Skeptical Raptor's Blog hunting pseudoscience in the internet jungle

The Zombie Apocalypse of antivaccine lies–they just won’t die


zombies-vaccinatedThose lies from individuals who push pseudoscience can be likened to zombies. The lies seems to arise out of unscientific, ignorant, and brainless nonsense. The lies keep arising even after scientific skeptics bury them. Of course, the lies are so loud, it really sounds like the groans of the living dead. Oh, and we can’t forget that the goal of these lies is to eat the brains of the innocent people who are trying to understand the real facts about vaccines. Of all of the pseudoscience zombies out there, the vaccine deniers are the worst, because people die from the zombies, much like what happens from vaccine preventable diseases.

There is a particularly annoying and obnoxious vaccine-denying zombie liar who goes by the handle of The PatriotNurse. Now, as you would expect from her name, she is a nurse, but she runs with the anti-government, conspiracy theory loving, pro-gun (and I don’t mean just owning one gun, but having a full armory because of the government and conspiracies) crowd. And she is antivaccination, as you may have guessed. She posted a crazy video on YouTube, which lists out all of the canards and lies of the antivaccine zombies.  

Amusingly, she has disabled comments to this video by stating, “The comments are OFF for many reasons. Foremost is that I refuse to be abused for a contrarian viewpoint that goes against mainstream “Sickcare.” One of the fun things about YouTube is the comments section, where you can cheer for a good music video, or attack someone who posts dumb stuff. But The PatriotNurse refuses to allow her zombie ideas to be shown in the bright light of the day. After watching some of her other videos, I cannot believe someone actually gave her a degree in nursing.

In her vaccine denying, anti-science video, The PatriotNurse uses the standard repertoire of unsupported claims, myths and fairytales that most antivaccinationists use to make their ignorant cases. So, in order of the stupidity of her zombified argument, let me try to chop of its head, and hope the argument doesn’t come back again. Maybe I’m naive about that.

So here are some of the zombies reanimated by The PatriotNurse:

  • The post hoc zombie. Post hoc ergo propter hoc, or post-hoc fallacy, is a Latin phrase which literally means, “after this therefore because of this.” In other words, this zombie claim is that if we show some event follows another even, the first event caused it. You know, like when you wear green socks, then win the lottery. Obviously, it had something to do with the green socks. This is how superstition and myths arise, simply from mistakingly accepting correlation as equivalent, or even superior to, causation. I’m almost certain that a percentage of children break their arms playing in the yard after being vaccinated. Given that there is no causal link between vaccines and broken arms (but I’m sure an antivaccine gangster would make that claim), I don’t think we should put a warning out to the world that vaccines cause broken arms. Moreover, without providing a logical mechanism for the correlation, then causation is far from proven. And many of the claims that vaccines cause this or that are unproven coincidence, hardly causality. But The PatriotNurse must have flunked epidemiology, since she clearly does not understand this point.
  • The anecdotal zombie. This zombie is similar to the post-hoc version, it depends on a confirmation bias, that is, individuals look for evidence that supports their own beliefs or assumptions, ignoring all other evidence, even evidence that contradicts the bias. Of course, the vast majority of children or adults that get vaccinated do not have any serious side effects. Moreover, The PatriotNurse’s claim that she has observed some untoward effect after vaccinations is just anecdote (if not an outright lie). And anecdotes do not equal data.
  • Vaccines cause autism zombie. This zombie has been thoroughly and completely put out of its misery–but it still keeps coming back to life. MrAndy Wakefield‘s paper alleging a connection between MMR and autism has been retracted by the Lancet. Eventually, several co-authors removed their names from the paper in 2004, and finally the article was fully retracted by the journal in 2010.  Finally, Wakefield was found to be a fraud. And to further the zombie metaphor, this lie has problem been debunked and arisen several times a year. 
  • Vaccines contain mercury zombie. This annoying antivaccine zombie keeps reappearing, despite no evidence supporting it. In the past, a mercury-organic compound called thiomersal was used as a preservative in certain vaccines, especially those that were labeled for multiple doses (vaccines vials are often doses of 10). However, thimerosal is not metallic mercury floating in the vial, it is a compound that is bound up in a rather large organic molecule, meaning that the mercury itself is inaccessible to the body and will be excreted. Here’s real science–binding a metal into an organic molecule, organ0metals is the term, is a method by which a pharmaceutical compound can isolate toxic metals from the body, but still derive a benefit from them. Contrast agents used in enhanced radiology exams (like CT’s) contain iodine, also fairly toxic.  The organic molecule protects the patient from the toxic effects, while soon after the exam (usually within 30 minutes), the contrast agent is excreted through the kidneys.  The same with thiomersal.  Ingested mercury, in the form of methyl mercury (found in most fish), is actually absorbed faster, and methyl mercury also disperses to more organ systems because it mimics an essential amino acid, methionone. There are no physiological mechanisms that block the uptake of a small molecule like methyl mercury, so the effect might be worse than thiomersal.. For example, cans of tuna, a typical childhood meal, contains several times more mercury in the form of methyl mercury, which is easily absorbed by the gut and can be dangerous.  Vaccines that contain thiomersal contain about 25µg (or mcg or micrograms) of ethyl mercury.  A 125g (about 4 oz) portion of canned tuna contains about the same amount of the much more dangerous methylmercury form. Oh, one more tiny point–clinical research has shown NO causal association between thiomersal and anything. No evidence. No evidence. No evidence. No evidence. And even more no evidence. Just for effect, more evidence.
  • Vaccines contain mercury–but injected is worse than eating it zombie. This is sister zombie to the one above. The PatriotNurse’s zombification of antivaccine lies mutated into a new form. So, she then provides the world with the myth that ingesting mercury from foods is somehow better than getting it injected. This zombie is no different than the one above, and we have peer-reviewed articles that examine ingestion of mercury and neurological deficits to try to keep this zombie in its grave. 
  • Vaccines contain mercury zombie, Part II. Well, you cannot keep a good zombie down. And The PatriotNurse keeps trying to keep this zombie lie alive. One more time, with passion, vaccines don’t contain mercury, save for some flu vaccines. So, can we finally eliminate this zombie? Let’s sum this up, not only are vaccines not a source of mercury, they never actually were (unless you want to unscientifically convince someone that ethyl mercury has some physiological effect). And there’s no evidence that tiny amounts of mercury (either ethyl or methyl) have any neurological effect. And there’s more mercury (and in a form that actually can harm someone) in fish and typical foods. OK, mercury zombie, are we clear?
  • Vaccines contain aluminum zombie. Let’s rename this the Tour of Periodic Table of Elements zombification. This myth is about aluminum in vaccines, which sounds scary. Frightening. But if we look at it scientifically, the aluminum in vaccines used used as an adjuvant to increase the immune response of the vaccine, a critical method to increase the efficacy of vaccines. It does not harm the immune response, it actually makes the immune response better, and hence improving the protection against a pathogen. The amount of aluminum in vaccines (even if you add them all up) is much less than is ingested from natural food sources, like, wait for it…..breast milk. According to an analysis of physiological sources of aluminum in infants, the authors of the study stated that during the first 6 months of life, infants could receive about 4mg of aluminum from all recommended vaccines. A milligram (mg) is a tiny amount, about the weight of 3 grains of salt. During that same period, babies will also receive about 10mg of aluminum in breast milk, about 40 milligrams in infant formula, or about 120 milligrams in soy-based formula. Other sources of aluminum come from all sorts of food, including flour, cheese, bread, and so on. But one more thing. There is little evidence that aluminum has any effect on neurodevelopment. I’m sure this zombie will arise again. 
  • Vaccines bypass the gut which is our best immune defense system zombie. This is simply not immunology as we know it. But it’s still a zombie claim, that comes to life and chases the living. If this claim were true, of course, we’d never be afflicted by most pathogens, and we wouldn’t need vaccines. It would be a Nobel Prize Winning research if The PatriotNurse actually could show this with real research and real publications. Real science has shown over and over that the adaptive immune response to immunizations requires interaction with the internal organs and blood.
  • Too many vaccinations zombie. The PatriotNurse brings back another zombie when she mentioned another old canard about too many vaccine doses given to infants and toddlers. Apparently, the anti-vaccination zombies need to run from one debunked myth to another one. Paul Offit, much hated by the anti-vaccine gang, has stated that “Vaccines do not overwhelm the immune system. Although the infant immune system is relatively naive, it is immediately capable of generating a vast array of protective responses; even conservative estimates predict the capacity to respond to thousands of vaccines simultaneously”, that “multiple vaccinations do not weaken the immune system,” and that “vaccines represent a minute fraction of what a child’s immune system routinely navigates; the average child is infected with 4–6 viruses per year.” With just some simple math, it’s been shown that infants inhale thousands, if not millions, of new antigens with each breath. Yes, a child could get millions of shots, and other than being painful (and probably increasing the risk of a skin infection by a lot), and the immune system would just yawn. Oh boy, one more antigen to remember, just add it to the millions of others to remember. Again, the veritable lack of scientific knowledge of idiots like The PatriotNurse is laughable.
  • It’s a Big Pharma conspiracy zombie. It’s the best zombie, because it’s really just an imaginary zombie. The PatriotNurse claims that the conspiracy to lie about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines is huge, because it includes the CDC, FDA, major medical journals, physicians, and, of course, the pharmaceutical industry. Of all the logical fallacies, the Appeal to a Grand Conspiracy is one of the most annoying. It is difficult to disprove, because the vaccine conspiracists don’t provide any real evidence for their assertion.  Since extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, their claim lacks even bad evidence. But here’s the thing. There are a few million employees of Big Pharma, the CDC, WHO, FDA, medical journals, physician groups, etc. etc. If there were a huge conspiracy, someone would have outed it years ago. On Facebook. Twitter. A WordPress blog. Somewhere. 

The PatriotNurse dragged out every zombie of the antivaccine world that I could imagine. But there is a vaccine to zombified lies–science, evidence, and critical thinking. 

 

If you need to search for scientific information and evidence about vaccines try the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

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