I’ve been a consistent critic of Natural News, the website run by the self-proclaimed Health Ranger, Mike Adams. Without a doubt, Adams pursues pseudoscience and woo with the passion of a child chasing down the next video game for his Playstation 4. In Adam’s newest conspiracy of bad science, he claims that the manufacturers of vaccines need Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organization that provides reproductive health care in the United States and globally. Why? Because Adams claims that vaccine manufacturers require an unending supply of aborted fetuses for testing and production.
You might not be surprised, but Adams is a fancier of incredibly inane conspiracies. For a while, he decided that David Gorski was involved in some ridiculously and massively complex scheme to do something or another, which I treated with all of the seriousness it deserved. More recently, Adams tried to convince the world his website’s delisting from Google was the result of some dark conspiracy against himself, Donald Trump, and Steve Bannon. It turns out that Natural News put some malicious code in its website, a huge no no for Google.
For those of us who are keen observers of some of the crazy conspiracies foisted onto the internet, Mike Adams always seems to be hovering near ground zero. Adams has claimed he’s a better scientist than Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Yes, he made that claim without any sense of irony. Typical of your average everyday real scientist, Tyson thinks that evidence should lead one to a conclusion, you know, what we call the scientific method. Typical of any pseudoscientist, Adams thinks that he can invent a few lame experiments to confirm his preconceived beliefs.
Mike Adams’ anti-science beliefs includes just about every important scientific fact of our modern world. He is an AIDS denier (meaning he doesn’t think that AIDS is caused by HIV). He is anti-vaccination. In the political world, he is an 9/11 truther, and he is an Obama birther. He thinks chemtrails exist. He has advocated violence against GMO supporters.
If you have a list of nonsense conspiracies, you can tick off Mike Adams as supporting all of them. But this new one he’s pushing? It takes Adams to a whole new level of strange.
About that “vaccines need Planned Parenthood” scheme
Planned Parenthood is a wonderful non-profit organization that provides all kinds of health care, at little or no cost, to women across the USA (and in many cases, across the world). They provide education, birth control, and health examinations for women of all ages. They are one of the leading advocates of the HPV cancer-prevention vaccine, one of the most important tools we have to prevent certain kinds of cancer.
And yes, Planned Parenthood provides abortion to young women who have run out of options for their reproductive healthcare. They are the leading provider of abortions in the USA, filling a need in many areas where abortion advocates are threatened and terrorized by the so-called “Pro Life” movement.
In fact, Planned Parenthood provided over 9.5 million discrete health care services for women, only 3.4% (or 324,000) were abortions (pdf). In other words, Planned Parenthood serves an immense need in the country to provide high quality healthcare to women who may lack access to it. They are a wonderful organization, and in a perfect world, they would be above any criticism. And their sole reason for existence is not to perform abortions, but mainly to be a healthcare resource for women.
But the right wing hates Planned Parenthood. Donald Trump wants Planned Parenthood to stop abortions before it receives any Federal funding, even though the organization does not use Federal dollars to perform abortions. And this is where we come to our online conspiracist, Mike Adams.
Adams, relying upon the debunked story about Planned Parenthood selling aborted body parts, claimed, without evidence, that Planned Parenthood “abortion facilities (who) supply aborted fetuses to researchers are offered a fee by the research facilities so that the baby’s organs can be harvested immediately and on-site.” Adams only evidence to support this claim is the nonsense story about the selling of aborted fetuses.
Mike Adams really goes for it all by claiming that,
Most people who have seen the disturbing images of dismembered fetuses resting on blood-covered Petri dishes are able to reach the conclusion that the sale of tiny lungs, brains and limbs of babies for profit is a sick practice. The act of abortion is gruesome enough, given all of the twisted and unethical methods that are used, but to go ahead and sell the cut up remains of what once was a living and breathing form of life is borderline sociopathic.
So vaccine manufacturers put fetal material in petri dishes to grow vaccines? That would be no
Some vaccines are produced using cell culture, a method to grow cells in a culture medium independent from the original organism, from two aborted fetuses. The two cell lines used for this manufacturing are the WI-38, fetal lung fibroblasts originally cultured in the early 1960s, and the MRC-5, fetal lung fibroblasts cultured independently in 1966.
Why do we use these cell cultures for vaccine manufacturing? Well, it’s fairly simple – the viruses, say chickenpox (varicella), grow best on actual human cells. Using these cell cultures, scientists can control certain aspects of the virus. For example, to attenuate (or weaken) some of these viruses before being used in the vaccine, they grow the cells (and the infecting viruses) at a relatively low temperature. The virus then becomes adapted, through natural selection, to the low temperature culture. When the vaccine is used, and it is injected into the 37ºC body, the virus is weakened and does not replicate. So it induces the immune response without the virus become a pathogen and injuring the body.
The following vaccines are manufactured using either the WI-38 or the MRC-5 cell strains:
- Hepatitis A vaccines
- Rubella vaccine
- Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
- Zoster (shingles) vaccine
- Adenovirus Type 4 and Type 7 oral vaccine
- Rabies vaccine
Debunking Mike Adams. Again
Let’s just stick with evidence-based knowledge to list out the facts about this whole nonsensical story:
- There is no evidence that Planned Parenthood is selling aborted fetal tissue to vaccine manufacturers.
- In fact, vaccine manufacturers use two cell lines, both 50 or more years old, to produce some vaccines. Other vaccines aren’t grown on human fetal tissue, but are grown in other cell lines like chicken and other animal cells. There is no evidence, at this point in time, that vaccine manufacturing needs another human fetus cell line for new tissue, but it could happen. I can’t imagine the controversy when that day comes.
- The reason for using human cells is to produce safer and more effective vaccines.
- Sometimes, researchers avoid using animals for production of vaccines – supply of animals can be subject to a lot of issues, but more importantly, the viruses may not grow sufficiently in a non-human cell to be useful in a vaccine.
Adams claims that Christians should refuse to take vaccines that are based on human fetal cell lines. He argues that,
..people, especially Christians, should boycott the products in order to force pharmaceutical companies to produce vaccines in an ethical manner instead of using cells from aborted babies.
In fact, the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) states that,
One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.
In other words, individuals should, when possible, use vaccines that don’t rely upon these fetal cell lines. But if it’s impossible to do so, the parents still have a “moral obligation” to protect the lives of their children. Adams is attempting to invent religious dogma, without actually considering the ethical consequences of his proclamation, to avoid vaccines.
I feel like Mike Adams is low hanging fruit for criticism. He’s basically off on another planet of verifiable information. Vaccines save lives, and sometimes to save lives, we need to use half a century old cell cultures from aborted fetal tissue – this thoroughly debunks the “vaccines need Planned Parenthood” trope.