There are a lot of antivaccination websites and blogs out in the interwebs and blogosphere. To address them all would be a full-time job, and since I have a low-level position in a Big Pharma company polishing gold bars and mopping the floors of the giant vaults of cash, I’m compelled to ignore most of what’s written out there, picking and choosing only the most egregious ones to deconstruct and critique. Most of the antivaccination sites vary between stating lies, passing along lies or myths, or providing a total misinterpretation of real science–it really is not worth my time to critique. Because I’ve got to focus on keeping the Big Pharma cash piles nice and neat.
However, every once in a while, there is a vaccine denying post that far exceeds the stupidity and ignorance of even the worst misinformation about vaccines. In this case, a chiropractor wrote a 5000 word screed about vaccines, which had few, if any, accurate comments about vaccines, immunity, clinical trials, or medicine. Seriously, this article sets the standard of ignorance and anti-science idiocy.
Let’s start with the author, Dr. Kurt Perkins. He is a Colorado based chiropractor, who trades on his chiropractic experience to pretend he is an authority in medicine. He writes about all kinds of pseudoscientific junk medicine, but his ignorant opinions about vaccines are the most troubling. Mostly, I don’t care about people’s credentials when they write about science. As I’ve said before, it’s all about the evidence, only the evidence. However, it becomes easier to dismiss scientific “beliefs” (always based on the lack of evidence or ignoring contradictory evidence) when one’s so-called medical education is based on pseudoscience. You see, over and over again, no evidence has ever been found, in systematic reviews, which supports the clinical efficacy of chiropractic. Furthermore, the one area where many people believe that chiropractic is effective, spinal manipulative therapy for acute back pain, has been shown in large systematic reviews to do nothing.
So, Perkins’ whole view of medicine is based on pseudoscience, not real science, so everything he states about vaccines is purely from an ignorant, anti-science point of view. But I shall endeavor to pick on some of his most egregious errors, lies, or misinformation (intent may be different for each, but the net effect is the same). But again, after hitting my head on the desk too many times while reading Perkins’ science-deficient ramblings, I’m might be cranky.
Immunization vs. vaccination. I’ve been seeing this more and more from the antivaccination rabble. Certainly not all immunizations (causing adaptive immunity to remember and attack immunogens, like viruses) are vaccinations, strictly speaking. However, every single vaccination is an immunization–a vaccine’s solitary purpose is to induce an immune response that is remembered for a substantial number of years. Perkins, in his foolishness, believes that vaccines don’t induce an immune response. He has no evidence of that; on the contrary, we have boatloads of evidence that shows vaccines have induced an immune response to end diseases.
Then Perkins brings up the old canards that “A vaccine violates all laws of natural immune defenses by taking a potential pathogen along with all the TOXIC ingredients (aluminum, formaldehyde, adjuvants, etc) directly into your blood system. This process would never occur in building natural immunity. That last sentence is kind of an oxy-moron. Immunity is a natural thing. Vaccines are an artificial thing.” I’m not going to get into the ingredients of vaccines, because others have done it perfectly well–these ingredients are in such small quantities and cleared out through the filtration of blood so quickly as to be irrelevant. Until such time Perkins brings evidence that these “toxic ingredients” are really toxic at the levels in vaccines, he really is lying.
Finally, the only way to boost the immune system, naturally or “unnaturally,” is through vaccinations. The Appeal to Nature, logical fallacy that someone how vaccine induced immunity is not as good as a natural immunity, ignores the scientific facts about the immune system. Immunity comes from the adaptive immune system remembering a pathogen. Giving the antigens from a pathogen in the form of a vaccine is infinitely safer than catching the pathogen itself, which can cause grievous harm. Perkins’ argument here is ridiculous, dangerous and harmful to children.
Immune system. I almost stopped reading when Perkins states emphatically that “The first layer of defense is your skin.” Technically it is, except there are several openings from the outside world into your body. Mouth. Eyes. Cuts. Urinary tract. Intestinal tract. And injuries to the skin give pathogens a direct entry into the body. The skin is a small part of a huge system called the innate immune system, which is nonspecific, meaning it doesn’t attack any particular bacteria or virus, and has no memory of any previous pathogen, so it has to redo the attack every time.
Perkins makes a nonsensical claim about some parts of the innate immune system (though I actually have no evidence that he understands the various types of immune response), like don’t suppress coughing because it’s the body’s way of ridding pathogens if you have a cold. Well, except for the fact that that the patient is thoroughly infected with the cold once symptoms like a cough have appeared.
Perkins seems to lack a thorough education in the workings of the immune system, oversimplifying and overstating what the innate immune system actually does. This is because Perkins lacks the broad medical education of a science-based physician, one that would have thorough knowledge of immunology. In fact, Perkins is simply picking and choosing how he views the immune system to dismiss how vaccines work.
But the fact is that immunization by vaccines induces the adaptive immune system to remember the antigens of various pathogens, so that it attacks the pathogen before that pathogen has proliferated to the point of harming the human host. That’s the thing about pathogens–they are dangerous during the first infection, so a vaccine mimics a first infection without all of that nasty dying of the disease problem. The first line defense, the innate immune system, is evolutionarily old and easily bypassed by pathogens, because natural selection has pushed pathogens to evolve to avoid the immune system’s first line of defense. But vertebrates, such as humans and all mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, have evolved the second line of defense, the adaptive immune system, to deal with those more advanced pathogens who get by innate immune system.
So, Perkins has shown us a complete lack of understanding of immunology. And of how immunization by vaccines work.
Flawed research. Here we go with this old canard. Perkins, who shows more and more of his ignorance of medical science the more I read, insists we set up a double blind clinical trial which has one group vaccinated with the real stuff and the other side vaccinated with a placebo. And then check for effectiveness. The unethical suggestion, which would never pass the Institutional Review Board of any hospital because of the total lack of ethics involved in such a trial. Since we know that vaccines work, putting children at risk of potentially dying by having the vaccine withheld through a placebo is immoral. Completely and utterly immoral. But what do you expect from a chiropractor who thinks that his pseudoscience actually works in health care.
But the fact is, even if we were to unethically do this type of clinical trial, the antivaccination gangsters would demand something else. They’ll say, “you need to add a group that is vaccinated with other vaccines at the same time, in each combination of vaccines that you can imagine.” Or, “the study needs to last 20 years, because you know we don’t know when vaccine injuries happen.” In fact, we have hundreds of systematic reviews that use epidemiological data to determine the safety and effectiveness of various vaccines. Just in the area of vaccines cause autism, the research has thoroughly, absolutely, and clearly debunked that unscientific myth.
Then he states “even if the whole vaccine theory really worked, it would be absolutely pointless to inject a baby of 6 months or less with a vaccine. With a child’s immune system being very immature until age 2, the overload of 36 vaccines by the age of 18 months seems about as logical as drinking from a fire hydrant.” Child’s immune system is “immature” until age 2? Says who? In fact, there is substantial evidence that the adaptive immune system develops in utero. And the child’s immune system is robust and able to deal with with millions of antigens–36 vaccines are nothing to the child’s immune system. I guess real immunology isn’t a required course at a chiropractic school.
Polio. Not only does Perkins fail to understand the basics of immunology, but he completely misses brain cells dedicated to the history of medicine and epidemiology.
Perkins uses this graph to dismiss the effectiveness of polio (he goes on and on about that old story that modern medicine and sanitation ended polio). First of all, he lies about the “actual release” date of the Salk Vaccine. It had been used in clinical trials for at least a year before the vaccine was launched. In fact, nearly 2 million children were vaccinated against polio in 1954, a year prior to the launch, so the effects of vaccine prevention started earlier than Perkins states. But Perkins tries to use this graph to show that polio was decreasing. Furthermore, that’s not an appropriate way to use the graph. The incidence of polio infection is only down for 2 years after a peak, and it’s clear that every 3-4 years, polio incidence peaks again, and every peak was 10-20% greater than the prior peak. When the Salk vaccine was actually introduced in massive clinical trials in 1954, it was a naturally low point of the cycle of polio incidence, and we can easily predict that in 1955-1956, the incidence of polio would have peaked again without the vaccine.
But even if you’re to believe that the disease had decreased by some other means, what was that? Did we suddenly install sanitation in the USA in the three years between 1952 and 1955? I can’t find any evidence that there was a massive investment in the sewage infrastructure of the USA in that time period. Perkins either lacks knowledge of mathematics (and given his lack of knowledge in other sciences, I’m betting on it) or simply wants to lie, but that graphic provides powerful evidence that the 3-4 year cycles of polio outbreaks was crushed, absolutely crushed, by the polio vaccine. And within seven years, polio had nearly been eradicated in the USA. Amazing!
And to give further evidence of his own lack of knowledge of science, Perkins then babbles on about scarlet fever and typhoid fever being eradicated without vaccines. Scarlet fever, form of strep infection, did use to kill many children prior to the development of antibiotics that treat the disease rather quickly. Unlike viral and some bacterial pathogens, which can cause harm and kill before being treated (if it even can be treated), infections by strep can be diagnosed and treated easily. There probably was some research into a strep vaccine, but the treatment is so quick and inexpensive, it never was necessary.
His comments about typhoid fever are doubly hysterical. The facts that typhoid was ended, in industrialized countries, through vaccinations (which stopped the spread from humans to humans) and chlorination of water is well understood. (See Typhoid Fever: Its Cause, Transmission and Prevention for more information.) Today, if you travel to areas of the world with typhoid outbreaks, the best prevention remains one thing: vaccination.
All other vaccines. Perkins then attacks every vaccine with cute little titles that provide insight into his lack of intellect. In the section on measles, he uses a graph that shows measles mortality dropped before the advent of the vaccine. Probably true, but the death rate did not drop to 0. And it dropped because of modern medicine, not chiropractic quackery. Of course, he’s completely ignoring the morbidity of measles, which didn’t drop that much. But the more important point is that measles kills (still kills), but I guess to Perkins’ view of health of children, a few deaths are acceptable as long as he’s trying to make a point about the uselessness of vaccines. The facts are that all the vaccines, that he belittles with his sophomoric names, averted 103 million cases of vaccine-preventable diseases. That’s based on scientific, peer-reviewed research, not the opinion of a quack medical practitioner.
That’s enough. Perkins gave us nothing but the old tropes of the antivaccination gang. They use these old myths and tropes, because they are intellectually corrupt, lacking the wherewithal to actually investigate the real science. And by real science, I mean the vast knowledge of scientists with real medical and science degrees, who worked hard in laboratories and out in third world countries trying to stop disease. These hardworking individuals are the polar opposite of the lazy babblings of this chiropractic quack.
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- Rubinstein SM, Terwee CB, Assendelft WJ, de Boer MR, van Tulder MW. Spinal manipulative therapy for acute low back pain: an update of the cochrane review. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2013 Feb 1;38(3):E158-77. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31827dd89d. Review. PubMed PMID: 23169072.
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