One of the most common myths promulgated by die-hard antivaxers is the idea that if you have a healthy immune system you don’t need vaccines because your immune system will protect you against infectious diseases. It’s an idea that’s based on a germ of a legitimate idea, namely that if you are unhealthy or your immune system is suppressed you can certainly be more susceptible to infection. However, antivaxers take that observation to a huge extreme by claiming that a healthy immune system renders vaccines unnecessary. A corollary to this idea is that you can “strengthen” your immune system by using whatever woo the quack believes in, be it supplements, dietary interventions, coffee enemas, or whatever. It’s magical thinking, of course, but it’s magical thinking that permeates much of alternative medicine and antivaccine ideology.
I saw a doozy of an example of this the other day promoted by a naturopathic quack of whom I’d never heard before, Henele E’aley. It’s not at all surprising that it’s a naturopath, given how antivaccine the vast majority of naturopaths are. This particular “ND” (which to me stands for “not a doctor” or “not doctor”) is associated with something called the Energetic Health Institute and the BodyMind Institute. He’s also featured a lot in videos on the antivaccine website StopMandatoryVaccination.com, and it’s there that I saw him in Go Vaccine Free Without Fear Of Death From Infectious Disease:
Here’s how the video starts out:
I’m not afraid of my child dying from infectious disease, because my child has a healthy immune system.
Hi, my name is Doctor H, I’m the executive community director for the Energetic Health Institute and I’m also a very concerned father. One of the things we have to do parents is kind of free ourselves from the fear of our child dying.
There are actually cases where a healthy fear is a good thing. 100 or 150 years ago and before, every parent was terrified of her child dying because of infectious disease. It’s the reason why there are so many gravestones from that era for children who died at a young age. They died of polio, smallpox, diphtheria, influenza, pertussis, and, yes, the measles, among many other diseases. The reason privileged fools like Not-a-Doctor H have the luxury of not fearing that his child will die of infectious disease is because of vaccines and because of the herd immunity that he sponges off of while contributing nothing.
Not that Not-a-Doctor H sees it that way:
I’m not afraid of my child dying from a infectious disease, because my child has that healthy immune system. Because when we were first going through the process and he was in the womb and everybody is bombarding you with all this information there is all this fear, of you have to do everything right. And part of that doing things right includes getting your child vaccinated. And I didn’t buy into that. And I didn’t buy into that because I looked up some prospectuses from some of these drug manufacturers. And you see that they talk about robust sales and how proud they are of the growth of their vaccine departments. They’re not proud of them because they’re helping children be healthier. They’re proud of them because they’re helping those companies make money.
Can you say “non sequitur”? Sure, I knew you could. Let’s put it this way. Pharmaceutical companies making profits do not mean that their products don’t work, that vaccines don’t protect against infectious disease, and it certainly doesn’t mean that having a healthy immune system means that you don’t have to fear infectious disease. I like to point out the example of the 1918 influenza pandemic, Guess where it’s thought to have gotten its start? In army barracks! Among strapping, healthy, strong young men, many of whom it could and did kill.
Other infectious diseases can infect perfectly healthy children. Measles is one example. It’s one of the most easily transmissible diseases in existence, happily jumping from child to child, regardless of how “healthy” their immune systems are. It’s what the microorganisms have evolved to do. Indeed, if the microbes that cause these diseases only infected the “weak,” they would have been much less feared than they were before vaccines. I would remind our Dunning-Kruger possessed naturopath that it was only 25 years ago that hemophilia influenza type B (HiB) was still killing significant numbers of “healthy” children. What stopped it? Not “boosting children’s immune systems” with whatever woo E’ale prefers. It was a vaccine.
Even more ridiculously, Not-a-Doctor H thinks his son’s case is evidence that you don’t need vaccines:
Now, let me tell you a story. My child is about to be 11 in a couple of days. He’s top of his class, he’s straight-A student, he’s missed a grand total, in six years, he’s missed a grand total of four days of school due to illness. And the reason he’s only missed four days in six years, isn’t because he was vaccinated. He wasn’t vaccinated. It’s because we gave him the foods, we gave him the nutrients that his immune system needs to live a healthy and happy life.
No, the reason Not-a-Doctor H’s son is healthy is due to a combination of sponging off the herd immunity of a highly vaccinated population and a bit of luck, nothing more. It’s all well and good that his father apparently fed him well (although one has to wonder whether that “good nutrition” included a bunch of unnecessary supplements), but nutrition alone will not “strengthen” or “boost” the immune system in a way that vaccines are not necessary.
He also falls for the fallacy that “natural” immunity is better:
Are kids going to get sick? Yes, that’s what we want. You want your kid to get sick, but the key is that you don’t want them to be sick for long. You want them and their immune system to effectively fight the infection, and that’s what a healthy immune system will do. So how do you know if your kid’s immune system is healthy? Because I think that should really be the next question. And it’s very simple, did your kid get sick? Yes. Did he recover very quickly? Yes. Your kid has a healthy immune system. That’s the simplicity of it all. If your kid is out for a week, if he’s sick for a week, two weeks, not a healthy immune system. We gotta get some nutrients in there. We gotta get that little baby healthy, okay. But if the baby fights off the infection as a healthy immune system should, you don’t have to worry about infectious diseases.
I do love the “just so” nature of Not-a-Doctor H’s story. If you stay sick your immune system must not be healthy, and if you get better right away it is. What’s lacking is any evidence that whatever woo it is that Not-a-Doctor H recommends does anything to convert an “unhealthy” to a “healthy” immune system. Of course, the whole point of vaccination is to obtain immunity to the disease vaccinated against without having to suffer through the symptoms of the disease or face the risk of its complications. Contrary to what our naturoquack seems to think, these childhood illnesses are not harmless. There is a small, but real mortality rate due to measles, and measles can also cause encephalopathy. Influenza, as mentioned before, can kill. The list goes on and on.
Oddly enough, I didn’t recall ever having heard Henele E’aley before; so I wandered over to his Facebook page and two websites, the Energetic Health Institute and BodyMind Institute. There, I found abundant evidence that not only is Not-a-Doctor H is a quack, but that he’s teacher of quackery. For instance, the Energetic Health Institute offers all manner of classes, including Holistic Lifestyle Specialist, Holistic Practice Specialist, and Cleansing+Fasting Specialist, which proclaims:
A body that has difficulty pooping, peeing, sweating, and/or breathing is a body that will bio-accumulate disease precursors. A body that has a few extra pounds and a difficult time losing them is a body that will bio-accumulate disease precursors. A body that is constantly tired and depressed is a body that will bio-accumulate disease precursors. And if the person living in a body like this, has a difficult time letting go of painful experiences, then they will certainly bio-accumulate Emotional Charge throughout their body too. Ultimately, disease precursors like Chronic Nutrient Deficiencies, GMOs, Pesticides, Mercury & Hundreds of Other Environmental Pollutants, Refined Sugar, Excessive Meat Consumption, Excessive Use of Pharmaceuticals (like Antibiotics, Proton Pump Inhibitors & Statins), Underlying Infections, and Embedded Emotional Charge can and will wreak havoc on the body’s ability to produce the energy essential for eliminating the disease precursors in the first place. Thus, the stresses of life help create a cycle of disease we will teach you how to break.
There’s a lot of antivaccine fallacies there, including the toxins gambit, the claim that vaccines contain cells from aborted fetuses, mercury fear mongering, mischaracterization of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, and, of course, misrepresentation of the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) database that neglects to mention that just because a reaction is reported to VAERS does not mean that a vaccine caused it, particularly given how litigation by antivaxers trying to sue for “vaccine injuries” that aren’t has distorted VAERS. Regular readers here can probably refute all these tropes, bits of misinformation, and lies because I’ve discussed every one of them at one time or another, some many times.
Not-a-Doctor Henele E’aley is a classic example of what’s wrong with naturopaths and antivaxers (which are often the same thing, given how antivaccine most naturopaths are). There’s serious magical thinking at the heart of his “specialty,” and that magical thinking is completely compatible with the magical thinking of antivaxers who think that the reason their unvaccinated children are doing so well is because their immune systems are so superior and not because of luck and herd immunity.