After a flurry of (well two) posts on one day, there has been a bit of a lull due to work commitments and limited internet access. My plan was to next do a detailed ‘take down’ of some of the claims made by the British Acupuncture Council, in the light of North Lakes Clinic’s recent promotional advert. This is still on the way. Then I encountered a zealot promoting colloidal silver use – he wanted help making a basic electrolysis machine to help him produce it for himself and others much cheaper than commercial outlets. So, this was then going to be the new blog post, provisionally entitled “Smurfs 3: An ethical dilemma”. However, I then read a letter in our local paper from a dangerous loon promoting anti-vax distortions and lies. Sooo…from the Times & Star (Cockermouth edition) of Friday 8th November 2013, we have the following (quoted here verbatim so any grammatical or logic errors are preserved):-
“REGARDING last week’s letters on side effects of the flu vaccine, in the 1930s Rockefeller and many more wealthy people in the USA decided to change the face of modern medicine forever. A lot of good came out of it but, as in most things, there was a down side.
The pharmaceutical industries have been allowed to get away with a lot over the years. They are a big influence on the medical establishment and Government. They can control what the public see on health in the media. In the USA the FDA food and drug administration that decides what is safe for the public and what is not is mainly funded by big pharmaceuticals.So we have a lot of drugs and vaccines and food additives that are unsafe to the public.
The science on flu vaccines and all types of vaccines is very weak to say the least. As regards flu jabs I would personally prefer to strengthen my immune system through healthy lifestyle changes. If you have a healthy immune system you have a better chance of being disease free!
There is no magic pill or vaccine that will prevent flu. The fact is as time goes by we are seeing more and more vaccinations in general, which means massive profits for big pharmaceuticals. In the USA your child will have 55 vaccinations before they are six years old; in The UK 25 vaccines before the child is 15 months. One study shows that in 1980 one in 10,000 had autism; in 2013 one in 50 have autism which is believed to be linked to vaccinations.
Most diseases that were mostly eradicated were not as a result of vaccinations but better hygiene, healthy food and sanitation. We are seeing more vaccines of very low risk diseases which means more money for the profit hungry big pharmaceuticals. It is a scandal that it is allowed to go on. Why is research money not spent on vitamin and mineral effects on ill health for the benefit of mankind?” No profit in that, is there! The truth is that pharmaceutical companies will not research something unless there is a large profit at the end of it.
There are many good vaccine websites, some which the Government are trying to ban, so we are unable to make an informed decision. Also watch on You Tube “Silent Epidemic: The Untold Story” by Gary Null, then make your decision.”
…and my reply (which may or may not appear in this form, or at all, in print on 15/11/2012):-
“One of the main reasons I became involved with skeptical activism and helped set up the West Cumbrian Skeptics, was clearly illustrated by Paul Bryant’s poorly written letter in last week’s Times Star. I’ll skip over the usual ‘Big Pharma’ and FDA corruption implications – one so often trotted out by anti-vaccine groups. If anyone wants a good objective analysis of the bigger picture, read Ben Goldacre’s ‘Bad Pharma’. Unfortunately, Paul produces several logical fallacies and inaccuracies, presumably ones he has read from from the standard scaremongering websites and magazines.
He states “So we have a lot of drugs and vaccines and food additives that are unsafe for the public” – what absolute nonsense! Where does he get this blind assertion from? Where is the evidence?
Then he claims that not only is the science weak for the flu vaccine, but for ALL types. Tell that to the millions whose lives have been saved, by not contracting smallpox, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, etc. No vaccine claims to be 100% effective or even completely side-effect free. What is this ‘weak science’ he talks about?
He is right on one point, however. A healthy lifestyle and diet can help to bolster the immune system, meaning less chance of a severe infection taking hold. Unfortunately, not everyone, particularly the very young, old or infirm, can do enough without vaccine support (not a “magic pill”). The flu vaccine can, and does, prevent flu by the way.
Moving on, the claim that “big pharmaceuticals” (sic) are making massive profits with all these vaccinations, if indeed it is true, so what. If money is spent on developing and marketing a product that greatly benefits human life, why shouldn’t there be a decent reward? By 18 months, a child in the UK will have 19 jabs to cover 9 conditions (the vacines Hepatitus B, Diptheria, Tetanus, Petussis, Haemophilus Influenzae Type B vaccine, Inactivated Poliovirus vaccine, Pneumoccal Conjugate vaccine, Rotavirus vaccine are given, with their relevant boosters). Again, another factual error from Mr Bryant.
Now we come to the classic ‘vaccines can cause autism’ nonsense. Firstly, there is still no clear understanding of what the causes of autism actually are. ‘Dr’ Andrew Wakefield tried to promote a link between this condition and the MMR vaccine a few years go, but has not only been discredited by the medical profession, but also shown to have falsified the research. I’d like to know where this study of autism rates comes from, or even which country it refers to. Autism rates in the UK were rising BEFORE the introduction of MMR in 1989, and have continued to rise steadily since then (from about 1 in 100,000 to 3 in 100,000 in 2001).
Then he asserts that it is better hygiene, food and sanitation, not vaccinations, that caused the eradication of those diseases that have mostly disappeared. Again, based on what evidence? Certainly those steps will reduce the chance of spread of many diseases, but smallpox would never have been wiped out without the relevant vaccination program. Look at what happened in Wales, starting in Swansea,with the outbreak of measles (not a ‘low risk’ disease). This took hold quickly due to anti-vaccine propaganda in the press over 10 years earlier! And how polio is spreading across Syria (possibly threatening Europe) with many of their refugee population not being vaccinated. There are many other ‘clusters’ of easily controlled infections all over the world, particularly where there are vocal anti-vaccination proponents.
A small correction is needed next. As far as I know, there is a lot of money spent on the effects of vitamins and minerals in the role of ill-health. In fact, plenty of the places that I guess Paul gets his information from will happily sell you all sorts of supplements and lotions to “improve your health”.
One more point he is correct on. There indeed are plenty of good vaccination sites available on the internet, but also some absolutely appalling ones. These are often the same websites that throw their lot in with such scientifically unproven therapies such as homeopathy, acupuncture, reiki and the like.
Finally, it is interesting that his final comment is to promote a YouTube clip by Gary Null. This man is a well-known conspiracy theory advocate and marketer of dubious supplements and treatments. He also claims qualifications that cannot be verified. Quackwatch has done a very good summary. See http://www.quackwatch.com/04ConsumerEducation/null.html
In conclusion, if this letter seems a little terse,it is because I feel that this sort of dangerous nonsense should not go unchallenged, for the greater good of those who do not have the time or opportunity to check for themselves. It’s what we at the West Cumbrian Skeptics are trying to guard against.
I hope that all Paul Bryant is doing is to repeat back things he has read uncritically, and does not have some other agenda. All I can say for certain is that he did not do any reasonable fact checking (I spent about an hour doing mine).
Yours, critically thinking, Ben Sagan – West Cumbrian Skeptics”
Now, maybe that is a bit wordy and perhaps poorly expressed, but I was very angry when I read his letter. I know that freedom of expression is a very important human right, but sometimes … 😉