One more lesson on what “antivaccine” means

Yesterday, I discussed the meaning of the word “antivaccine,” using the example of Dr. Suzanne Humphries, an MD-turned-homeopath, as an example of why I refer to people like Humphries as “antivaccine.” She really laid down the crazy, too, repeatedly calling vaccines the injection of “disease matter” and “unnatural,” while piling conspiracy theory on top of conspiracy theory about big pharma. After seeing that, I didn’t think I’d soon find another example of someone as antivaccine as Humphries.

I was wrong.

I was actually debating whether to subject you to this video a mere day after having subjected you to the gloriously unrelenting antivaccine pseudoscience that is Dr. Humphries. I wasn’t sure that your fragile eggshell minds (or mine, for that matter) could tolerate another dose of anti-vaccine insanity cranked up to 11 and beyond. But then I thought: Why not? What better to drive my point home about why I call people like this antivaccine than to deliver a double dose of crazy for display for my readers? They can handle it. (Well, at least the ones who have–amazingly–read this blog for many months or years can. I’m not so sure about newbies, but there’ll be no coddling here.) Besides, I’m in a somewhat perverse mood right now; there’ll be time aplenty for serious blogging about peer-reviewed scientific research or sober treatments of various topics that skirt the interface of science and pseudoscience, medicine and quackery.

Now is not that time.

But who? Who could possibly surpass Dr. Humphries? She did indeed set the bar very, very high indeed–or low, depending upon your point of view, so low that no science, knowledge, or logic could manage to limbo underneath it. One would probably have to invoke quantum effects to pass under the low bar of the pseudoscience represented in this video. Behold:

Yes, it’s our old friend Dr. Lorraine Day, someone I wrote about near the very beginning of this blog. Dr. Day was a seemingly normal, sensible orthopedic surgeon. She did have a bit of an inordinate fear of blood, but then she did trauma at San Francisco General back in the 1980s at the initial wave of the AIDS epidemic, back when the biology of HIV was really not well understood at all. In any case, she developed breast cancer in 1993 and tells an odd story of how she supposedly cured herself with dietary manipulations, prayer, and other woo. These days, she takes a dim view of criticism and likes to threaten her critics with the wrath of God.

Apparently she has an even dimmer view of vaccines.

Notice how the video starts out with a picture of two vials (presumably vaccine vials) festooned with a skull-and-crossbones, sitting next to a syringe, over which appear the words “VACCINES DO NOT WORK” in blood-red letters. Subtlety, let’s just say, is not one of Dr. Day’s strengths. She begins by claiming that the swine flu was a ‘total hoax” designed to sell vaccines. It wasn’t a hoax, of course. In fact, whenever I hear someone like Day claiming fears of pandemics or epidemics are “hoaxes,” I can never figure out why scientists or the government would ever want to pull such a hoax. What would they get from it, other than a big bill for millions of vaccine doses? Yet, here we have Dr. Day assuring us that the swine flu scare of 1976 was a “hoax.” Unfortunately, even though there were reasons to fear another pandemic like the one in 1918 in 1976, the government response, a mass vaccination program, coupled with a a vaccine with problems. Dr. Day, of course, makes it sound as though every person who was vaccinated came down with Guillain-Barre syndrome. In fact the Institute of Medicine did a thorough investigation in 2003 and concluded that there was a slightly increased risk of GBS associated with the swine flu vaccine, approximately one extra case per 100,000 people, the reasons for which remain unclear to this day. When you vaccinated millions of people, such an association will easily translate into about 100 extra cases of GBS per 10 million people, a risk that is too high and, to this day, poorly understood. However, we do know that subsequent flu vaccines have not been associated at all with GBS.

If the swine flu scare of 1976 really was, as Dr. Day claims, a plan for the pharmaceutical companies to make up a disease, make up a vaccine for that disease, and scare everyone into taking the vaccine, it was a colossal failure in that the association of flu vaccines with GBS tainted the reputation of flu vaccines to the point that, when H1N1 threatened two years ago, people were still talking about GBS as a possible complication of flu vaccination. Never mind that, as I just pointed out, since then there has been no evidence of a link between GBS and subsequent flu vaccines. Seriously. Dr. Day’s conspiracy theory is hard to believe for the simple reason that, however nefarious the purpose and intent of big pharmaceutical companies may be, it’s very difficult to accept Day’s apparent contention that our pharma overlords could possibly be so incredibly incompetent.

Not that that stops Dr. Day from declaring bird flu nothing but “SARS with wings” and that, oh, by the way, SARS was a hoax too.

Almost as though in response to my question of just what on earth big pharma and the government has to gain from perpetrating the “hoax” of swine flu, SARS, bird flu, or whatever, Dr. Day enlightens us:

But what do they gain by manufacturing this terror? They gain control, because they can quarantine–they can quarantine whole cities with SARS. They can quarantine airplane loads of passengers. They can make vaccines and demand that everyone take them. It frightens everybody, plus they put things in vaccines–in vaccinations. There are preservatives like formaldehyde. It’s grown in either animal or human cells, all of which are contaminated…And, so, vaccinations are very damaging to individuals–we can talk more about that later–but they are an absolute financial boon to the pharmaceutical companies.

Even better for big pharma, claims Day, vaccines damage the immune system (according to her), creating yet more business for big pharma. Truly, it is a nefariously perfect scheme: Create hoax that gets people to be vaccinated (and make tons of money doing it) while the vaccines harm the immune system of the people vaccinated, thus guaranteeing an unending flow of profit.

Call me crazy, but this seems to me like a rather risky and dangerous way to make a profit, actually. Think about it for a minute. First, you have to generate a panic, get the government on your side so that it launches a mass vaccination program, and do it all without getting caught actually making up the disease. Just think of the negative public reaction that occurred after only a slightly increased risk of GBS after swine flu vaccination. Maybe that’s why the only scientists who have ever claimed that the government does this sort of thing are “brave maverick” doctors and scientists who are already antivaccine to the core. These “hoaxes” are nonexistent, or, more properly, only exist in the fevered imagination of antivaccine loons like Dr. Day.

“Brave maverick doctors” like Lorraine Day.

But to Dr. Day the agenda of the pharmaceutical industry goes far beyond just that. It’s not enough just to make profits off of infectious disease “hoaxes.” Oh, no. Big pharma goes far beyond this. If you believe Dr. Day, the goal of big pharma and mandatory vaccinations is to cause deterioration and destruction of the human race “more rapidly than we’re destroying ourselves” so that there will “eventually be nothing left.” I kid you not. That’s the ultimate effect of mass vaccination programs, according to Dr. Day. Again, it seems to me like a rather bad business model. Destroying your customer base just doesn’t strike me as a sustainable business model, and big pharma is nothing if not all about the business.

In the latter half of the video, Day spouts off old standbys, such as the claim that there was no autism and no sudden infant death syndrome before vaccines, proclaiming that it has been established “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that vaccines cause SIDS and autism. In fact, to Day “Vaccinations do not work. They don’t work at all. They don’t work.” And, of course, they have “toxins”! You know, formaldehyde (never mind that formaldehyde is a normal byproduct of metabolism and that infants have far more formaldehyde in their bodies than exists in any vaccine), mercury (which is only present in trace amounts anymore in childhood vaccines). Oh, and let’s not forget that the viruses are grown, according to day, in cancer cells. That’s right! “Aborted fetal cells” aren’t evil enough. They have to be grown in cancer cells! And even worse, according to Day, you can get cancer from vaccines because of it!

Not so fast.

For one thing, there are no live cells left from the cell cultures in which the virus used to make the vaccine. For another thing, Day is basically misrepresenting the true situation. (Big surprise.) This claim that vaccine viruses are grown in cancer cells seems to come from reports during the H1N1 pandemic by a German doctor named Wolfgang Wodarg and spread around the Internet by–who else?–Joe Mercola about a version of the H1N1 vaccine made by Novartis. Wodarg claimed that the virus was grown in “cancerous cells.” Not surprisingly, as is the case with so many antivaccine claims, there is a grain of truth in this, but the way it’s represented by Day is related to reality only by coincidence. It turns out that Baxter tried growing an H1N1 vaccine in a Vero cell line. Vero cells are cell lines derived from om kidney epithelial cells extracted from an African green monkey. Although they are immortalized (i.e., they can replicate indefinitely), but they are not cancerous in that they do not form tumors. Other H1N1 vaccines apparently are being grown in Madin-Darby Canine Kidney (MDCK) cell culture. Again, these are cell lines that are immortal but not cancerous.

Believe it or not, there once was a time when I was blissfully ignorant of antivaccine views like the ones above. In fact, I never could have conceived of such hostility towards vaccines, modern medicine, and science. Dr. Lorraine Day is, as we have seen, Dr. Day is crank magnetism epitomized: A Holocaust denier, homophobe, cancer quack, and 9/11 Truther. Not surprisingly, antivaccine views fit right in.

Thus endeth the lessen (for now) on antivaccinationism. Sadly, I’m sure it won’t be long before I’ll have to add another installment.