more like the second graph, which makes the point much more clearly.

As intellectually dishonest as Obomsawin’s graph is, this description of Obomsawin matches it:

He has produced academically and/or professionally over eighty-five (85) articles, reports, policy documents, presentations, and publications.

A search of Pubmed reveals only one peer-reviewed publication from 1978, and it’s only a commentary. In any case, apparently served as Director National Office of Health Development of the National Indian Brotherhood (AFN); Founding Chairman of NIB’s National Commission Inquiry on Indian Health; Executive Director in the California Rural Indian Health Board; Supervisor of Native Curriculum, Government of the Yukon Territory; and Evaluation Manager – Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. None of these are scientific positions. More tellingly, he is “currently engaged with government funding as Senior Researcher relative to establishing a Public Sector Policy on Traditional Medicine in Canada.” My translation? He’s somehow managed to get a government grant to try to promote “traditional medicine” in Canada. Apparently, the Canadian government has its own problems with government money going to promote unscientific and pseudoscientific nonsense of the type that NCCAM promotes. In any case, besides Obomsawin’s disingenuous and intellectually bankrupt distortions of incidence data used to serve his apparently anti-vaccine agenda, he has no qualifications to speak of with regard to science or epidemiology that I can find.

It also turns out that Dr. Obomsawin has some other–shall we say?–unconventional beliefs as well. For instance, he is approvingly featured on that aggregator of all things quackery and pseudoscience, Whale.to, where he expresses anti-vaccine views, HIV/AIDS denialism, and admiration for Royal Rife. So what we have here is a woo-meister using cherry picked points on a graph to give a false impression that the measles vaccine was not responsible for the dramatic decline in measles incidence in Canada in the 1960s. Shocking, I know.

Another rebuttal to the idea that vaccines didn’t reduce the incidence of the diseases against which they were designed comes from the simple observation that, as vaccine uptake falls, the disease vaccinated against returns. Always. This is described by the CDC quite well:

Finally, we can look at the experiences of several developed countries after they let their immunization levels drop. Three countries – Great Britain, Sweden, and Japan – cut back the use of pertussis vaccine because of fear about the vaccine. The effect was dramatic and immediate. In Great Britain, a drop in pertussis vaccination in 1974 was followed by an epidemic of more than 100,000 cases of pertussis and 36 deaths by 1978. In Japan, around the same time, a drop in vaccination rates from 70% to 20%-40% led to a jump in pertussis from 393 cases and no deaths in 1974 to 13,000 cases and 41 deaths in 1979. In Sweden, the annual incidence rate of pertussis per 100,000 children 0-6 years of age increased from 700 cases in 1981 to 3,200 in 1985. It seems clear from these experiences that not only would diseases not be disappearing without vaccines, but if we were to stop vaccinating, they would come back.

The United Kingdom is an excellent illustration of this trend. Back in the mid-1990s, it declared measles as under control, thanks to the MMR vaccine. Then came Andrew Wakefield in 1998 with his trial lawyer-funded, incompetent, and possibly even fraudulent study claiming to link the MMR vaccine to “autistic enterocolitis,’ and a credulous, sensationalistic British press to spread his message that the MMR vaccine causes autism. The result was that measles came roaring back in the U.K. to the point that two years ago measles was declared endemic again there.

The Vaccine Liberation graphs and the even more deceptive graphs produced by “Dr.” Obomsawin to claim that vaccine-preventable diseases were already plummeting before the introduction of the relevant vaccines are typical of anti-vaccine arguments. First, they contain enough of a grain of truth to them to sound plausible. After all, better nutrition and better sanitation have in general contributed to better health and contributed to a decreasing toll from various infectious diseases. But they were not enough. Indeed, part of the reason we vaccinated against some diseases is because sanitation wasn’t enough. Was sanitation so much worse in the late 1980s before the Hib vaccine was introduced than it is now? No. Was it probably even that much worse in the 1960s, when the measles vaccine was introduced? Probably not. Yet, such is the myth that the anti-vaccine movement would have parents believe. Such is the intellectually dishonest nonsense they promote.

Why do they do this? J.B. Handley himself has told us why: To bring the U.S. vaccine program to its knees. Or the U.K. program. Or whatever program where the anti-vaccine program has taken hold. The reason is that, no matter how much science says it isn’t, to the anti-vaccine activist, it’s first and foremost always all about the vaccines.

Posted in: Science and Medicine, Vaccines

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516 thoughts on ““Vaccines didn’t save us” (a.k.a. “vaccines don’t work”): Intellectual dishonesty at its most naked

  1. Harriet Hall says:

    I’ve argued this with anti-vaccine activists. I have pointed out the many “natural experiments” where lowered vaccination rates led to increased incidence of disease and raising the vaccination rates then led to reduced incidence. I’ve never gotten any response. Have you? I’m thinking they can’t come up with any rationalization so they prefer to ignore the whole thing.

  2. sailwave says:

    This http://bit.ly/cpeugX JPANDS paper with similar graphs was used by somebody I know recently as their main argument against vaccination; ug.

  3. David Gorski says:

    Actually, Steve Novella sent me a better graph using the original source article. Rather than posting an addendum, I decided to incorporate it into the post to show how Obomaswin’s graph is even more intellectually dishonest than I thought it was.

  4. windriven says:

    Two words: Poliomyelitis and smallpox.

    Improvements in public hygiene may well reduce rates of transmission of various diseases and that is to be applauded. But reduced transmission is not no transmission. There are two ways one can successfully deal with exposure to, say, smallpox. One can acquire immunity by surviving the infection or one can acquire immunity through vaccination.

    Now why isn’t someone working on a vaccine for stupidity?

  5. Watcher says:

    That added graph is a great one, it illustrates the “cherry-picking” of data well.

    Awaiting Th1Th2 rebuttal …

  6. Shannon says:

    I’ve noticed that most people enveloped in a fantastic ideology that suits their notions will ignore even the most blatant data when it’s shoved in their face. It creates the following effect on those who fall in the same camp.

    1. we believe X to be true.
    2. we *might* change our minds– if you can satisfactorily prove Y.
    3. you show us that Y is correct with adequate documentation.
    4. we ignore Y.
    5. Our act of ignoring of Y further causes our followers to believe in X even more.

    it’s like a test of faith. Jesus in the desert with the devil and all that.

    Glenn Sacks uses this tactic exactly the same way in his vitriolic, irrational and skewed views of domestic violence. He ignores all data and documentation in favor of his ideology. Glenn Sacks=domestic violence(protections) is same as anti-vaxers=disease(vaccines)

  7. wales says:

    The Canadian public health agencies seem to be confused about their own measles reporting requirements. This link http://dsol-smed.hc-sc.gc.ca/dsol-smed/ndis/list-eng.php shows a list of notifiable diseases in Canada, with the first positive case year. Some notifiable diseases show an interruption in national notifiability, including chicken pox from 1959-1986 and mumps from 1959-1986. However this list does not indicate any interruption in the measles national notification requirements. It shows reporting starting in 1924 and continuing to present.

    Can anyone explain this discrepancy between the Public Health Agency of Canada’s data and the Canadian Disease Surveillance Online data? This is key to the point being made in this post.
    Also another question: why did these diseases become non-reportable? Due to low mortality rates?

  8. Th1Th2 says:

    windriven,

    “There are two ways one can successfully deal with exposure to, say, smallpox. One can acquire immunity by surviving the infection or one can acquire immunity through vaccination.”

    You know that vaccines carry disease antigens, don’t you? And immunity is a state of having sufficient biological defenses to avoid infection, disease, or other unwanted biological invasion http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immunity_%28medical%29

    Who cares about acquired immunity, that’s not even the most important function of the immune system, hence the word “acquired”.

  9. Watcher says:

    Hit the submit button too fast. :)

    Th1Th2,

    Acquired immunity represents an advantage over a nonspecific method in that it can respond quickly in a more focused way to prevent disease reoccurrence. Also, the word “acquired” makes no towards importance in the definition.

    Also, I’m interested in what you make of David’s post …

  10. Watcher says:

    Just for kicks …

    ac·quire (-kwr)
    tr.v. ac·quired, ac·quir·ing, ac·quires
    1. To gain possession of: acquire 100 shares of stock.
    2. To get by one’s own efforts: acquire proficiency in math.
    3. To gain through experience; come by: acquired a growing dislike of television sitcoms.
    4. To locate (a moving object) with a tracking system, such as radar.

  11. Th1Th2 – that was incoherent. You seem to be exploiting a subtle vagueness in the wikipedia definition you are using.

    The immune system both prevents infection but also fights off invading organisms – it fights infections.

    Acquired immunity refers to the immune system’s memory for antigens it has encountered before, in which case it mounts a more vigorous response. This leads to fighting off the infection before it become clinically apparent, or at least keeping it more mild than it otherwise would have been.

    Acquired immunity can also prevent the spread of infections, as the primed immune system fights off the infection before it can spread.

    Whether or not this is the “most important function” of the immune system is entirely irrelevant. And none of what you said has anything to do with the question of whether or not vaccines have benefit in excess of risk – they do.

  12. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Acquired ammunity isn’t an important function of the immune system? Without acquired immunity, we would be at mercy of nonacquired immunity every time we are exposed to an infection. For every exposure subsequent to the first our immune systems react more quickly, and strongly. If you survive the first exposure, your second reaction is thousands of times stronger, your third, even more so. Without acquired immunity, we would face the exact same level of risk to every flu strain, not to mention every time measles, chicken pox or any other infectious agent circulates through the population – in short, humans would quickly face extinction (particularly to novel pathogens). The reason we get vaccinated is so we can acquire immunity in a rather harmless way, so we do not have to go through the possibly deadly cycle of infection and recovery. The next time we are exposed to the same pathogen, it essentially can’t harm us (or others, as our immune systems nullify it before we become contagious).

    Acquired immunity isn’t important only if you don’t mind getting the chicken pox every single time your kid does.

  13. Archangl508 says:

    “Who cares about acquired immunity, that’s not even the most important function of the immune system, hence the word “acquired”.”

    Why don’t you ask that question of an AIDS patient?

    An AIDS patient only suffers from the loss of one specific component of the acquired immune system (aka CD4+ T cells). They still have other aspects of the acquired immune system (CD8+ T cells, B cells) as well as components of the innate immune system (NK cells, macrophages, neutrophils). Yet neither of those other components are able to prevent AIDS patients of dying from things like opportunistic infections with normal body flora (i.e. Candida albicans) or the malignant cancers that the remaining immune system is unable to manage.

    Yet the acquired immune system is not “the most important function of the immune system” according to you. Can you explain WHY the acquired immune system is not important? It would seem to be quite important to an AIDS patient.

  14. Th1Th2 says:

    Wathcer,

    The operational thought there is “disease reoccurence” since the first encounter with diseases is through exposure from natural infection or by way of vaccination.

  15. Watcher says:

    Which in turn leads to, as alluded to previously, longer life and a greater chance to pass on ones genes. Without the acquired portion of the immune system our species would not last. The same goes for the innate aspect, it’s just as important. My point is that neither side is more important because one without the other creates a broken system. So I guess I’m not sure of your point.

    Also, what do you think of the original post?

  16. Th1Th2 says:

    William,

    “The reason we get vaccinated is so we can acquire immunity in a rather harmless way, so we do not have to go through the possibly deadly cycle of infection and recovery.”

    Immunity is all about defense, avoidance and resistance from disease antigens from entering the body. Vaccines, however, play the antagonistic role of “acquiring” a myriad of disease antigens, provoking and sensitizing the naive immune system. For example, in vaccination you have to destroy an innate physical barrier of the skin in order to introduce influenza viral antigens, which is an impossible let alone unnatural mode of transmission. And to say it is harmless is absolutely ridiculous.

  17. vexorian says:

    Hello,

    What this time has scared me the most is not the main subject of the post but some of the comments in one of the links.

    Try the comments at : http://www.harvestdream.org/index.php?url=archives/431-GRAPHICAL-EVIDENCE-SHOWS-VACCINES-DIDNT-SAVE-US.html :

    I’m having a son born in January by a 20 year old who probably isn’t fit to be a mother, she fortunately is going to let me see the kid (for now) but she won’t even brook any discussion about vacinnes or even breaking up the triple shot. She has the power to prevent me from seeing my son so all I can do is hope that he doesn’t get fucked up by all these government mandated shots. Meanwhile I’ve dealt with progressive nuerological symptoms such as muscle twitching and recently loss of sensation in a few fingertips. Brutal stuff, and what can I do?

    Our best lessons lay precisely in the brutal stuff, if we’re serious we can learn to listen and avoid so much difficulty in the future.

    I strongly recommend for every man to learn to engender his core power, to withhold from the release of sexual energy. This lazy attitude towards sex is a practice that is purely the result of ignorance (by design) and a lack of discipline – an unfortunate situation which leads to many more children born to broken families than need be – for details on exactly what I mean please see Mantak Chai

    Have you considered leeching the heavy metals and chemical residues from your fat stores and sheaths?

    Here’s a short list of detox options that I have found very effective.

    -Drink only distilled water (at least 2 liters a day)
    -Have a sauna (preferably infrared) 3 – 4 times a week and re-mineralize generously with Himalayan mountain salt in your meals.
    -Eat green things (broccoli, spinach, kale, stinging nettle) with lemon juice dressings.
    -Drink lemon water every morning
    -Start taking MMS (See Jim Humble)
    -CoEnzyme Q-10
    -high quality filtered fish oil
    -meat only once a week
    -Start taking a teaspoon of Diatomaceous Earth in a fresh fruit drink
    -Stop consuming canned foods
    -Stop consuming pre-packaged foods which are high in additives
    -Start practicing with breathing techniques – see Systema

    I hope this all means something to you. :-D

    We really, really need some sort of science-based nutrition blog, or do we have it already?

  18. weing says:

    Th1 illustrates that there is no vaccine against stupidity.

  19. Watcher says:

    @Th1Th2

    Provocation and sensitization is the point.

    Also, many blood-borne and sexually transmitted diseases enter through breaks in the skin. So how is artificially creating an opening a poor way to introduce an antigen?

    @Vexorian

    I thought there was talk of a nutrition blog somewhere. Maybe it was something that was being brought up as a potential blogger spot here on SBM. Either way, diatomaceous earth? Infrared Sauna-ing? What is it that these are supposed to do? I would guess they’re inferring some type of filtering effect of the D-earth since it’s used this way in other applications. The infrared just boggles my mind …

  20. David Gorski says:

    Unfortunately, finding a truly science-based nutritional blog has been difficult.

  21. Th1Th2 says:

    Archangl508,

    “Why don’t you ask that question of an AIDS patient?”

    Just so you know that AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is irrelevant to compare unvaccinated people from AIDS patients because the unvaccinated are NOT immuno-deficient.

  22. windriven says:

    @Th1Th2

    I have absolutely no idea what point you are trying to make. If it is that one shouldn’t avail one’s self of available vaccines, the point is inane. If it is that the risks of vaccination outweigh the benefits, the point is still inane.

    Smallpox has been effectively eradicated and polio is on its way. Are you suggesting that those are diseases we should tough out? Are you suggesting that improved public hygiene would have eradicated those diseases sans vaccines? Such suggestions are preposterous.

    Influenza viruses mutate rapidly so effectiveness is variable. So what? The potential benefit is high and the risk is negligible.

    I’ve got to go with weing on this one; there’s no vaccine for what you’ve got.

  23. Archangl508 says:

    Th1Th2,

    Do you even read what you write?

    You wrote:

    “Who cares about acquired immunity, that’s not even the most important function of the immune system, hence the word “acquired”.”

    My understanding of your point is that you are saying that acquired immunity is not an important function of the immune system. Therefore, if acquired immunity is not an important function of the immune system then one should be able to survive without acquired immunity. For a definition of acquire immunity see here:

    http://www.virtualmedicalcentre.com/anatomy.asp?sid=21

    I was not using AIDS patients to compare to unvaccinated people, but rather, as an illustration of how important the acquired immune system is. AIDS patients lack only one part of acquired immunity, CD4+ T cells, and yet they do not survive without the acquired immune system. Therefore, your original point that acquired immunity is not an important function of the immune system is wrong.

  24. Watcher says:

    They were making a point that a potion of the acquired immune system takes the brunt of the HIV attack that leads to AIDS, questioning your hypothesis that “ … that’s not even the most important function of the immune system, hence the word ‘acquired’.

    Still interested in your thoughts on vaccination and the decline of disease …

  25. Th1Th2 says:

    Watcher,

    “Provocation and sensitization is the point.”

    Therefore, it is very wrong to say that vaccines has prevented disease occurrence and has protected the people from disease antigens.

    “Also, many blood-borne and sexually transmitted diseases enter through breaks in the skin. So how is artificially creating an opening a poor way to introduce an antigen?”

    It depends. The IM injection of Hepatitis B vaccine mimics a needle stick injury containing HbSag. And it would be ridiculous if the vaccine is taken orally, kwim? Meaning, specific vaccines enter the body based on the mode of transmission of natural infections. For example, you can get polio via fecal-oral route the same manner you can get VAPP from OPV. Make sense?

  26. Watcher says:

    I understand your point, I’m just not sure that it’s relevant toward inducing immunity to a disease in all cases. The body has the capability to fight off an invader whether in the muscle or normal route of infection.

    Therefore, it is very wrong to say that vaccines has prevented disease occurrence and has protected the people from disease antigens.

    If it wasn’t the vaccine, then what is the cause of it?

    If I become sero-positive towards a disease antigen, it’s through one of two ways: I am introduced to it from my environment or I am vaccinated against it. Either way it shows that my body is ready to fight the next introduction of the disease.

  27. Th1Th2 says:

    Archangl508,

    You know that CD4 T cells are T helper cells, right? I know you know how they function and one thing that they are incapable of doing is to kill infected host cells, right?

    “Therefore, your original point that acquired immunity is not an important function of the immune system is wrong.”

    Healthy newborns do not possess (active) acquired immunity and yet they have inherent immunity from extraneous disease antigens. Care to explain as to why that is?

  28. Harriet Hall says:

    Th1Th2,

    Are you suggesting that healthy newborns have inherent immunity to the antigens of smallpox, measles, polio, etc.? That’s clearly not true.

  29. Th1Th2 says:

    Watcher,

    “I understand your point, I’m just not sure that it’s relevant toward inducing immunity to a disease in all cases.”

    Because it is incorrect to say that one should be exposed to natural infection and/or vaccination in order to gain immunity, acquired immunity to be exact because either way you have to bypass the different protective barriers of the innate immune system to bring about secondary immunity. Hence, pox parties like vaccines are worthless and unnecessary.

  30. Watcher says:

    Vaccines and preterm neonates: why, when, and with what.
    Esposito S, Serra D, Gualtieri L, Cesati L, Principi N.
    Early Human Development. Volume 85, Issue 10. 2009.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19775838

    Says there are Ab titers seen in even preterm and low birth weight babies after most immunizations.

  31. Th1Th2 says:

    Harriet Hall,

    Are you suggesting that healthy newborns have inherent immunity to the antigens of smallpox, measles, polio, etc.? That’s clearly not true.

    Yes, they have genetic immunity like everyone else. They have intact skin integrity, mucosal membrane, enzymes, etc aside from a developing innate immune system. However, vaccination destroys and contaminates that inherent immunity with the above disease antigens.

  32. Watcher says:

    Because it is incorrect to say that one should be exposed to natural infection and/or vaccination in order to gain immunity, acquired immunity to be exact, …

    The how should one gain acquired immunity?

    … because either way you have to bypass the different protective barriers of the innate immune system to bring about secondary immunity.

    But that’s what diseases do, they bypass our primary defenses and start reproducing forcing our secondary defenses to mount a response. Does the body produce a different quality titer of Ab or acquired cells when vaccinated or introduced into our body in a novel way?

  33. Th1Th2 says:

    watcher,

    “Says there are Ab titers seen in even preterm and low birth weight babies after most immunizations.”

    Newborns have self-derived immunoglobulins. It something inherent. Thus the reason why vaccines are worthless and unnecessary.

    Even though, Ab titers do not correlate to protective immunity.

  34. Wholly Father says:

    Th1Th2,

    You seem to be stuck on some very pedantic points, which even if true (mostly they are not!) are irrelevant to the point of Dr Gorski’s post.

    Vaccines prevent illness and save lives.

  35. windriven says:

    @Th1Th2

    “They have intact skin integrity, mucosal membrane, enzymes, etc aside from a developing innate immune system. However, vaccination destroys and contaminates that inherent immunity with the above disease antigens.”

    Ah, a variant of the ‘precious bodily fluids’ theory first advanced by Gen. Bat Guano in Dr. Strangelove.

    So following what passes for Th1Th2 logic, we should abandon vaccination in favor of bubble wrap! How better to maintain that perfect skin integrity? How better to keep the precious bodily fluids (containing enzymes, one presumes) from leaking out? Ah but what to do about the mucosal membranes? A ball gag for the mouth to be sure. A diver’s mask should take care of the eyes. And maybe rubber pants for those unmentionable mucosal areas.

    Me? I’ll stick with the vaccinations.

  36. Harriet Hall says:

    Th1Th2,

    I asked “Are you suggesting that healthy newborns have inherent immunity to the antigens of smallpox, measles, polio, etc.? That’s clearly not true.”

    You answered, “Yes, they have genetic immunity like everyone else. They have intact skin integrity, mucosal membrane, enzymes, etc aside from a developing innate immune system.”

    Are you under the delusion that unimmunized newborns can’t catch polio, pertussis, smallpox, etc.? That’s clearly not true.

  37. Th1Th2 says:

    Harriet,

    Being unvaccinated or unimmunized means the newborn was not exposed and sensitized with disease antigens? Isn’t that what the immune system protect us from the invasion of such antigens? So why the need for inoculation?

  38. Watcher says:

    Newborns have self-derived immunoglobulins. It something inherent. Thus the reason why vaccines are worthless and unnecessary.

    True, but if you’d read the article, you’d see that these infants were immunized and later showed Ab titers against those diseases showing their immune system had been introduced to these Ag at some point in the past. Remember, IgG is highly specific for it’s Ag. You are right in stating that titers are not an indicator of protective immunity.Ab titers are, however, a decent way to judge efficacy of vaccine provocation of the immune system as well as previous introduction to a particular strain of disease. What this study suggests is that nothing intrinsic in their genetic makeup is that makes them unsusceptible, but something they came in contact with at a later date.

  39. Harriet Hall says:

    Th1Th2,

    Please answer my question. Do you believe a newborn can catch polio, smallpox, measles, etc. or not?

  40. Watcher says:

    So why the need for inoculation?

    Because controlled introduction of a dead disease agent provokes and sensitizes the bodies immune system, while showing little to no risk of catching the disease. When/if the organism comes into contact with it again, it can mount a secondary immune response that lowers the chance of a full blown sickness by clearing the disease-causing agent and thus the disease.

    Why isn’t there a need for inoculation? Because it can be taken care of when the body first sees it risking a full-blown debilitating sickness like small pox and polio?

  41. Th1Th2 says:

    Harriet,

    Give them the disease antigens into their naive system and vaccines are a very good vector. Guaranteed.

  42. Th1Th2 says:

    Watcher,

    Surely vaccines will give you the disease as specified by the label. But because of modification, attenuation or inactivation, vaccines are designed to limit the spread of infection thus minimizing certain symptoms of the disease.

  43. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Is Th1Th2 a new account for pec?

    “Immunity is all about defense, avoidance and resistance from disease antigens from entering the body.”

    Wow, that’s wrong. The barriers to the interior of the body are about preventing disease from entering the body. The inhospitable skin, thick layer of dead epidermis, mucus membrane, immune defences in the gut, stomach acid, etc. are one way of preventing antigens from entering the body. The immune system defends us once those barriers have been breached in some way. They’re totally different. With perfect barriers we wouldn’t need an immune system, but evolution of pathogens ensured that this will never be the case.

    ‘Vaccines, however, play the antagonistic role of “acquiring” a myriad of disease antigens, provoking and sensitizing the naive immune system.’

    Exactly, that way when the body is next exposed, its immune system will be primed to react quickly and strongly to prevent the infection from progressing to dangerous levels. That’s exactly the purpose of vaccination, and we’ve gotten pretty good at it, thank Dog, because otherwise we’d be at the mercy of “natural” immunity for polio, smallpox, measles, etc. i.e. paralysis, scarring, death. I would characterize this as “priming” rather than “antagonizing” the immune system.

    “For example, in vaccination you have to destroy an innate physical barrier of the skin in order to introduce influenza viral antigens, which is an impossible let alone unnatural mode of transmission. And to say it is harmless is absolutely ridiculous.”

    You don’t “destroy” the skin, you pierce it. And I’m pretty sure it has happened before, such as when someone sneezes on an open wound, when that wound is created in the first place by some filthy abrasion or sharp stick (I’m pretty sure prehistoric mixed woodlands were just as filthy and pathogenic back then as they are now), or when you have a cold and you brush your teeth, piercing the mucus membrane in your mouth (or eat something sharp for that matter). Hardly impossible, not even improbable, and very far from ridiculous. To say, as you seem to be implying, that the risks of vaccination outweigh the risks of the diseases they prevent seems rather ahistorical. As well as ignoring vaccines that are given orally and nasally. Vaccinations reduce the risk of the disease, and accordingly any serious complications that may accompany it. They prevent deaths, suffering, life-long disability, and let’s not forget smallpox scars. Acquired immunity is the best way to flexibly deal with virtually any pathogen that can evolve or be exposed to us, and vaccination is the safest way to administer it.

  44. Archangl508 says:

    Th1Th2,

    “I know you know how they function and one thing that they are incapable of doing is to kill infected host cells, right?”

    Helper T cells do not kill directly, those tasks are left to cytotoxic T cells (CD8+) or parts of the innate immune system. Instead they act as “generals” of the immune system helping to drive an immune response in a particular direction. But I do not understand why this is relevant to your point. AIDS patients still possess the same innate immune system and cytotoxic T cells (at least until the end stages where CD8+ T cells drop as well), but are still unable to respond to some of the most basic pathogens found in the environment. You still have not managed to answer this point.

    If, all is needed for immunity is to have, as you suggest, “intact skin integrity, mucosal membrane, enzymes, etc” and an “innate immune system”, then why do AIDS patients die when they have all that functionality, but only lack the acquired immune component of CD4+ T cells?

    “Healthy newborns do not possess (active) acquired immunity and yet they have inherent immunity from extraneous disease antigens. Care to explain as to why that is?”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11339354

    “Typically, neonates exhibit decreased or aberrant cellular immune responses when compared to adults, resulting in increased susceptibility to infection. However, it is clear that newborns are able to generate adult-like protective T cell responses under certain conditions.”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18804488
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19137537
    http://journals.lww.com/pedresearch/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2009&issue=05001&article=00015&type=abstract

    Newborns receive some protection in the form of passive antibody transfer from the mother. But they are still more susceptible to infection because they lack a full strength immune system capable of responding to pathogenic organisms.

    Healthy newborns certainly do possess an active acquired immune system. Newborns are able to respond with both B and T cell responses although not as strong as an adult. I still seem to have missed the papers that you linked to showing that neonates do not respond using the acquired immune system. Or perhaps some research showing that all you need is innate immunity to survive?

  45. windriven says:

    @ Harriet Hall

    Th1Th2 has achieved complete immunity against reason. Your efforts to breach his immunity are destined to fail!

  46. Harriet Hall says:

    Th1Th2 said
    “Give them the disease antigens into their naive system and vaccines are a very good vector.”

    Perhaps you didn’t understand my question. Let me re-phrase more elaborately. Try this thought experiment: go back in time to before any vaccine was ever invented. Given a newborn child who has not yet encountered any disease antigens, if an epidemic of smallpox (or polio, or any other infectious disease) occurs in the community and the child is exposed to people sick with active disease, is the child protected by inherent genetic immunity so that he will not catch smallpox?

  47. Watcher says:

    List of questions that need answered by Th1Th2:

    From Harriet ” Do you believe a newborn can catch polio, smallpox, measles, etc. or not?”

    From me “Why isn’t there a need for inoculation?”

    In addition …

    But because of modification, attenuation or inactivation, vaccines are designed to limit the spread of infection thus minimizing certain symptoms of the disease.

    I like the middle emboldened part, but you’ll have to explain the rest. The symptoms aren’t minimized in most cases as there isn’t enough pathogen to cause sickness. It’s more applicable to say that the disease or sickness is averted due to the sensitized affect of previous introduction so no symptoms can manifest.

  48. Th1Th2 says:

    Harriet,

    “is the child protected by inherent genetic immunity so that he will not catch smallpox?”

    I thought I answered that already. In the setting of a healthy and immunocompetent child, he is protected naturally. Now you have to wonder why even in a pox party, some children would not develop the disease even after exposure. Likewise, in the Philippines, the country experienced it’s worst smallpox epidemic as a result of the vaccination campaign. It affected the vaccinated more than the unvaccinated. http://www.whale.to/vaccine/Baratosy_Smallpox.pdf

  49. Th1Th2 says:

    Watcher,

    “The symptoms aren’t minimized in most cases as there isn’t enough pathogen to cause sickness. ”

    It’s called asymptomatic infection.

    “It’s more applicable to say that the disease or sickness is averted due to the sensitized affect of previous introduction so no symptoms can manifest.”

    You are not preventing any diseases from happening for as long as you keep on inoculating yourself with disease antigens. It just doesn’t make any sense, does it?

  50. Th1Th2 says:

    William,

    “because otherwise we’d be at the mercy of “natural” immunity for polio, smallpox, measles, etc. i.e. paralysis, scarring, death.”

    Complications from natural infections increase with poor health, malnutrition, depressed immune system, inappropriate management and treatment with drugs and even iatrogenesis.

    Also, vaccines are also capable of provoking the disease itself, paralysis, scarring and even death.

  51. David Gorski says:

    In the setting of a healthy and immunocompetent child, he is protected naturally.

    Nonsense. You’re doing nothing more than repeating a variation the common “alt med” fantasy that if you’re healthy, eat the right foods, and do the right things, you won’t get sick.

    Apparently we haven’t sufficiently inoculated this blog against anti-vaccine talking points.

  52. Harriet Hall says:

    Th1Th2,

    Throughout history, healthy children have caught infectious diseases. Do you deny this?

  53. The responses to this post got me wondering…

    Is the “science” in science-based medicine referring to the use of the “scientific method” to see where the preponderance of the evidence leads, or is it referring to the cooking up of some half-baked conclusion while using “science sounding” words to support it?

  54. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    “Complications from natural infections increase with poor health, malnutrition, depressed immune system, inappropriate management and treatment with drugs and even iatrogenesis.”

    Of course, but those complications wouldn’t exist if you prevent the infection itself – it’s a double-win. Safety from any harm from the disease itself, and safety from any complications resulting from the disease, as well as treatment. Immunization can prevent all of this, reducing stress on bodies that are already in poor health, malnourished, have poor immunity (though if immunity is weak enough, then the individual can’t mount a competent defence thus rendering the vaccination useless – a very specialized circumstance recognized by doctors), preventing any potentially iatrogenic complications or side-effects of treatment. So, how could you, by your own logic, oppose vaccination? Particularly when research has demonstrated that vaccination is so low-risk?

    “Also, vaccines are also capable of provoking the disease itself, paralysis, scarring and even death.”

    Yes, all true. Take scarring for instance – my mother has a scar from a polio vaccine, but it’s on her shoulder, the size of a dime, and doesn’t cover her whole body – unlike severe smallpox scarring. She can also walk, because she didn’t get polio. The risk of causing the disease is present in live, weakened vaccines, but is far less than exposure to the actual main infectious agent from another human with the communicable, unweakened disease (i.e. the ideal vehicle for transmission of the disease from person to person in an unweakened form). Vaccination may (emphasis, may) cause these complications, but at a much lower rate than the disease itself. There’s a reason iron lung manufacturers went out of business after the polio vaccine was implemented on a broad scale.

    Your reference to paralysis may refer to the H1N1 vaccination from the 70s – which were of such a low rate, they’re still not sure whether it even ticked above the background rate. So again, the risks of vaccinations are so low, they’re having trouble proving them. Like the autism red herring. Vaccination saves lives, at virtually no risk. When it doesn’t outright prevent infection, it blunts its severity. For more excellent information on a whole host of vaccines, I strongly recommend Vaccinated: One Man’s Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases by Paul Offit – very good, very readable, very comprehensive, written by a noted expert who publishes extensively on the subject of vaccines. I might also recommend Mistakes Were Made which shows how self-justification can run wild to the point of irrationality.

  55. Th1Th2 says:

    Harriet,

    “Throughout history, healthy children have caught infectious diseases. Do you deny this?”

    No, I don’t. But what’s appalling to know is the fact that even a healthy child is utterly defenseless from invasion of disease antigens coming from every vaccines. A completely inoculated child would have been exposed intentionally to as much as 13 disease antigens by the age of 1 year which is absolutely outrageous and barbaric. Yes, unvaccinated children can be exposed too naturally but not to 13 diseases. They grew up normally along the way not knowing such diseases.

    Now you have to wonder again why Hep B vaccine given to newborns is worthless and an absolute crap.

  56. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    http://www.whale.to/vaccine/Baratosy_Smallpox.pdf

    Oh snap! I hadn’t seen this. Whale.to has been invoked, this discussion is over.

  57. Archangl508 says:

    Th1Th2,

    You wrote this:

    “But what’s appalling to know is the fact that even a healthy child is utterly defenseless from invasion of disease antigens coming from every vaccines.”

    But you also wrote this:

    “I thought I answered that already. In the setting of a healthy and immunocompetent child, he is protected naturally.”

    Which is it? Utterly defenseless or protected naturally? Can you even manage to keep your ideas slightly consistent?

    If a child is protected naturally, then how can it also be utterly defenseless? Even if your argument is that vaccines enter into the body “non-naturally” that cannot hold for all vaccines, since some would be given in a similar route to the infection that would occur (for example, IPV and polio infection).

  58. Archangl508 says:

    Dr. Gorski,

    “Apparently we haven’t sufficiently inoculated this blog against anti-vaccine talking points.”

    As someone said above, “There is no vaccine against stupidity”.

    And as George Carlin said, “Think of how stupid the average person is….now realize that 50% of the people are dumber than that!”

  59. Th1Th2 says:

    William,

    “Of course, but those complications wouldn’t exist if you prevent the infection itself – it’s a double-win.”

    The same disease antigens you acquire from natural exposure that infect the body are also present in every vaccines, only modified. The immune system does not differentiate infection from natural exposure and infection from vaccination. Hence, in vaccination, there are neither prevention nor protection; there are induced-infection, sensitization and provocation.

  60. Harriet Hall says:

    Th1Th2,

    Do you deny that when a disease enters a community, the unvaccinated are more likely to catch it than the vaccinated?

  61. Th1Th2,

    You wrote:

    “No, I don’t. But what’s appalling to know is the fact that even a healthy child is utterly defenseless from invasion of disease antigens coming from every vaccines. A completely inoculated child would have been exposed intentionally to as much as 13 disease antigens by the age of 1 year which is absolutely outrageous and barbaric. Yes, unvaccinated children can be exposed too naturally but not to 13 diseases. They grew up normally along the way not knowing such diseases.”

    Firstly, Dr. Hall is being very kind to continue to try to have a rational conversation with you even though you continually respond with non sequiturs and tangential replies. If you open your mind, you could really learn from her.

    Secondly, you are aware that exposure to disease antigens is not equivalent to exposure to the disease itself, right? I would hope that you understand this distinction, but it is not clear from your comments.

    Thirdly, using fear-mongering propaganda to talk people out of potentially life-saving medical treatment, particularly for the defenseless child, is what I consider “outrageous and barbaric.”

  62. Archangl508 says:

    Def of Reality,

    “Secondly, you are aware that exposure to disease antigens is not equivalent to exposure to the disease itself, right? I would hope that you understand this distinction, but it is not clear from your comments.”

    No, he/she is not aware of that distinction or, at the least, simply ignores that distinction as it doesn’t agree with the rhetoric he/she would like to use. No matter how many times it is explained, and it has been explained over and over again in the comment threads of multiple articles, it still has not sunk in.

    For example, Th1Th2 is appalled that a child is exposed “to as much as 13 disease antigens by the age of 1 year which is absolutely outrageous and barbaric.” Th1Th2 conveniently skips over the point that in a child’s first breath, the first bacteria that enters the lungs contains thousands of antigens and that is just one single bacteria and does not include the millions of bacteria, viruses, fungus, and other particles that the child will contact within its first hours outside the womb.

  63. weing says:

    Th1 does not even know what an infection is. He thinks the antigen is the causative agent of the infection. He sees no need to satisfy Koch’s postulates. He is a troll, totally self-deluded, and probably certifiable. Maybe some psychiatric therapy might help him, but that is beyond my expertise.

  64. squirrelelite says:

    WilliamLawrenceUtridge,

    I don’t think Tb1Th2 is a new or alternate account for pec/LizKat since they’ve been posting comments since before LizKat was kicked out. Perhaps Dr Novella or Dr Gorski could discern something from the ip address.

    In any case, trying to trying to have a coherent discussion with them is about as productive as Alice trying to talk to Humpty Dumpty:

    `When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    `The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

    `The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master — that’s all.’

    Like most trolls, their real reason for commenting is not to communicate or learn but to find some excuse to disagree with whatever is said in response and see how long they can get people to keep responding. Then, when everyone else gives up trying to communicate or figure out what they are trying to say, they can consider themselves the master.

    So, mostly I don’t bother unless I think have something useful to point out to other readers who stumble into the confusion.

    I commend and thank you and Harriet and Archangl508 and all the others for making the valiant effort!

  65. squirrelelite says:

    Defender of Reality,

    You asked the question:

    “Is the “science” in science-based medicine referring to the use of the “scientific method” to see where the preponderance of the evidence leads, or is it referring to the cooking up of some half-baked conclusion while using “science sounding” words to support it?”

    If you dig all the way back to the original posting in this blog, I think Dr Novella made an explanation to the effect that Science-Based Medicine is an effort to add the knowledge we at least think we have gained in biology, medicine, and other fields of science like chemistry and physics into the formal evaluation structure of Evidence-Based Medicine which emphasizes the randomized controlled double-blinded study.

    The goal is to improve our evaluation of current and prospective medicines, treatments, therapies, etc. and make better use of available time, money and other resources to more efficiently improve them. If we don’t include our general understanding of science into this decision matrix, we waste too much of these resources doing endless follow-ups on studies of methods that show no usefulness or at best ambiguous results and have no scientific reason to expect that they might work.

    Dr Novella has a good discussion of these ideas in his more recent post:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=4178

    Unfortunately, there are way too many people out there who much prefer to cook up half-baked conclusions and fish around for sciency sounding words to persuade the uninformed.

    So, we continue to fight the good fight.

  66. Prometheus says:

    Windriven stated:

    “Ah, a variant of the ‘precious bodily fluids’ theory first advanced by Gen. Bat Guano in Dr. Strangelove.”

    That would be General Jack D. Ripper, commander of Burpelson Air Force Base, who was concerned about contamination of his “precious bodily fluids”.

    And las with Gen. Ripper, no amount of data or rational discussion will convince Th1Th2 that he/she/it is completely and utterly delusional in his/her/its understanding of biology in general and immunology in specific.

    Prometheus

  67. squirrelelite says:

    WilliamLawrenceUtridge,

    Your whale.to link got me curious so I gave it a quick skim. It started semi-plausible and soon descended into major anti-vax ranting. But, I wondered what the facts were. This must be a hot topic on the anti-vax sites because I had to dig about four pages deep into google to find something that looked like it might have real data behind it.

    I found Heiser and Leach’s 1922 JAMA article:

    http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/summary/79/1/40-a

    which says:

    VACCINATION IN THE PHILIPPINES STILL EFFECTIVE

    VICTOR G. HEISER, M.D.; CHARLES N. LEACH, M.D.

    J Am Med Assoc. 1922;79(1):40-41.

    Since this article does not have an abstract, we have provided the first 150 words of the full text PDF and any section headings.

    Recently many publications and statements have been circulated throughout the United States alleging that vaccination in the Philippines had not given protection against smallpox. Quotations from annual reports of the Philippine Health Service have been cited by the antivaccinationists showing that more than 50,000 deaths from smallpox have occurred in the Philippines during the last few years. The inference is that these deaths have occurred among the vaccinated. The inference is entirely without foundation, as the direct opposite actually occurred. The deaths are recorded almost entirely among the unvaccinated.

    It may be recalled that during the Spanish régime and for some years after the American occupation more than 40,000 deaths from smallpox occurred annually in the Philippines. When systematic, properly controlled vaccination was instituted, the disease disappeared in the wake of the vaccinators.”

    Unfortunately, the full pdf is restricted unless you pay. Does anyone else have a good link on this subject?

  68. Galadriel says:

    If I understand Th1Th2′s argument, s/he is trying to say that as long as the immune system never encounters any pathogens at all, it will be fine. Once it encounters the pathogens (eg via a “pox party,” or even antigens via a vaccine), then it’s no longer “naive”–apparently, naive is a good thing. Funny, it’s not a good thing in any other context. Perhaps it’s not *really* a good thing in this context either? Maybe?

    Th1Th2 seems to think that the ultimate, perfect job for the immune system is to not have to do anything. Once it can recognize (and defeat) a pathogen, it has failed. Somehow.

    I think Th1Th2 missed the part in elementary school science where it’s discussed just how small bacteria and virii are, and how many you encounter on a daily basis, much less in a year. Thirteen? Really? S/he thinks exposure to thirteen diseases is too many in one year? My immune system has easily defeated a thousand times that many pathogens as I sit here writing this post. I couldn’t have avoided them unless I lived in a bubble with a highly-filtered and treated air intake, and I wouldn’t be much good in this life if I did. But since I can’t avoid them, I at least have a built-in system specifically to take care of them, as much as it can.

    The immune system is CAPABLE. You don’t have to protect it from everything imaginable; you can’t. You can’t possibly keep pathogens out. But you can assist the immune system, give it extra tools to help it along. By giving the immune system weapons specifically aimed at some of the nastier diseases out there, we can help it to help us.

  69. Lenoxus says:

    Galadriel: If I understand Th1Th2’s argument, s/he is trying to say that as long as the immune system never encounters any pathogens at all, it will be fine.

    Nailed it.

    This is part of why the more fervent antivaxers go so far as to reject germ theory. Otherwise, they’re forced to accept that diseases aren’t acquired solely because the victim suffered from poor sanitation/nutrition/chakra/whatever. And if it is that case that, for instance, “polio” refers to a contagion to which anyone is susceptible at any time (not just some genetic deformity), then properly introducing the body to a very-weakened form of polio beforehand would serve the greater good, since you simply can’t guarantee a person’s lifelong avoidance of the disease, no matter how well that person takes care of themselves.

    Recognizing this (as well as the oodles of evidence for vaccine effectiveness) most antivaxers put their rhetoric in the “pro-safe vaccine” category. (They still don’t make any actual suggestions as to which vaccines they find safer than others, but that’s little surprise — scratch any antivaxer enough, and you’ll ultimately find someone who’s opposed to, well, vaccination. Exceptions are few.)

  70. Sid Offit says:

    My immune system has easily defeated a thousand times that many pathogens as I sit here writing this post.

    —————————

    Our immune system isn’t at war with each and every microorganism on the face of the earth. And it’s not a pathogen if it can’t cause disease.

  71. BillyJoe says:

    Someone quoted this a few vaccine related articles ago:

    “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

    That about sums it up.
    You can’t educate a closed-minded simpleton.

  72. Draal says:

    Th1Th2 has a point. In order to receive a vaccine shot, the skin barrier must be physically damaged by an intruding sharp foreign object. The horror! Why, oh, why did I not realize this before deciding to regularly donate blood at the local Red Cross? (sobs)

  73. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    “The same disease antigens you acquire from natural exposure that infect the body are also present in every vaccines, only modified.”

    Yes, this can be true. Vaccines use attenuated live, or killed viral/bacterial fragments so that they will cause an immune response. That’s the whole point of vaccination. This is the basic science of vaccination and the whole reason it is advantageous – all the benefits of surviving a potentially deadly or seriously harmful infection, with only a minute risk of actually getting sick – as opposed to actual exposure to the disease-causing agent which can cause both the disease and complications, as well as life-long injuries. We agree on this basic premise.

    “The immune system does not differentiate infection from natural exposure and infection from vaccination. Hence, in vaccination, there are neither prevention nor protection; there are induced-infection, sensitization and provocation.”

    Exactly, which again supports my point – you get all the benefits of immunity with a risk that is so low, it is incomparable. Vaccination is beneficial because both the amount of antigen presented is so small, and the infectivity so attenuated, that it can cause an immune response without the actual disease. That’s why they are so beneficial. Your immune response is not as strong as after an actual infection, but the whole point of immunization is to cue that initial reaction – becasue the next time the body exposed to the infectious agent, the immune reaction is many thousands of times stronger. Again, your understanding of vaccination is, from what I can tell, perfectly adequate. The only thing I really see is word games, as if induced-infection, sensitization and provocation rather than “prevention and protection” were a bad thing – as far as the immune system goes, they are essentially the same. Current knowledge affords us no beter way of preventing from deadly diseases aside from exposing us to the disease itself, with all of its potential deadliness. And again I invoke my dear mother – instead of crippling polio or death, she has a dime-shaped scar on her shoulder. Sure, you might get a mild fever from a vaccine, some muscle aches, and a tiny chance of something more serious, but you also get with that almost no chance of going sterile, deaf, paralysis, body-wide scarring, drowning in your own mucus, etc. that are the primary effects and complications from smallpox alone.

    Saying “vaccination doesn’t prevent illness, it just gives you a weakened form of it” is both scrupulously accurate and totally misleading – vaccination does “cause” infection but at such an absurdly low severity that the risks are essentially zero. You are presenting an accurate case in such a weaselly-way that it gives the impression of threat to the uninformed, while refusing to contextualize the actual threat in a meaningful way. Which points to having made a decision, and despite acquiring accurate information that contradicts that decision, an attempt to continue justifying it. Again I point to Mistakes Were Made. You can preview it at google books, see page 248 which discusses vaccination and autism. The principles also apply here: http://books.google.ca/books?id=Q-xxeolg09kC&pg=PA248#v=onepage&q=&f=false

  74. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    squirreleliteon:

    I just want it noted that I was quoting a link by Th1Th2, not citing it as part of my own discussion. Please, please, please don’t think I would refer to whale.to unless I was having a larf.

    BTW, an aspect of vaccination I missed until this point – antigens are used (and here I’m not sure if it is in addition to, or instead of, actual viral/bacterial particles), to provide protection against the harmful aspects of infection; by having an immune competent response to those antigens, it would blunt the most serious consequences of infection. So strictly speaking, I believe antigen-based vaccination would not prevent infection or cause the thousand-fold immune reaction to infection, but would prevent that infection from causing significant harm. Essentially it means the first exposure to the infectious agent itself has a significantly reduced ability to cause harm, thus increasing the chances of a person surviving their first exposure to the true, wild-type infection. Survive the first time and you’re pretty much spared for life – so even if vaccination doesn’t prevent “infection” per se, it would prevent the serious consequences of that infection – which is really the whole point, isn’t it?

  75. squirrelelite says:

    WilliamLawrenceUtridge,

    It’s OK. I sort of thought that was what you were doing, I just didn’t say it.

    Actually, I have found your comments to be very useful and informative, not that Th1Th2 will let themselves learn anything from reading them.

  76. Alison – I posted my response over in the “Placebo Effects Revisited” comments…kinda like a binary an easter egg hunt. :)

  77. Dash says:

    Ignoring Th1Th2 for the moment, they are beginning to come up with a ‘reason’ why diseases come back with decreased vaccination and why there were drops in different diseases at different times (ie just after the vaccines were used).

    You see, we don’t really have good nutrition today, and now we’ve learnt that we didn’t really have good hygiene either because the chemicals in the cleaners cancelled it out.

    Back in the 50s when we got rid of polio we had a decent diet, but since then so many chemicals have been introduced that today we’re really all malnourished and extremely ill. We shouldn’t be eating gluten or lactose either, because we’re all intolerant. This is why the diseases are coming back.

    The same with cleaning products – we have far too many chemicals around us and should be using bicarb and vinegar only.

  78. Chris says:

    Dash:

    Back in the 50s when we got rid of polio we had a decent diet,

    Have they even seen a cookbook from the 1950s? Truly horrible vile stuff, especially with all the new packaged quick foods. I shudder to think about the old TV-dinners that made me want to gag.

    Also, cleaning supplies fifty years ago were very toxic. They had real lye, and some very dodgy chemicals. In the 1970s I was able to get an ant killer that was essentially sugar water with arsenic!

  79. gaiainc says:

    My brother gave me a hilarious book several years ago called Regrettable Foods or something like that. It’s pictures of food from 1950′s and 60′s cookbooks and magazines with commentary. Seriously LOL stuff.

    Back to Dash… a 1950′s diet was decent? Really? Care to prove that instead of assert it?

    And we *all* are lactose and gluten intolerant? Based on what? That’s the basis of all disease? You mean I could have skipped my pathophys courses and residency and just recommended that all my patients stop eating anything containing dairy or gluten? Why didn’t I think of that before? That must mean people eating a mostly Asian diet must never get sick! Also people who don’t have access to cleaning supplies must also be healthy because they don’t have access to all those chemicals. I knew it.

    Oh… wait… Hep B is endemic in Southeast Asia and meningitis is endemic in Subsaharan Africa, a place that I doubt the regular population has access to Windex, Ajax, and the like. Try again, Dash.

    I do not understand people who will not vaccinate. I see no virtue or benefit in suffering (or making my child suffer) and going through disease naturally. It’s not like you end with extra brownie points or reward points or anything like that. A lot of the rhetoric reminds me of a lot of religious rhetoric… we have to suffer, it’s *good* for us, it’s *natural*. So is strychnine and I have no desire to take that in. Life is not a competitive sport, though I know a lot of people who think it is.

  80. Dash – “shouldn’t be eating gluten or lactose either,”

    Actually, I’d like to tie this into the genetics testing article. I know there are some Irish populations that have a high incidence of gluten intolerance/celiac disease. Also apparently some Chinese/Chinese American’s have a very high rate of lactose intolerance, while other Asian populations with a longer herding history have much lower rates.

    I’d be interested if genetic testing could be useful in highlighting food intolerance or if the current methods are adequate.

  81. michele,

    Genes don’t determine, they suggest. Even for the kinds of things you would think are very straightforward, like eye colour. (I’m not sure how that works, but I read it on the internet so it must be true.) (I think for eye colour genes make very strong suggestions, but they aren’t the only factor.) (For comparison, skin colour varies with genes, age, sun exposure, injury and probably a bunch of other things. You can know that someone is likely to have lighter or darker skin from their genes, but you don’t actually know what their skin colour is until you look at them. And even then it will vary over their body.)

    In the case of lactose intolerance, many people who are genetically lactose intolerant have developed adaptations that allow them to drink a certain amount of milk anyway — up to 250 mL daily — without discomfort. Not sure how much of this adaptation is controlled by one’s own genes and how much is dependent on gut flora; I presume there’s an interaction.

    If someone from a genetic heritage that suggests the possiblity of lactose intolerance has abdominal cramping, you can suggest that they check to see if it goes away when they eliminate fresh milk and comes back when they reintroduce it. That’s really what you want to know. They can be genetically lactose intolerant and tolerate a certain amount of lactose anyway; maybe their abdominal pain is caused by something else not diet-related.

    If you are making nutrient-dense cookies to distribute in a famine emergency, please don’t put milk powder in them. That’s just cruel. Even people who are genetically lactose-tolerant may stop making various sugar-digesting enzymes under nutritional stress. That’s completely beside the fact that many people in famine-susceptible areas are genetically lactose-intolerant to begin with.

    I know people with celiac disease. They are quite aware that something’s not right. I suppose genetic testing for everything that could be a gene-related condition that causes abdominal pain could possibly substitute for invasive scopes and biopsies, but I’m dubious. Wouldn’t you want to have someone actually take a look at the sore place?

  82. Scott says:

    I think some people may want to recalibrate their sarcasm detectors. The quotes around ‘reason’ in Dash’s post should have been a giveaway.

  83. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    “Back in the 50s when we got rid of polio we had a decent diet…”

    This reminds me of Mad Men, when Roger Sterling wonders what he did wrong, since he followed the advice of his doctors – “Drank the cream, ate the butter” but still got a heart attack. People started dying of heart attacks because they stopped dying of infectious diseases. People started dying of cancer because they stopped dying of heart attacks. Cancer is a disease of old age – and you have to die from something eventually. Evolution coded for the reproduction of offspring, not immortality. The idea that you can do one thing and somehow you will never die is one of the more beguiling claims made by alternative medicine practitioners that simply ignores reality. There is no magic bullet – nature doesn’t care if you live or die, only people do.

    Evolution is catching up though – selecting for things like the ability to digest lactose well into adulthood, and greater reproductive fitness for older females.

    @gaiaincon

    Was there some sort of bundt cake, and the description involved the word “bukkake”? If so, you might be talking about The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan: Classic Diet Recipe Cards from the 1970s. Been there, read that.

  84. Scott – actually the first paragraphs I thought “oh, sarcasm” particularly since it didn’t sound like the Dash that I recalled from other comments. Then again, my memory, so so. Then, last two paragraph just sounded so sincere that they broke my irony meter. :)

    Alison – You are probably right that conventional diagnostic measures are easier. Sometimes low tech is better. My husband has just begun to suspect that he is lactose intolerant after 2 weeks without milk and a happy stomach. Unfortunately, even with two years of repeat visits to the doctor for GI issues, no one thought to suggest stopping milk for a couple weeks. In the doctor’s defense, I think his symptoms are not spot on for LI.

    But I guess I was thinking ‘boy it would be nice if there were a test for those GI intolerance symptoms that would tell you what to try to eliminate first.’ I’ve heard of food allergy tests, but I think I heard they have a high rate of false positives. Maybe having a easy test is a wishes, horses deal.

  85. Scott says:

    One of my friends has a gluten allergy/intolerance of some sort (not celiac, but she hasn’t mentioned the specifics otherwise and I don’t choose to pry). Apparently she’s had it all her life, but only realized there was a problem when she was about 25. Precisely because she’d always had it, she never considered that maybe people weren’t supposed to always feel sick to their stomachs after eating. Then she happened to mention it to her husband one day (who thought it was rather odd), and after a bit of trial and error they figured out what was up. She feels much better now, but for many years didn’t even consider that there might be a problem.

    Something of an anecdotal counterexample to Allison’s comment that “[t]hey are quite aware that something’s not right.” In many cases, certainly, but not all.

  86. Calli Arcale says:

    In theory, genetic testing could reveal celiac sprue, since it’s a straight-up genetic abnormality (unlike most intolerances and allergies). But it is instead diagnosed through biopsy of intestinal tissue. Why? Because if a person is having the sort of severe reactions associated with celiac sprue, you’re not going to want to wait for a genetic test to be done. You want to know *now*, while you still have a chance to start treatment for any of the *other* things that can cause the same symptoms.

    Genetic testing is often oversold. If you developed a good genetic test for celiac sprue, its main downside is that it would be unable to diagnose anything else. Biopsy doesn’t have that problem. Really, until you’ve done a biopsy, you don’t know you need to do the genetic testing, and by then you can easily point the finger at celiac sprue anyway, making the genetic testing pointless.

    BTW, celiac sprue can manifest with mild symptoms and go undiagnosed for a long time, as Scott suggested. But if one has the full-blown version, their immune system mistakes certain alcohols (produced in the digestion of gluten and some related chemicals) for signals that tell the immune system to go on the offensive. The immune system begins attacking the cells that seem to be producing the chemical: the villi of the intestines. The results can be quite nasty.

  87. gaiainc says:

    My sarcasm meter could always do with a recalibration, especially since my little guy is working on yet another cold. However, since my patients some times tell me crap like what Dash wrote, it gets hard to figure it all out.

    @WilliamLawrenceUtridge: nope. It’s “The Gallery of Regrettable Foods: Highlights from Classic American Cookbooks” by James Lileks. Really a very funny book.

  88. ThisRThat1ThisRthat2 makes a great point! If only no one ever had a skin puncture, no one would ever die of small pox!

    I guess a bandaid would be too little, too late.

    Issue elbow pads to all infants!!! Give immunizations through inhalants!! Patch, anyone?

    But seriously…
    an old psychodynamic theory of schizophrenia is that the ego gets compromised by fear of penetration, or fear of violation of bodily integrity, if ya catch my drift. one psychaitrist i worked with would confirm this by having physical contact with a patient – hand on shoulder, or some such contact that most of us could handle without collapsing into psychosis; he would note how the patient would invariably get uncomfortable.

    Maybe ThisRThat1ThisRThat2 has an unconscious fear of violation of bodily integrity? Cuz this unsubstantiated theory seems to fall along those lines…

  89. Th1Th2 says:

    Archangl508,

    “Even if your argument is that vaccines enter into the body “non-naturally” that cannot hold for all vaccines, since some would be given in a similar route to the infection that would occur (for example, IPV and polio infection).”

    Wrong. The mode of transmission of polio viral antigens from an IPV requires a DEEP IM injection which is quite “unnatural” and sadistic as opposed to natural exposure which is transmitted via fecal-oral route and occasionally oral-oral route. You know what would happen if this vaccine takes the same point of entry to the body (OPV), don’t you? Right, VAPP and provocation poliomyelitis. And so do LMV can cause measles, LAIV can provoke influenza, mumps vaccine obviously can cause parotitis and so on. Which lead us to your next question.

    “If a child is protected naturally, then how can it also be utterly defenseless? ”

    It only requires a single needle stick using a 20-25 gauge 1-1 1/2 inch long needle filled with KNOWN disease antigens to break up their natural defense thus bypassing other protective barriers.

  90. Th1Th2 says:

    Wholly father,

    “Vaccines prevent illness and save lives.”

    Now that’s what I call ‘faith’, father.

  91. weing says:

    “The mode of transmission of polio viral antigens from an IPV requires a DEEP IM injection which is quite “unnatural” and sadistic as opposed to natural exposure which is transmitted via fecal-oral route and occasionally oral-oral route.”

    OMG! How sadistic! I bet you find the fecal-oral route just delicious. And I’m sure you’ve never seen a kid scrape a knee.

  92. Th1Th2 says:

    Harriet,

    “Do you deny that when a disease enters a community, the unvaccinated are more likely to catch it than the vaccinated?”

    Catch what? Disease antigens. The vaccinated were the ones who have had the biological markers of the disease after their exposure to vaccines, meaning they are no longer naive to the disease. So your question really is, if vaccines will prevent re-occurrence of diseases among the vaccinated upon re-exposure to natural infection, which I highly doubt.

  93. weing says:

    I’m pretty sure you don’t want your body to be naive to any disease. That way when you come in contact with the disease your defenses are in place and will not be overwhelmed by the onslaught. If your body is naive, good luck to you.

  94. squirrelelite says:

    gaia and william,

    Lileks has an online version too:

    http://www.lileks.com/institute/gallery/spec.html

    Ah, the good old days!

  95. Chris says:

    Thanks! I remember seeing that years ago, and tried to find the link!

  96. Chris says:

    When I posted this morning I had a vague memory of a green olive jello salad. I thought that was too weird to comment on and maybe it was a false memory, so I let it pass. But it was real!

    See: http://www.lileks.com/institute/gallery/drpepper/2.html

    (though in reality I think it was something I read in a memoir of Betty McDonald, Onions in the Stew, where a neighbor brought that horror to a potluck)

  97. Dave Ruddell says:

    “It only requires a single needle stick using a 20-25 gauge 1-1 1/2 inch long needle filled with KNOWN disease antigens to break up their natural defense thus bypassing other protective barriers.”

    Oh, now I get it. The immune system is like a balloon; one needle and POP!. No more immunity. Or something.

  98. Harriet Hall says:

    Th1Th2 said

    “So your question really is, if vaccines will prevent re-occurrence of diseases among the vaccinated upon re-exposure to natural infection, which I highly doubt.”

    You are using your own idiosyncratic definition of disease, but even if you assume the vaccination amounted to having the disease, there is plenty of evidence that when a partially vaccinated population is exposed to natural infection, individuals who were vaccinated are less likely to develop symptoms of the disease than those who weren’t. Or do you deny that too?

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