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Home » Debunking RFK Jr and Hooker’s book “Vax-Unvax” – Part 9, hepatitis B vaccine

Debunking RFK Jr and Hooker’s book “Vax-Unvax” – Part 9, hepatitis B vaccine

This article is part 9, the hepatitis B vaccine, of a series of debunkings of a new book, “Vax-Unvax: Let the Science Speak” written by Frank Han, M.D., an academic board-certified pediatrician/ pediatric cardiologist. He splits his time between cardiac imaging (Nuclear, CT, MRI, and echocardiography), inpatient cardiology, and outpatient cardiology. He primarily cares for cardiology patients of all ages with congenital heart disease and is dedicated to educating pediatric residents and medical students.

While completing his pediatric residency at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Dr. Han became aware of and interested in the incursion of pseudoscience into his chosen profession and saw it explode during the COVID pandemic. He has since focused his efforts on spreading the joy of science literacy and teaching patients how to take charge of their health while navigating the tricky online world of medical information. Dr. Han has no conflicts of interest to disclose and no ties to the pharmaceutical industry. He can be found on Twitter as @Han_francis. The comments expressed by Dr. Han are his own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of OSF Medical Center, or the University of Illinois College of Medicine.

As I did in Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8 of this series, I will emphasize one chapter of the book “Vax-Unvax: Let the Science Speak,” by Robert F Kennedy Jr and Brian Hooker. This chapter is focused on the hepatitis B vaccine.

toddler and a baby Vax-Unvax hepatitis B vaccine
Photo by Vika Glitter on

Allegation – Vax-Unvax and hepatitis B vaccine causes liver problems

It takes just a basic Google search to see that the study that Kennedy and Hooker quoted already has a comment attached to the article that illustrates all the problems associated with the study.

First, the study was constructed in a way to show that generic liver problems were correlated with the vaccine, even though they might be conditions entirely unrelated to the vaccine. While the previous chapter focused on the nonspecific effects of vaccines, this article presents no evidence that unrelated liver conditions are related to hepatitis B vaccines. The evidence cannot be assumed by royal decree, out of thin air.

Next, they draw a conclusion that is not supported by other epidemiological data – that neonates have a negligible risk of hepatitis B infection. Hepatitis B vaccination in neonates was introduced in response to the failure of vaccination at older ages to decrease the number of babies getting diagnosed with the hepatitis B virus. While the net risk of viral infection may appear small to the anti-vaxxer, the disease is most likely to lead to chronic infections (and all its consequences) when the initial infection starts as a neonate. It is also a risk factor for adult liver failure and cancer.

At this point, antivaxxers typically use the emotional hook of implying that a mother is “dirty” or “on drugs” if she has hepatitis, to increase the possibility of resistance to allowing a hepatitis B vaccination if mum tested negative. However, hepatitis B can be acquired through other means in between testing time and delivery of the infant. Even though a mum may be quite well-meaning, she might have a difficult time protecting the infant against every possible source of hepatitis B in the environment. Plotkin’s Vaccines book references many studies that supported the safety and efficacy of hepatitis B vaccines in newborn infants. 

Allegation – hepatitis B vaccine increases the risk of lupus in mice

Vax-Unvax cited a hepatitis B vaccine study in mice that indicated an increased risk of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) failed to tell the reader explicitly that they stacked the deck in favor of their results by using mice with a genetic predisposition to a mouse equivalent of lupus disease.

This allegation arose as “Autoimmune Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants” in different literature – and that syndrome is so vague as to be able to include many disease processes, even those only vaguely related to immunizations or those with known causes. Further information about the many logical mistakes necessary to believe in “ASIA” is noted here

The other significant uncontrolled factor in the study is the usage of an adult dose of the hepatitis vaccine on the mice in question, which would represent a human overdose if scaled up. 

In addition, the national associations that professionally aid patients with SLE have looked specifically at the relationship between hepatitis B vaccines and lupus, finding that patients with lupus are frequently more immunosuppressed and therefore more susceptible to full hepatitis disease. They found that patients with SLE should be immunized against hepatitis to protect them against the full disease.

Allegation: Vaccines increase the risk of diabetes

Hooker and Kennedy try to support their claim, that vaccines increase the risk of type 1 diabetes, by citing a study by known anti-vaxxer, Bart Classen. The study design is simple, and the authors (Classen and Classen) do not try to determine why their conclusions may have issues.

The study essentially says, there was more vaccination in some countries they studied, and more diabetes, therefore one likely causes the other. How do we make a real-life analogy to this? Imagine if you walked up to a waterfall. Based upon your knowledge of how waterfalls work, it would be incorrect to conclude that the action of your walking up to the falls, allowed the water to fall. This is called

However, it should be obvious to the reader that the two aren’t related. This specific allegation has been re-studied by several groups, and no relationship between vaccines and diabetes has been found.

In the last decades, researchers have come closer to finding the true cause of Type 1 diabetes, which is likely related to human enterovirus infections that result in the immunological mistake of attacking pancreatic cells.

Allegation: hepatitis B vaccine raises the risk of multiple sclerosis

Hooker and Kennedy made have not kept up with the most recent science regarding multiple sclerosis (MS). Recent research indicates that MS is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus

Allegation: hepatitis B vaccine causes allergic diseases

Hooker and Kennedy highlight a South Korean study that monitored the prevalence of allergic rhinitis, asthma, and atopic dermatitis through survey responses. The study differentiated between children who were hepatitis B surface antibody positive and those who were negative and assessed the relative risk of the aforementioned allergic diseases in both groups.

To clarify, this antibody serves as a key indicator of immunization and sustained immunity. The study found a slightly increased odds ratio, which was statistically significant, albeit the effect size was marginally above one.

However, interpreting this analysis at face value presents several issues. An odds ratio slightly over one suggests that, even if the study’s findings are accurate, the incidence of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic dermatitis in the antibody-positive children was only slightly higher than in the antibody-negative group.

Furthermore, the book authors misinterpreted the study design; despite both groups being vaccinated, they incorrectly categorized one as immunized and the other as unimmunized. This oversight is critical because immunization status differs from antibody presence; antibodies can diminish over time, yet immune memory can persist through immune cells. This fundamental misunderstanding undermines their argument, especially when they equate diminishing antibodies with declining immunity, which is not necessarily the case with the hepatitis virus. Our bodies may reduce unnecessary antibodies without losing immunity.

Allegation: vaccines cause SIDS

No, they don’t. In fact, vaccines lower the risk of SIDS in babies

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