Joe Mercola using random nonsense words to push vaccine denialism

The anti-vaccination lunacy is made up of lot of individuals who push the various myths and pseudoscience regarding vaccines onto the planet.  There’s Andy Wakefield, whose original article was withdrawn by the medical journal who published it, and who was stripped of his medical license because he perpetrated a fraud.  Why he’s not sitting in a British prison is beyond my understanding.

Then there’s Jenny McCarthy, an anti-vaccine advocate whose education included posing nude and starring in bad movies.

There are others, but Joe Mercola, who has made the most money (yes, it’s always about money) on the anti-vaccine scare, is one of the worst.  Mercola is a physician, who, presumably should know better.  If you don’t know much about Mercola, here’s what Business Week has said about him:

While Mercola on his site seeks to identify with this image by distinguishing himself from “all the greed-motivated hype out there in health-care land,” he is a master promoter, using every trick of traditional and Internet direct marketing to grow his business.

Also, the FDA has warned Mercola on at least four occasions (including last year) about his promotion of unproven claims about his products that he sells.

But none of this is a bad as his unsupported claims about vaccines.  In his recent article, Whooping Cough Kills 5 in California, he basically makes unfounded assertions about whooping cough, also known as pertussis.  Let’s review some of his more outlandish comments:

While no one knows for certain, I can confidently state that the decline in whooping cough had nothing to do with the vaccine—just like the 2010 outbreak in California had nothing to do with how many children were not fully vaccinated…

What?  Over 98% of children vaccinated with the pertussis vaccine (usually with the Dtap vaccine) are resistant to whooping cough.  Sure, not 100%, but there is some variation in human immune responses.

Mercola goes on to invent some more of his own version of “facts.”

Plus, a recent study confirmed that acellular pertussis vaccines only stimulate a type of immunity that lasts about three years – at best. The vaccine immunity wears off quite quickly and so lots of vaccinated people are not protected, which is why more than half the people in the California outbreaks in 2010 had been fully vaccinated.

Of course, real scientists (who, by the way, work for a government salary, and certainly make absolutely no money selling junk medicine through Mercola’s website), state otherwise:

CDC researchers expected that protection would fade over time, but before now did not have concrete estimates on long‐term duration of protection. The study also determined that children who never received any doses of DTaP vaccine faced odds of having whooping cough at least eight times higher than children who received all five doses of the vaccine.

So Mercola just ignores real science, and decides that whatever random words he uses would mean more than evidence.  Now he does make a valid point (most pseudoscience pushers know enough science that they occasionally get it right).  Yes, the immune response (whether from vaccines or by actual infection) does “wear out” over time, mainly because we rarely are exposed to the diseases any more, which boosts the immune response.  For example, tetanus boosters are required every ten years or so for protection.  Almost anyone who has had a serious injury will automatically receive a tetanus shot, since tetanus is terribly painful and almost difficult to treat disease.

Mercola also mentions Bordatella parapertussis, another species of the same genus of bacteria.  It is rather rare, and does cause a less severe version of whooping cough.  Unfortunately, it afflicts individuals who are immunized against B. pertussis, because it evolved to avoid the immune response against pertussis.  It is quite illogical for Mercola to suggest that we avoid getting the pertussis vaccine because we might get the parapertussis version, since pertussis itself is a more serious disease.  And, of course, science is working on a vaccine for both versions of pertussis, so we don’t have to worry in the future.

Mercola wants us to believe that the vaccine is causing us to be targeted by the new disease.  But in fact, if we were not vaccinated, it would be possible to be afflicted with two types of whooping cough since contracting one, does not confer immunity to the other.

The facts are:

  1. Vaccines are safe
  2. Pertussis vaccine prevents infection only after sufficient immunity is created through vaccines
  3. Those who are not vaccinated are substantially more at risk from getting whooping cough, a serious disease.

Vaccines save lives.  Period.

The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!