The annals of “I’m not antivaccine,” part 26: “No, I’m not an ‘vaccine safety’ advocate”

It is my contention that, as much as they try to deny it over and over and over again, the “thought leaders” (if you can call it thought) of the antivaccine movement are indeed truly antivaccine. That’s why, whenever I see Andrew Wakefield deny that he is antivaccine, I laugh. Whenever I see Jenny McCarthy claim that she is not “antivaccine” but rather “pro-safe vaccine,” I laugh. And when I see Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. describe himself repeatedly as “fiercely pro-vaccine,” not only do I laugh, but I feel obligated to mock him with every bit of not-so-Respectful Insolence that I can muster to show just how ridiculous his claim is. I mean, anyone caught making Holocaust allusions in reference the vaccine program might be many things, but “fiercely pro-vaccine” is not among them. Yes, most parents who don’t vaccinate, what are commonly referred to as the “vaccine averse,” are probably not really antivaccine, but the people who spread antivaccine ideas, like Andrew Wakefield and RFK, Jr., definitely are, their denials notwithstanding.

And if you don’t believe me, let me point out a post that appeared on that wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery (yes, I know I use that phrase to describe more than one websites, but there’s nothing that says there can’t be more than one wretched hives of scum and quackery), Age of Autism. It’s by Laura Hayes, and it’s entitled, Vaccines: What is there to be “Pro” About?. In it, she basically provides an hour and twenty minutes worth of pure antivaccine pseudoscience, every trope out there, as well as the transcript. If you can stand to watch her, here’s the YouTube video:

The transcript is over 12,000 words; so even my logorrhea probably won’t do it justice. Of course, you have the choice. You can watch the video, or you can read the transcript. Either one risks causing brain damage. However, it’s important to peruse screeds like this (at least to me), because doing so allows me to demonstrate my point, namely that the leaders of the antivaccine movement are either lying or deluding themselves when they claim that they are “vaccine safety activists.” So let’s take a look. I’m not going to go into every single little bit of antivaccine nonsense that Hayes lays down, because, damn, she goes into so many antivaccine tropes that even I have a hard time covering them all. I could do a multipart deconstruction, but, truth be told, it’s not worth that, even though it is worth applying just a bit of Insolence too. The reason is that it makes my point so well about how antivaccine many prominent “vaccine skeptics” really are.

The first part of Hayes’ speech is easy to cover, because I basically covered the same sorts of arguments about “informed consent” (or, as I like to call it when invoked by antivaccine activists like Barbara Loe Fisher, “misinformed consent“). I could write the antivaccine speech myself: “Nuremberg Code…blah, blah, blah…Helsinki Declaration…blah, blah, blah…’the voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential’…blah, blah, blah…” Of course the Helsinki Declaration is about human subjects research, and the vaccine program is not research, but antivaccine activists like to mistakenly conflate the vaccine program with research because they believe that vaccines are basically untested and experimental and that ignorance about vaccines informs their efforts to persuade.

Of course, it’s not just about misinformed consent and mixing up research with well-supported preventative interventions like vaccines. It’s also about fear of contamination:

We must also ask ourselves, what benefits are we forever forfeiting when we interfere via vaccination in an attempt to try to avoid contracting infections naturally? To list but a few, one is forfeiting: permanent lifetime immunity; the future ability for females to pass on immunity to their baby both in the womb and via breastfeeding; contracting these illnesses during childhood, when they are mostly benign, and instead contracting them during adulthood, when they are far more serious; protection against and avoidance of many types of cancer, both during childhood and later on in adulthood; and, perhaps most importantly, the purity of one’s immune system, which can never be restored. Wow, that is quite a list of health benefits one forfeits when one chooses to vaccinate.

Excuse me. Whenever I see the word “purity” used in this fashion, my contract requires me to post this video:

And, of course, this one:

Yes, I’m referencing the famous bits from Doctor Strangelove about protecting the purity of our “precious bodily fluids” because it fits. Antivaxers are obsessed with what they view as “natural” and they view vaccines as somehow “contaminating” their bodies. “Natural immunity” is always better to them. Never mind that the price of obtaining that natural immunity is suffering from diseases that can cause long term disability or even result in death. Also never mind that, contrary to what antivaxers believe, infection with a disease doesn’t necessarily result in “lifetime immunity.” That fear of contamination leads to their fears of vaccine ingredients and portraying vaccines as some sort of toxic soup too dangerous and deadly to inject into the bodies of their precious children. Referring to the “purity of one’s immune system” is not an anomaly. It’s how antivaxers think. Even though vaccines stimulate the immune system in a way that is quite “natural,” antivaxers portray them as utterly unnatural.

Hayes also reveals an ignorance of how vaccines work, bringing in her fears of “contamination” into her choice of language yet again:

Vaccine “efficacy” is allowed to be determined by the presence of titers post-vaccination in small numbers of study subjects. Titers are concentrations of antibodies. However, the presence of elevated vaccine-induced titers does not mean a person is now immune from that which he was vaccinated against, it simply means his blood has been purposefully and artificially tainted by a vaccine. In reality, people with low to zero titers for a certain infection can remain uninfected when exposed to that illness, and conversely, people with extremely high titers for a certain infection can contract the illness when exposed. Therefore, the presence of vaccine-induced titers offers no proof of vaccine efficacy…yet, it continues to be used as proof of efficacy…and vaccine recipients continue to be duped…and poisoned.

“Purposefully and artificially tainted”? Scary! Yes, for many vaccines there is a poor correlation between the level of antibodies provoked by the vaccine and immunity to the disease vaccinated against. There is not a single vaccine scientist who would deny this. However, vaccine scientists would also tell Hayes, if she were to listen (highly unlikely), that the production of an initial antibody titer is not unimportant and that the development of long-lasting immunity often requires the generation of immune memory cells capable of being rapidly and effectively reactivated upon subsequent exposure to the antigen used in the vaccine. Hayes, like most antivaxers invoking arguments about how titers don’t correlate well with immunity, has apparently never heard of memory cells or all the other complex interactions in the immune system that determine immunity. A nice primer on these issues is published by the WHO, although I doubt Hayes would bother to imbibe the knowledge therein. Also, I doubt that she’d bother to learn that scientists don’t rely on titers alone to determine if a vaccine is effective. They actually do clinical trials to determine if the vaccinated get the disease vaccinated against at a lower frequency than those receiving placebo or sham injection.

Hayes then goes on to ask 17 questions. I thought about responding to them all, but in reality there are so many antivaccine tropes here that I’ve discussed before that even I don’t have the stomach for it, at least not as I write this. So I’ll “cherry pick,” if you will, a few of the dumber questions, and not even necessarily in the order Hayes asks them. For instance:

7. If vaccines work, why in nearly every “outbreak” of pertussis, measles, and mumps in our country has the majority, if not a full 100%, of those infected been vaccinated? That should not be the case if vaccines work as claimed, and it makes null and void the theory of vaccine-induced herd immunity.

This is a clever mixture of the sort of true with innumeracy. Yes, in many outbreaks, the majority of those affected have indeed been vaccinated. However, raw numbers don’t tell the story. What tells the story is the attack rate of the disease in the vaccinated and unvaccinated population, and, in virtually every outbreak, the attack rate is much, much higher in the unvaccinated; in other words, the unvaccinated are at much higher risk than the vaccinated to contract the disease going around. They just did it again for a recent mumps outbreak. The bottom line is that children not vaccinated against pertussis are at a 23-fold increased risk of getting whooping cough in an outbreak. The numbers are similar for other common vaccines, like MMR and the prevention of measles. Again, raw numbers don’t matter. Normalized numbers, in which the number of cases in the vaccinated is divided by the total number of vaccinated potentially exposed to the disease and the total number of cases in the unvaccinated is divided by the total number of unvaccinated potentially exposed to the disease, are what matter, and these comparisons never work out in favor of the unvaccinated, particularly during outbreaks. Yes, some vaccinated will contract disease during an outbreak, but that’s because no vaccine is perfect. Even so, relatively small decreases in vaccine uptake can lead to big increases in vaccine-preventable disease.

Here’s another one:

1. How can vaccines be both safe, as touted by doctors, government regulators, and the media, and unavoidably unsafe, meaning inherently dangerous, as declared by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011? Both statements cannot be true.

It seems as though I just addressed that one a week ago, doesn’t it? I even referenced this post deconstructing this lie.

Next up:

2. If vaccines are safe, why then do we have the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, the Vaccine Injury Table, and lengthy sections on each and every vaccine package insert detailing adverse events, including death, that have resulted from those very vaccines? If vaccines are safe, then why do this Act of Congress, this reporting system, this compensation program, and these warning lists exist?

The stupid, it burns.

Of course, this is typical of the binary thinking so common among ignorant antivaxers like Hayes. Basically, to them, if vaccines aren’t absolutely, perfectly safe to the point that it is impossible for them ever to cause any harm whatsoever, they’re utterly worthless. The NCVIA was passed during the Reagan administration because dubious lawsuits were endangering the nation’s vaccine supply, as manufacturer after manufacturer decided to stop making vaccines for the U.S. market.

Later in the post, Hayes just flat out lies:

Not one vaccine has ever been tested according to the scientific gold standard, that of a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Yes, you heard that correctly, not one.

This is an antivaccine chestnut so easily refuted that I can’t believe that antivaxers repeat it so frequently. All one has to do is to search PumMed, and there are literally hundreds of randomized clinical trials of various vaccines. How does Hayes think that new vaccines are approved, anyway? Seriously, whenever I see this particular antivaccine trope, I laugh because I know I’m dealing with someone who has no clue what she’s talking about.

As I said, the antivaccine lies come fast and furious; so I’ll cut to the chase now and quote Hayes:

Yet, these medical procedures, not properly tested, improperly declared safe, known to contain toxic and neurotoxic ingredients, and barbaric as they are, have not only been approved, they have been mandated. That is corruption and insanity at its worst. It is evil, and it is destroying the majority of our citizenry.

Since our government regulators have failed to require or ensure vaccine safety, it must be assumed, and can be shown, that not one single vaccine is safe or advisable. Therefore:

What is required is an immediate moratorium on all vaccinations, for all people.

That is what should have happened in 1986, versus Congress passing an Act indemnifying all who make and administer vaccines, at a point in time when vaccines were maiming and killing thousands.

No, vaccines were not and are not “maiming and killing thousands.” Quite the contrary. Vaccines are incredibly safe, as far as medical interventions go. They have to be, because they are used to prevent disease in otherwise healthy people, administered to untold millions of them over the years. Yes, Hayes is antivaccine.

If that’s not enough:

To state it very plainly, vaccination is child abuse in the form of medical assault and battery. With regard to adults, when vaccination is carried out against one’s will or wishes, say for school admittance, job requirements, elder care and housing, or military admission, or when carried out with one who is hesitant, or with one who is unsuccessful in resisting and refusing, it also meets the legal definition for assault and battery. We must begin to label these vaccine atrocities for what they are: blatant and inexcusable child abuse; medical assault and battery; and when death is the result for the vaccine recipient, involuntary manslaughter. These vaccine-induced injuries, illnesses, and deaths are iatrogenic in nature, meaning they are caused by doctors and nurses. Vaccinations are crimes against humanity, and there is no time to mince words about this fact.

Yes, look at Hayes’ choice of words: “child abuse,” “assault and battery,” “involuntary manslaughter,” “crimes against humanity,” even! If that’s not antivaccine, I don’t know what is. Of course, none of this should be surprising. Remember, after all, that Hayes is the same person who has a marked propensity for using the word “Holocaust” to describe the vaccine program. She’s also argued in the past that you can’t be “pro-vaccine” and pro-science. Here’s just a sample:

For those who think “holocaust” is too strong a word, I assure you it is not. “Holocaust” is defined as “destruction or slaughter on a mass scale”, and that is indeed what vaccinations are doing to those who receive them, which can often be observed in the short term, always in the long term, and for generations to come as you will learn as you study these issues more. There is an ominous agenda underway, named Healthy People 2020, with the goal being to vaccinate all people, from fetus to grave, worldwide, with scores of vaccines and a recommended list that is ever-increasing…and that goal is in serious danger of being achieved. We must not let that happen!

Because preventing children from suffering and dying of infectious disease is just like what Hitler did to the Jews. Because autism is just like being marched into a fake shower in order to be gassed. Because health authorities are doing all this on purpose, just as the Nazis intentionally murdered millions of Jews and other “undesirables” and “subhumans.” That sounds pretty darned antivaccine to me.

I can’t resist closing by citing a known “friend” of the blog with whom long time readers are certainly familiar: Jake Crosby. Although he’s basically burned all his bridges with the “respectable” antivaccine activists who previously had nurtured him and mentored him through his becoming an increasingly paranoid, conspiracy-driven, alt right-loving, Donald Trump supporter, I’ll give him this. Regarding this one area, he is probably more honest than liars like Andrew Wakefield, who proclaims himself “pro-vaccine” as he spreads antivaccine misinformation and, even more risibly, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who’s called himself “fiercely provaccine” while promoting his antivaccine book. Here’s what I mean:

Autism Investigated has requested to go onto Del Bigtree’s show – not to attack JB or anyone else – but to argue why anti-vaccination is the right position. Not only is it right because vaccinations are dangerous and the outcomes of vaccination are horrific, but because the people behind vaccination are totally corrupt.

We can talk about the “safe vaccines” all we want. We can talk about how we want the miracle potion of the “safe vaccine,” but it doesn’t exist. We all know it, but we all don’t want to say it.

It is the life’s work of Autism Investigated’s editor to dismantle the vaccine program in its entirety. Its creation was a disastrous mistake. It must be opposed and so too should vaccines in their present and only conceivable form. That is why Autism Investigated is anti-vaccine, and that is why you should be too.

At least the mask has slipped, and Crosby’s admitted it. Even more useful, one of his commenters explained the purpose of the “I’m not antivaccine” gambit:

I see being pro-safe vaccines as a strategic tactic to educate the sheep and build broad-based support. It is a conversation starter that gently challenges the majority belief that vaccines are “safe and effective. Once the discussion is about the question of “safe” vaccines, and people start reading the ingredient list etc., then we win because, even the supreme court ruled they are unavoidably unsafe.

Thanks for the admission. It’s part of what I’ve been saying all along. Actually, not quite. The claim by antivaxers that they are “not antivaccine” but rather “vaccine safety advocates” is an incredibly transparent ploy, but it’s not what Crosby’s commenter says. Rather, antivaxers know that being antivaccine is viewed—shall we say?—unfavorably by the general population. (This is, of course, as it should be.) So they avoid the word “antivaccine” and instead try to portray themselves as something far less threatening: Vaccine safety advocates.

This rhetorical ploy on the part of antivaxers is indeed transparent, but it works, at least with people who are not familiar with the tactics and tropes of the antivaccine movement. Never forget, though, that, whenever you see someone oh-so-piously and self-righteously proclaim herself as “not antivaccine” but rather a “vaccine safety advocate” you’re looking at an antivaxer.