Cries the antivaccinationist: Why are we injecting TOXINS into our babies? (revisited)

Alright, I think I got the whole Maher/Dawkins thing out of my system for now. True, given the highly annoying reaction of one reader, I was half-tempted to write yet another post on the whole fiasco just out of spite, but I decided that spite in and of itself was not a good reason to write a blog post. Well, in this case it isn’t, anyway, but if it were someone like Vox Day, or J.B. Handley, or a hapless quack or creationist, well, a wee bit of spite can make for some mighty fine blogging that’s really fun to write. True, spite should never be the be-all and end-all of a blog, but certainly it’s part of the mix, along with ridicule, which some targets of Orac’s Insolence, both the Respectful and not-so-Respectful varieties, deserve in abundance.

Speaking of spite, though, does anyone remember a regular commenter here by the name of Dawn? No, not “Dawn from MI,” who had to start signing her posts that way in order to distinguish herself from what we started calling “evil Dawn,” a situation that sometimes caused confusion and made me feel sorry for “good Dawn’s” having to put up with the occasional confusion. Ultimately, evil Dawn went too far, pissing me off to the point where I banned her, making her only the second person (out of three) ever banned in the five years of this blog, the first being John Best. (The third one banned was Happeh.) Given the august company that evil Dawn finds herself in, there is no doubt that the crazy was strong in this one. So was the spite, which was what finally got her kicked off as a commenter on this blog. Fortunately, unlike Happeh, Dawn has stayed gone, and the blog is much better off for it.

Unfortunately, it looks as though Dawn found herself a “better” blogging gig than annoying my readers any time I blogged about vaccines. In fact, she’s managed to get a bit of work of hers published on a fairly high profile anti-vaccine website, as some of my readers and one of my blog buds PalMD, pointed out to me. The article is FDA Approved H1N1 Vaccines Contain Ingredients Known to Cause Cancer and Death. Here’s a hint. It’s so bad that it’s posted on Kevin Trudeau’s website as well. Here’s another hint: Even the anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism did not link to Dawn’s post. (Maybe the “editors” there learned something from the Heckenlively debacle. Naaaaaaahhh!)

In any case, in Dawn’s article, the stupid is everlastingly burning. In fact, if a such a thing as hell exists, the fire burning there eternally would be Dawn’s burning stupid, and the punishment for anyone with a modicum of knowledge of science would be to have Dawn read her article to you over and over again for all eternity.

Geez, I just scared even myself. Maybe I should start going to Mass again. And Confession. Maybe I could become an usher at the local church and join the Knights of Columbus. If there’s even a homeopathic chance that this version of hell is waiting for me at the end of my life, it’s enough to shake even my doubt. You’ll soon see what I mean.

Basically, what Dawn did was to look at the ingredients of the H1N1 vaccines that will soon be on the market, attended Google University, read a few Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), and, voilà! The stupid is served. Hot, steaming, and stinky. Dawn doesn’t even have a clue just how silly what she has done is, as evidenced by this exchange in the comments of her blog:

SHAWN: Dawn, do you have any indication as to whether the (thus far) approved vaccine is adjuvanted? Also, if it is not adjuvanted, it does not preclude adjuvanting the next batch and on into the future. They’ve been waiting on “expert” analyses of clinical trial results.

DAWN: Honestly Shawn, it is not known at this time. I have simply supplied the package inserts that have been made public with the product. Any new information that I come across I will surely post.

CRYSTAL: Scary stuff. People just do not understand…

Scary stuff indeed, just not in the way that Crystal thinks. In fact, my irony meter once again exploded when it encountered the exchange above. I really need to reinforce that sucker better. I’ll also point out that, no, the U.S. H1N1 vaccines do not contain adjuvants, although the European vaccines do. (revere discussed the issue of adjuvants here and here.

But back to Dawn’s post.

In essence, what Dawn did when she wrote this post is to make exactly the same hilariously idiotic mistake that Age of Autism regular Kent Heckenlively made nearly two years ago when he tried to implicated sucrose in vaccines as a cause of…well who knows? The results are just as hilariously but disturbingly brain dead.

Dawn starts with one fear-mongering bit:

Most health experts will agree that vaccine reactions can occur. It is estimated that roughly 1 in every million people will react to their vaccine. Even then, health officials maintain that it is usually a simple case of inflammation at the injection site and/or a slight fever. On a rare occasion, anaphylactic shock may occur due to the patient reacting to a substance that they are allergic to. However, the FDA recently approved four H1N1 vaccines that not only contain very questionable ingredients, but some of those ingredients have even been proven to cause cancer and death.

She then launches into a little tirade about how people who are hypersensitive to the ovalbumin or other proteins in eggs could be harmed by the vaccine. Well, duh! Why does Dawn think that people who are going to be given the vaccine are asked if they’ve ever had an allergic reaction to eggs, gelatin, or anything else in the vaccine that a fraction of the population may be allergic to?

Still, that was the least of the stupidity in this post. If Dawn hadn’t gone so over-the-top, she might have had a half-rational point. Here’s where Dawn creates her own hell. Well, actually, she creates hell for anyone with half a brain who happens to read her article, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt Jean-Paul Sartre’s postulate that “hell is other people,” at least if that other person happens to be Dawn and you happen to have half a brain. Here’s what I mean:

Neomycin and polymyxin are listed as contraindications for CSL’s (2) and Novartis’ (3) vaccines. “Neomycin may cause damage to the kidneys and/or nerves. Kidney function and drug levels in the blood may be monitored with blood tests during treatment. Tell your doctor if you experience decreased urination, hearing loss, ringing in the ears, feeling of fullness in the ears, dizziness, numbness, skin tingling, muscle twitching, or seizures which may be signs of kidney or nerve damage.” (7) According to Teva Pharmaceuticals, the effects of neomycin may not be evident until long after the medication has been discontinued. Just exactly how long is unclear at this time. (8) Polymyxin has its own set of possible adverse reactions. “Neurotoxic reactions may be manifested by irritability, weakness, drowsiness, ataxia, perioral paresthesia, numbness of the extremities, and blurring of vision. These are usually associated with high serum levels found in patients with impaired renal function and/or nephrotoxicity.” (9)

This is just plain ignorant. If you want to see the difference between an education over a weekend or two at Google University and actually understanding medicine, look no further than the above. Neomycin and polymixin are indeed antibiotics. They’re used in the manufacture of vaccines. Specifically, antibiotics like this are usually used to prevent bacterial contamination and overgrowth during cell culture and the growth of the viruses. After the manufacturing process there often remain trace amounts of these antibiotics. In humans, neomycin is primarily used for bowel preps, in order to decrease the level of bacterial flora in the colon before any sort of surgery that might involve a colon resection and anastomosis. Polymixin B is rarely used to treat humans anymore because there are better drugs. Here’s problem and here’s where Dawn reveals the limitations of her Google education to hilarious effect, just as Kent Heckenlively did. The dosages needed to cause hearing, kidney, or nerve damage are at least three or four orders of magnitude higher than the amount of the traces of these antibiotics that are found in any vaccine. Indeed, the usual doses of these antibiotics for an adult are in the gram, not milligram or microgram range. Not that that stops Dawn from making the same mistake again with one other antibiotic:

Gentamicin (10) is listed as a contraindication for MedImmune’s vaccine (1). It too, has its own list of possible side effects, which may include nephrotoxicity and/or neurotoxicity.

This is the same idiocy that Kent Heckenlively fell into with hilarious effect. In any case, gentamycin is used to treat serious gram negative bacterial infections, and the dose is usually in the mg/kg range. Again, its orders of magnitude higher than any conceivable dose that a baby could be exposed to in vaccines. In fact, I’d be willing to bet good money that, after an injection of the H1N1 vaccine there wouldn’t even be detectable levels of gentamycin in the blood. There are assays for this drug, because keeping its levels within the therapeutic range and below the toxic range is essential.

Dawn then proceeds to delve deeper into antivaccine pseudoscience:

An overview of the remaining chemicals may prove to be further unsettling. Sanofi Pasteur’s vaccine (4) also contains formaldehyde (25), which is a suspected carcinogen (cancer-causing), Triton X-100 (26), which is possibly a reproductive toxin, and thimerosal (27), which is mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells (alters DNA).

Formaldehyde? As I’ve said before, that’s the dumbest anti-vaccine gambit of all. Even Dr. Jay Gordon doesn’t use it, so shamed and slapped down was he for using it the last time. Thimerosal, as we’ve said before, is not toxic at the doses used in vaccines, and there is no evidence that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism. Finally, Triton X-100 is a a common detergent agent used to make cell membranes permeable and release virus into . In the past, a compound called Tween-Ether was sometimes used instead of Triton X-100. Either way, there’s nowhere near enough Triton X-100 in a vaccine to be toxic. The dose makes the poison.

There’s an old saying that, when you’re in a hole, stop digging. Dawn has never heard of that saying, apparently, given that she then proceeds to blather on and on about potential drug interactions between these antibiotics and how they increase the risk of side effects, such as ototoxicity (harm to hearing) or nephrotoxicity (kidney damage). Again, there’s just one problem. Those interactions occur at therapeutic doses. In ranges orders of magnitude below the therapeutic range they are simply not a major (or even minor) consideration. doubt some will say that I’m being too hard on an ignoramus like Dawn, but if you want to play with the big boys in the blogosphere, you’d better be prepared to take the consequences that come your way from laying down a swath of flaming stupid, like a bomber laying down napalm.

Besides, I haven’t really revealed to you the dumbest part of Dawn’s article yet. Yes, it does get worse. Oh, so much worse. I realize that it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Not only did Dawn not stop digging when she was in a hole, but she got out a freakin’ backhoe. Heck, she did more than that. She got out the dynamite and started blasting. No, even that’s not enough. She actually decided to start digging by detonating thermonuclear weapons of stupid. Think I’m exaggerating? I only wish I were. In fact, if anything, I think I’m going a bit easy on Dawn for this. But be prepared. If you have even a rudimentary knowledge of very basic chemistry, your brain will hurt after you read this. That’s just the apoptosis of neurons crying out in pain from the toxic waves of stupid washing over them.

OK, ready?

Here it comes.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Here it is:

Potassium chloride (30), calcium chloride (31), and sodium chloride (32) are also listed as ingredients for CSL. All three are considered mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells.

I started giggling uncontrollably when I read this passage. I don’t know if it was a reaction to the pain of millions of neurons crying out against the other millions of neurons that had forced my eyes to look at this burning stupid. Somehow I got a picture of a control center in my brain, much like the one in the final segment Woody Allen’s classic movie Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask). I envisioned a bloody and wounded Tony Randall staring blankly around him as parts of the brain’s control center explode like the bridge in a Star Trek episode during a particularly fierce starship battle, with crew members (such as Burt Reynolds in the case of Sex) collapsing or being thrown backward with hilariously bad acting as the console in front of them erupts into a shower of sparks. The humor behind this image gave me comfort and allowed me to survive the onslaught of intelligence-sucking nonsense. I couldn’t help myself, and, I daresay, you probably had a hard time not cracking up too when you read Dawn’s horror that–gasp!–salt is in vaccines.

But back to what Dawn actually wrote.

That’s right. Sodium chloride is in the vaccines! Table salt! Run away! The vaccines are going to kill us all! Or maybe give us hypertension. But what about potassium chloride? Lots of foods have potassium chloride, lots of potassium chloride. Bananas, for instance, are famous for having a lot of potassium. So do Romaine lettuce, spinach, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, and a number of other vegetables. Oh, no! Not that too! The vegetables are going to kill us all too! (Now I’m getting an image of a certain episode of Lost in Space.) But what about calcium chloride? Well, it’s used in lots of foods, too. It can be found in sports drinks as part of the electrolytes used, in various snack foods, and in other foods.

The horror. The horror.

Right now, I’m going to describe a perfect storm of these electrolytes that will strike horror deep into Dawn’s pseudoscientific little heart. There is a product actually used in hospitals that contains not just sodium chloride, but postassium chloride and calcium chloride. Not only that, but it contains them at concentrations as high or higher than what is found in any vaccine. Even worse, it comes in 100 ml, 250 ml, 500 ml and 1 L bags! Hundreds, thousands of times more of the toxins are there! Clearly, this must be some horrible disinfectant. Surely it must be used to scrub down the floors and sinks in order to kill all that resistant staph and those nasty hospital bugs, right? Doctors, nurses, and medical students are probably laughing their posteriors off right now, because they know what I’m referring to:

Lactated Ringer’s, abbreviated LR.

That’s right, it’s an IV fluid infused–the horror! the horror!–directly into the veins. Not only that, but in adults, it’s not infrequently infused at 100 ml/hr or even more. Sometimes a liter at a time is infused rapidly! I wonder why every hospitalized patient who’s received LR hasn’t turned into a mutant or developed cancer? If Dawn is right about sodium chloride and the rest of these salts, every trauma patient who’s ever survived should have horribly mutated cells or cancer, because LR is usually the intravenous fluid of choice for most trauma resuscitations. Come to think of it, here’s another toxic bomb of mutagenesis: Gatorade. That’s right. There’s plenty of NaCl (that’s sodium chloride, Dawn), KCl (that’s potassium chloride, Dawn), and CaCl2 (that’s calcium chloride, Dawn) in sports drinks like Gatorade. That means all those athletes must have cells whose DNA is mutating horribly right this very minute after exposure to those horrible mutagens, NaCl, KCl, and CaCl2!

In the end, Dawn’s article is the perfect encapsulation of the arrogance of ignorance. Dawn thought she could teach herself this stuff and that reading a few MSDS sheets and some lists of ingredients, coupled with a bit of Googling, allows her to understand vaccine ingredients well enough to be able to argue how dangerous they supposedly are. She’s wrong, of course. That’s because medical science is much more than a collection of facts. In fact, even the collection of facts is more than a collection of facts. If you don’t have the background knowledge to put the facts you encounter into perspective, to understand their significance, you can easily make mistakes as hilariously overwrought as Dawn did. It’s the difference between understanding and merely thinking that you understand.

It’s the difference between the arrogance of ignorance and actual knowledge.