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Home » Refuting a list of anti-vaccine claims and tropes once again

Refuting a list of anti-vaccine claims and tropes once again


Every time I think that we have thoroughly refuted anti-vaccine claims, they show up once again by another anti-vaxxer, and I have to rinse and repeat. I know I’m not going to convince any anti-vaxxer that their claims are unsupported by facts and science, but I wanted to post this article just in case you are on the fence about vaccinating your children (or yourself) and see these false claims.

I’m going to go one-by-one through the claims of a recent anti-vaccine, which is posted in the screenshot below.

Anti-vaccine claims about suing manufacturers

I have addressed this many times, but let’s go through this one more time — people have several routes to sue for claims about vaccines.

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP or NVICP) administers the system for people to easily file claims for “vaccine injuries.” It was established by the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, which was signed into law in response to a threat to the vaccine supply — during the 1980s, there was a scare about the whole-cell DPT vaccine, which most public health officials thought was unfounded.

The NVICP is funded by an excise tax of US$0.75 on each dose of vaccine. This fund is almost exclusively used to fund claims allowed by the vaccine court – these include compensation to cover medical and legal expenses, loss of future earning capacity, up to US$250,000 for pain and suffering, and a death benefit of up to US$250,000.

The system is only for routine childhood vaccines — these include nearly 20 different vaccines. Adults and adult vaccines, with a few exceptions, are excluded from filing NVICP claims and must pursue their cases in Federal or state civil courts.

To win an award in vaccine court, the petitioner must have experienced an injury from the vaccines, sometimes called a “table injury” — vaccine injuries that are included in an extensive table maintained by the NVCIP (pdf). Separately, for non-table injury claims, the plaintiff must show a causal connection between the vaccine and the injury. The burden of proof in these cases follows the civil law preponderance-of-the-evidence standard – that is, over 50% of the evidence supports the claim.

On a point-by-point basis, it is much easier to get compensation in the NVICP system than in civil courts. For example, the claimant does not have to show that the vaccine was defective, which is difficult to show, given the thorough FDA (and many other regulatory agencies) thorough review of vaccine safety and effectiveness.

However, vaccine manufacturers can still be sued for negligence or harm in any Federal or state court. But it doesn’t make sense to do so, since the NVICP system is so much easier.

This anti-vaccine claim is simply false based on legal facts.

Anti-vaccine claims about hepatitis B vaccine

The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended by the CDC for newborn babies for several reasons:

  1. A mother with hepatitis B can pass the disease to the baby.
  2. The baby can pass hepatitis b to other people who are in contact with the baby.
  3. Hepatitis b can lead to liver cancer and other liver diseases.
  4. A baby is susceptible to easily contracting the disease from infected individuals.

Anti-vaccine activists like to claim that hepatitis B only infects drug addicts and prostitutes, admittedly they are groups that have a high incidence of that disease. But the disease can infect anyone who may be in contact with people, who can be anyone, that have the disease. About 40% of people infected with hepatitis B do not know they have the disease, and it could be someone in close contact with the newborn, including family members.

One final point — there is no cure for hepatitis B. If the baby contracts the disease they are at great risk of liver disease and liver cancer for the rest of their lives. The hepatitis B vaccine is a safe and effective method to prevent the disease, even if the risk is low. The anti-vaccine claims about the vaccine just ring false given the danger of the disease.

Vaccine ingredients

Vaccine ingredients have been a trope for anti-vaccine activists for years. They like to claim that we’re injecting all of these “dangerous chemicals” into our babies, which sounds terrible.

But there are a couple of issues with this trope. First, everything in the world is a chemical, including dihydrogen oxide, the chemical name for water. Every food we eat, the air we breathe, everything that contacts us is made up of thousands, if not millions, of different chemicals. Being afraid of it is not a helpful argument.

Vaccines do contain chemicals — they include water, buffers (to maintain the stability of the vaccine), adjuvants (to improve the immunogenicity of the vaccine), antigens, and some other things. But we have to remember a key point in toxicology — the dose makes the poison. Water is poisonous at high doses, but the chemicals in vaccines are in such low doses they have no or negligible effect on human physiology. The body just deals with it by filtering it through the kidneys or liver, and your body just doesn’t notice it.

There are times that I think certain people who push these “chemical” tropes believe that the human body is weak and pathetic. In fact, it’s pretty robust, and humans (and all organisms) have evolved physiological mechanisms to deal with the environment. Sure, I won’t go swimming in a pool filled with lead and organic toxins, but If I drink a glass of water, I mostly don’t have to worry about my body suddenly dying.

One more thing — some chemicals, like formaldehyde, that are found in vaccines are found in higher doses (though far from a toxic dose) in “natural” foods like apples.

Double-blind, placebo studies

The anti-vaccine claims about the lack of double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are just plain false. Every new class of vaccine must undergo a double-blind, placebo-controlled study before it is reviewed by the FDA. For example, the COVID-19 vaccines and HPV vaccine are the most recent vaccines that have undergone double-blind, placebo-controlled studies before being approved for use.

To be clear, new vaccines that are replacing old ones, such as the newer versions of the measles vaccine, are compared in a study versus the older version of the vaccine. Why is it done this way? Because it would be unethical to create a placebo group that does not receive the vaccine against a dangerous disease like measles. No physician, hospital, or government agency would approve such a clinical study.

So, new vaccines are always compared to old vaccines (called antecedent vaccines) unless there is no antecedent vaccine, like HPV and COVID-19 vaccines.

This claim is mostly false but also expects researchers to be unethical by denying children access to disease-preventing vaccines to do the study.

Unvaccinated children not spreading disease

This claim is actually somewhat true, but not for the reasons that the anti-vaxxer is stating. The reason diseases don’t spread widely is because, surprise, of the high rate of vaccinations. The herd effect, where a sufficient percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, whether through previous infections or vaccination, protects the population from the spread of a disease.

For example, an unvaccinated child who has measles generally cannot spread it widely because approximately 92% of children are immune to measles because they have already been vaccinated against measles.

The problem with unvaccinated children will not become apparent until the herd immunity levels drop below approximately 90% (depending on the disease). Even now, unvaccinated children are causing potential measles outbreaks across the USA.

Vaccine choices in democracies

The anti-vaccine claim is that only in the USA do we require vaccines for school-age children before they can enroll in schools. Setting aside the fact that most liberal democracies, like Europe, Japan, Australia, and Canada, have fewer anti-vaccine activists than the USA, this claim is not true.

anti-vaccine claims

As you can tell from the graphic above, most of Europe has mandatory childhood vaccines (irrespective of schooling) or mandatory vaccinations before entering school. Yes, there are countries throughout the world where vaccinations are just “recommended,” but their vaccine uptake is large enough for herd immunity because the citizens accept that the safety and effectiveness of vaccines is settled science.

Thus, this is another anti-vaccine claim that is mostly false.

Summary of anti-vaccine claims

Once again, anti-vaccine claims tend to be unscientific, unsupported, and mostly untrue.

Anti-vaccine claims continue to circulate despite clear refutation with evidence and legal facts. Vaccination programs offer a clear route to compensation for rare adverse events, and vaccines, including the hepatitis B vaccine, remain critical for preventing serious diseases. Ingredients in vaccines are present in safe, low doses, and rigorous testing standards, such as double-blind placebo studies, ensure vaccine safety and effectiveness. Herd immunity protects against disease spread, which is wrongly attributed to the presence of unvaccinated individuals. Mandatory vaccinations in many countries confirm the global acceptance of vaccines’ health benefits, contrasting with unfounded anti-vaccine allegations.

Michael Simpson

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