Respectful Insolence

The “Satanic sorcery” of vaccines?

On occasion, I’ve thought of inaugurating awards for the looniest quackery, alternative medicine, or antivaccination craziness of the year. I was thinking of calling them the Woo Awards, but I’ve never actually gotten off my lazy posterior to do the work it would take to set up some sort of voting system, and I’m not so sure that a list picked out only by me wouldn’t just end up reflecting my personal idiosyncrasies. Be that as it may, with the end of the year fast approaching, if I were going to do it now would be the time to start looking for nominations.

If I were going to give a prize for the looniest antivaccination screed of the year, though, I’ve found a really strong contender. Not only does it regurgitate pretty much every lie there is about vaccinations, but it combines this misinformation with a religious angle so ludicrous that I’m not sure if I want to laugh or cry. I laugh at it because this guy who wrote it (Greg Ciola) is such an raving twit. I cry because of it because he may persuade credulous parents not to vaccinate their children, thus endangering these children and others with whom they come into contact. In any case, the title of his screed (DANGER LURKING IN FLU SHOTS!) tells you all you need to know about it.

I haven’t used the phrase in a while, but if ever there were a rant for which it is appropriate, Ciola’s rant is it: The stupid, it really does burn.

If you want to get a flavor of the rampant ignorance and stupidity inherent in Ciola’s fevered prose, you don’t have to wait long. It’s there, right in the beginning:

It wasn’t until I went to my local grocery store (name withheld) recently that I realized how low pharmaceutical companies would stoop to propagandize the public with lies. While I was at the checkout counter a young woman bagging my groceries looked at me, smiled, and said: “Have you had the flu shot yet.” I was stunned.

I looked at her and asked: “Is your store management instructing you to ask everyone this?” She said ‘no’ but employees were encouraged to ask customers if they were interested in receiving the shot. I looked at this young woman with pity in my eyes and said: “There’s no way I would put that poison into my body.”

With curiosity about why someone would make such a bold statement, we engaged in conversation and I spent the next ten minutes giving her an earful. I asked her if she had any information on the shot and she graciously went over to the front desk to get a flyer outlining the reasons for getting the shot along with the store locations and times I could get it.

In big bold letters across the top of the flyer were the words: “TAKE YOUR SHOT!” In addition to the flu shot, they were also promoting pneumonia shots and tetanus/diphtheria shots. It was then and there that I realized I had to speak out against this insanity. According to the flyer, the flu is now a “DISEASE”. Can you imagine this? A disease implies something that needs medical intervention. I guess a cold, cough, headache, upset stomach or diarrhea could all be classified as diseases too.

Ciola really should learn the difference between symptoms and diseases. I’d be happy to explain it to him, and I’m sure that pretty much any of my readers could help him out here, too.

In any case, in just four short paragraphs, Ciola manages to combine conspiracy-mongering with a spectacular degree of medical ignorance that is truly breathtaking. He seems to think that the flu is a benign thing. Depending upon the strain and the health of the person getting the flu, it usually is a self-limited disease. However, Ciola has apparently never heard of the influenza pandemic of 1918. Contrary to his claims in another mind-numbingly ignorant article, it is not just immunosuppressed people who are at risk from influenza. Indeed, in the U.S., the pandemic got its start in the military barracks at Fort Riley, Kansas among healthy young Army recruits.

Today, the World Health Organization estimates that worldwide influenza causes between 3 to 5 million cases of severe disease and between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths every year. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control estimates that influenza produced an average annual death toll of 36,000 between 1990 and 1999. It is true that the vast majority of such mortalities are among the elderly, which is why most recommendations encourage people over 50 to be vaccinated and are less concerned with adults under 50, but Ciola doesn’t seem to think that the elderly deserve protection from this scourge.

Ciola’s only warming up, though. The next section has to be read in its entirety to be believed, although I will provide a sample of his insanity:

Did you know that the flu shot could contain anything from aluminum, formaldehyde, dangerous microorganisms, thimerosal (mercury), ethylene glycol, and other toxic adjuvants? In addition to these substances, the flu vaccine is prepared from the fluids of chicken embryos inoculated with the specific type (s) of influenza virus that supposedly protects against the strains federal health officials believe are most likely to be prevalent during the flu season. The effectiveness in preventing influenza often ranges from 30-40%. Not very encouraging considering the potential health dangers you may be opening yourself up to down the road from the toxic agents in the vaccine.

Oooh, scary! Ciola’s also being very selective in discounting the efficacy of the flu vaccine. Among healthy adults, the efficacy of the flu vaccine for preventing influenza is 70-90% among healthy younger adults. This is probably the sort of passage from which he’s cherry picking his estimate:

The immune competence of the person being vaccinated can also affect vaccine effectiveness. For example, the vaccine may be only 30%-40% effective against influenza-related respiratory illness among nursing home residents. However, even in this group of frail elderly, the vaccine still provides substantial protection against more severe outcomes, such as influenza-related hospitalization (effectiveness of 50-60%) and deaths (80%).

In other words, even if in bad years the vaccine is only 30-40% effective in preventing the flu in high risk populations, it is nonetheless quite effective in decreasing the severity of the flu and in preventing severe complications. But what’s really hysterically funny is the way the Ciola tries to crank up the fear-mongering to a ridiculous level:

How is the human body supposed to build immunity by being exposed to neurotoxic poisons like mercury, formaldehyde, and DNA from animals? Mercury is the second most toxic material on the planet. The first is radioactive plutonium. To make thimerosal, they start with elemental mercury. Then, they hop it up 1,000 times by converting it to ethyl mercury. Then, they add aluminum to the vaccine that has a synergistic effect with the mercury, causing it to be 10,000 more toxic than elemental mercury. Mercury is used to sterilize the flu vaccine.

No, thimerosal is used as a preservative that prevents multidose vials from becoming contaminated with bacteria. It is not used to “sterilize” the vaccine. I particularly like the whole “second most toxic material on the planet” bit. This is a familiar refrain among antivaxers that reveals a profound ignorance of toxicology. Ask any toxicologist: The Botulinum toxin “wipes the floor” with mercury and is quite possibly the most acutely toxic substance known. Somewhat over a hundred grams of it could kill every human on earth. Yet, many are the vain Hollywood stars who pay big bucks to celebrity plastic surgeons to have this incredibly toxic substance injected into their faces in order to smooth wrinkles. Repeat after me: The dose makes the poison. Ciola, like most antivaxers, doesn’t seem to understand that. He also neglects to note that when mercury is in the form of thimerosal it is rapidly excreted.

There are so many “gems” of antivaccination paranoia in Ciola’s article that I have to restrain myself not to cite them all. Indeed, his article is perhaps the most highly concentrated and distilled collection of antivaccination canards that I’ve seen in a long time. (Addressing any canards that I failed to address is left as an exercise for you, my readers.). Perhaps my favorite bit from this article is a truly funny bit of confusing correlation with causation:

It’s rather ironic that what the flu shot is supposed to prevent actually seems to have an opposite effect. In recent years, flu season seems to be programmed into society. When October rolls around, all of the sudden there’s a massive outbreak of the cold and flu. Is it just coincidence that this happens to coincide with the exact time that millions of people receive the flu shot? Health officials would like us to believe that this is why we should all be vaccinated.

Sure, it’s an amazing coincidence–to an apparently brain-dead ideologue like Ciola. The reason that flu shots are given in the fall is because fall and winter are when the usual seasonal spikes in the incidence of the flu start to occur. Again, repeat after me: Correlation does not necessarily equal causation. (Especially in this case.) And, then, of course, Ciola totally confuses the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) with the inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV):

Another deception perpetuated by the vaccine cartel is that the flu shot contains inactive or dead viruses. If these viruses were completely inactive, then the shot would never stimulate an immune response. The flu shot contains ‘attenuated’ virus.

[...]

The evidence suggests that those that receive the flu shot could be contagious for weeks and spread germs to the general public. Not only does the shot manipulate the immune system, it contains foreign microorganisms that can easily replicate in the body. It is ridiculous for the CDC to say that none of these germs are contagious. There are many well-respected health experts who believe that the number of people coming down with the flu would be drastically reduced if flu shots weren’t administered. One of the best ways to avoid the flu is to stay away from people who have it. This includes staying away from those who have recently received a flu shot.

Actually, the flu shot does not contain attenuated virus (LAIV). Shots contain killed virus (TIV). LAIV is given by intranasal spray. Because it’s an attenuated live virus, it needs to infect the cells that the flu virus would normally infect and are best at infecting, and those cells are the cells lining the nasal passage, not the muscle cells the virus would encounter in an intramuscular injection. Also, the LAIV doesn’t contain thimerosal for the same reason that the MMR vaccine doesn’t contain thimerosal: Thimerosal can inactivate live virus.

Actually, though, Ciola can’t resist throwing in a canard almost as hilarious as his “correlation equals causation” canard:

The flu shot does not protect against all throat, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and ear infections. It does not protect you against SARS or the much hyped Bird Flu. The flu shot only gives temporary immunity at best. What we’re not told, however, is that the flu shot actually weakens the immune system in the long run. Nobody knows for sure what negative effects the mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde or other adjuvants will have on the immune system. Some of these agents are known to interfere with your DNA. How do we know that the DNA won’t miscode genetic information to the cells?

Holy straw man, Batman! No one ever claimed that the flu vaccine protects against “all throat, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and ear infections,” SARS, or bird flu. The claim is that it can safely prevent the influenza strains of the year and decrease the complications of getting the flu when it can’t prevent getting the flu altogether. As for the supposedly negative effects of all the minor constituents of vaccines, which, other than thimerosal and aluminum, are present only in trace amounts in vaccines, Ciola’s again off base. Once again, the dose makes the poison, and none of these other substances are present in vaccines at a high enough concentration to be of concern.

Whenever I see a dose of ignorance and idiocy this concentrated, I always wonder where it could have come from. In this case, Ciola makes the source of his antivaccination rant quite clear:

The Bible tells us in Leviticus 17:11-12 that: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood… No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood.”

God has made it very clear throughout the scriptures that blood is sacred. When you understand the importance of health and nutrition and how critical your blood is in this process, it’s easy to see why the flu shot, and all vaccines for that matter, violate Biblical law and all the laws of health. Your bloodstream is either a river of life to all the cells in your body or a river of disease and death. You can’t inject foreign viruses, bacteria, blood contaminants, DNA disrupters, neurotoxins, and preservatives into your body and somehow think you’re going to get health.

You know you’re dealing with a serious religious nut when he starts quoting Leviticus to justify antivaccination beliefs. It seems to be a real stretch to interpret the complete passage as forbidding vaccines, by the way. Here’s what it says:

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may an alien living among you eat blood.”

I can sort of see how Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret that passage to mean that blood transfusions are forbidden. All you have to do is to expand the meaning of “eat” to mean taking the blood of another creature into yourself by whatever means. I think it’s a huge overreach, but I can see how they came up with that interpretation. However, how fundamentalists twist that same passage to mean that vaccines are forbidden, I’ll never figure out. In any case, there’s nothing that I trust more than a fundamentalist interpretation of religious texts written thousands of years ago, long before even the most basic understanding of the science behind infectious disease existed. I’m sure God was referring to vaccines in that passage. Never mind that vaccines were at least three millennia away from being developed, and that all it requires to accept an antivaccination interpretation of Leviticus is to equate the injection of antigens to provoke an immune response as being equivalent to “eating” blood. Particularly risible is how Ciola calls vaccination “Satanic sorcery,” appealing to, of all things, etymology:

Most people are unaware that the word “pharmaceutical” is derived from the Greek word “pharmakeia,” which means magic, sorcery, and witchcraft. The symbols of the pharmaceutical companies are extremely meaningful. For example, the winged staff with a serpent wrapped around a pole is the ancient magic wand of the pagan god Hermès. In an attempt to prevent people from linking with our Creator, pharmaceutical companies use their drugs, vaccines, spells and potions to contaminate the blood of an unsuspecting public.

The biggest disappointment comes from Christian leaders who should know these truths and proclaim them loudly from the pulpit. Instead, many churches throughout North America are actually promoting the flu shot to their congregation. In some instances, churches are even being used as outlets to administer the shot. How sad to see the body of Christ being deceived by Satan’s sorcery.

How dare Christian churches administer a potentially life-saving vaccine to their congregations? Don’t they know that maintaining the purity of blood is more important than protecting believers against disease? All this talk of “blood contamination” reminds me of Doctor Strangelove, Or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb, in which General Jack T. Ripper constantly expresses fear over contamination of the purity of his “precious bodily fluids” due to ” to “Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy.” According to Ciola, Christians should rely on woo like homeopathy, garlic, oxygen supplements, essential oils, royal jelly, and vitamin C to “boost the immune system” instead–and prayer, of course:

It’s better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. God did not make a mistake when he created us. The human body is equipped with one of the natural wonders of nature: An Immune System. If you are concerned about the plagues and epidemics coming upon the world, read Psalm 91. If we are to stand steadfast until the end, it is with the LORD on our side. Don’t become a victim of the fear and panic spread by the Pharma cartel and media. Our hope is in the King of Heaven and Earth who promised us deliverance. Remember this next time someone tries to con you into getting a flu shot.

So let’s see. What does Ciola say when his family and friends become ill with infectious diseases? Does it mean that their faith wasn’t strong enough, that they didn’t believe in God enough? As for me, when faced with vaccine-preventable diseases, I’ll take modern science over Psalm 91 any day. There’s a saying among less rabid believers that “God helps those who help themselves.” If God exists, how does Ciola know that vaccines aren’t just His way of fulfilling part of the promise of Psalm 91?

He doesn’t.

The saddest thing about reading Ciola’s wingnuttery is that there are quite a few people out there who agree with him. The influenza vaccine may be a long way from perfect due to the difficulties in predicting which flu strains will predominate from year to year, a guessing game that means that the efficacy of the vaccine can vary from year to year, but it’s the best protection against the flu out there. It may be true that it is sometimes oversold and that not everyone needs it, even though certainly it’s a good idea for young children, those over 50, and anyone who routinely comes in contact with people at risk for the flu (healthcare workers like me, for instance). Moreover, arguably vaccines for other, more lethal diseases save more lives every year than any other medical intervention ever devised by the human mind. Personally, I wonder how a self-proclaimed Christian like Ciola and other fundamentalist Christian antivaxers who claim to value the truth can with a clear conscience go around parroting the grossest misinformation and even outright lies about vaccines, misinformation that will lead to illness and death in a significant proportion of people who are foolish enough to listen to it.

ADDENDUM: Here’s a good editorial in the New York Times about the flu vaccine. Well worth reading. Also, for more information, here’s an article that shows that it’s not just fundamentalist Christians who twist Scripture to claim that it forbids vaccination and the consequences that can result from such irresponsibility.

Comments

  1. #1 Antigonos
    October 9, 2007

    An article in today’s Haaretz newspaper:

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/910761.html

    The consequences of avoiding inoculation…

  2. #2 John Morales
    October 9, 2007

    Sigh.

    Orac, I imagine you’d be more happy than annoyed should you have to search for quackery to expose.

    Keep up the good fight.

  3. #3 Daggerstab
    October 9, 2007

    Err, the link under “most acutely toxic substance known” leads to a mirror of Wikipedia. Why don’t you link directly to the source?

  4. #4 Uncle Dave
    October 9, 2007

    “In any case, there’s nothing that I trust more than a fundamentalist interpretation of religious texts written thousands of years ago, long before even the most basic understanding of the science behind infectious disease existed. I’m sure God was referring to vaccines in that passage.”

    I wouldn’t mind so much if this person chose to live in a cave somewhere and live as they did thousands of years ago, however he seems fine with using much of the advanced technology like the internet and not having an issue with it. There had to be something in the bible about the internet heck even Nostrodamus probably called that one.

    Unplug that instrument of satanic deception and cast into the abyss!!!!!!!

  5. #5 John Morales
    October 9, 2007

    Daggerstab, for the post’s purpose, does it matter? I think not.

  6. #6 Laser Potato
    October 9, 2007

    Ouch. I’ve not seen that level of crazy since I saw some webpage that claimed diabetes was caused by a demonic squid.

  7. #7 NoAstronomer
    October 9, 2007

    My wife’s cousin used to refuse to get a flu-shot, using the “big pharm is trying to poison us” excuse. Last year (2006) she picked up a case of flu.
    She was in bed for a week and drank three+ bottles of NyQuill. I guess ‘big pharm’ got her anyway. Though she did eventually concede that it might be better to get the jab and not have the flu.

  8. #8 Dilaceratus
    October 9, 2007

    Interestingly, among their innumerable bits of crazed logic and unsupported speculation, the Jehovah’s Witnesses did claim vaccinations were a violation of the Noachian covenant from the 1920s until the early 1950s. A brief synopsis at:

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/witness6.htm

  9. #9 Chemgeek
    October 9, 2007

    So, how long do we have to wait for natural selection to clean these nuts out of the gene pool?

  10. #10 Joe
    October 9, 2007

    So, now I understand the meaning of “the stupid, it burns.” Previous examples were only headache-inducing.

  11. #11 David B.
    October 9, 2007

    I think the surge of this kind of stupidity is totally expected given the example our de-scientification president sets on a daily basis. I spend a lot of words railing on government officials who don’t do anything or enough to protect the public from disease, but more and more I’m beginning to think that disease and fast moving cars are natures main mechanisms to deal with thinning the “stupidity gene” from the population.

    Perhaps I should spend more words railing against individuals in government doing too much to fend of pandemics…

    http://www.theskinofmyteeth.com

    David

  12. #12 WTFWJD
    October 9, 2007

    When the Nixon Administration began ‘defunding’ mental hospitals, we knew there would be unintended consequences. Now we have the homeless everywhere, and the lucky ones like this guy.

  13. #13 Uncle Dave
    October 9, 2007

    “When the Nixon Administration began ‘defunding’ mental hospitals, we knew there would be unintended consequences.”

    I believe it was a supreme court ruling in the early 80′s (Reagan era)that said those whom were deemed not a danger to anyone or themselves could not be held by any court. In other words, they are free to leave.

    I honestly believe many of the public issues that we are currently faced with have a lot to do with a mental illness population that is free to roam.

    In this case, the internet and the proliferation of ideas and information means that many times we merely share a room next to the former schizophrenic.

  14. #14 John Marley
    October 9, 2007

    The anti-vax crap makes him a raving nutter.

    While I was at the checkout counter …, we engaged in conversation and I spent the next ten minutes giving her an earful. [emphasis mine]

    This makes him a complete asshole.

  15. #15 John McKay
    October 9, 2007

    How is the human body supposed to build immunity by being exposed to … DNA from animals?

    Do you know what else exposes you to DNA from animals? Eating animals. For that matter, just being near animals “exposes” our bodies to their DNA. And if exposure to animal DNA is bad, what about plant DNA? Clearly, the only way Ciola can be safe from exposure to DNA is to seal himself into a sterile, air-tight room and eat rocks.

  16. #16 Sastra
    October 9, 2007

    A while back I read a book on the 1918 flu epidemic, and it pointed out that one of the most confusing things about this strain of flu was that young, healthy individuals were more likely to die from it than those who were older and weaker, which was the opposite of expected. This turned out to be because what really killed people wasn’t the disease itself, but the sudden, massive overreaction of the immune system which the disease provoked. 20 year old guys would choke to death on their own mucus while grandpa recovered.

    Interesting, and counter to the common assumption that all you need to do is “boost the immune system” and everything is fine.

  17. #17 Joseph Hertzlinger
    October 9, 2007

    Do you know what else exposes you to DNA from animals? Eating animals.

    That can be painful to somebody with gout.

  18. #18 Coin
    October 9, 2007

    Interesting, and counter to the common assumption that all you need to do is “boost the immune system” and everything is fine.

    You know… maybe I’m just confused here, but technically, shouldn’t vaccines count as “boosting the immune system”? After all, the entire point of a vaccine is to stimulate the immune system…

  19. #19 Charles
    October 9, 2007

    Orac, if you really want to see religious anti-vaccine nuttery, look up their arguments against the rubella vaccine some time.

  20. #20 Donald J Engel
    October 9, 2007

    I caught drift of your lengthy fascinating web post on “anti-vaccinations”.. and your mention of the World Health Organization, in respect of the WHO…

    I heard that a young Danish researcher, funded by the WHO to research a cure to diabetes, in a third world African peoples area, was found to be using the locals as his lab rat subjects, inoculating native peoples with his latest experimental serums concocted from his blending human blood with Aids infected monkey blood.. thereby bridging the gap for Aids to jump to humans…
    I recall seeing him on black and white TV, giving a guided tour of his jungle lab facility.. and begging the world for support, given that his WHO benefactor had dumped him.. claiming he was very close to a cure to diabetes in his research… Seven years later Aids began circulating throughout human populations… So it would seem that the WHO funded the Aids epidemic… So much for the Who’s credibility…

    You claim vaccinations are safe and viable… Then what about the fact that many kids who were smallpox vaccinated have developed extreme brain disorders..?
    It is a fact that dirty smallpox vaccinations melt brain connections to various brain segments.. thereby causing a large portion of the human race to devolve on their way to becoming apes… There is sewage in vaccinations that medical science doesn’t know about yet.. and they are testing their crap on the general populous of the whole world, not unlike the fellow who created the HIV plague…

    We were a family of eight… My parents flatly refused school vaccinations for us, and we rarely ever get sick… I haven’t had a cold now for five years running.. and at 60 I look 40′s still, while I see the masses at 60 generally looking 20 years older than they should look, and many of them dying near 60…

    You are seriously mistaken about the risks in vaccinations… I bet your body is riddled with various vaccination toxins… I expect that when your defenses are down, all those self-imposed diseases you have permitted into your body will attack your body so hard and violent that you will experience a near fatal, or fatal, influenza.. which is when all the garbage in your body comes forward to haunt you… You are trying to sell and push absolute screed, and you know it… It’s just that you are too blind and stupid to see it till it’s too late…

    You need to read: http://www.phxnews.com/fullstory.php?article=30696

    And some of this stuff too: http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&q=cosmicbrat&btnG=Google+Search&meta=

  21. #21 Nat
    October 9, 2007

    Yay! The return of my favourite catchphrase.

  22. #22 bar
    October 9, 2007

    Orac:

    Daughter mine, besides protecting her baby from baby formula et al does not want him immunized with polio and some of the other (more or less compulsory in Oz) vaccines for infants.

    Care to expand on the subject of innoculation of infants?

  23. #23 PalMD
    October 9, 2007

    Some take it that extra step. One vaccine site actually calls it witchcraft, and therefore verboten. (http://whitecoatunderground.wordpress.com/2007/08/28/shes-a-witch-er-a-doctor-burn-her/)

    To bar: I hope you can persuade your dtr, but chances are that you cannot. Childhood vaccinations save millions of lives every year, and rarely have any negative effects. There are a ton of online resources for the data, including the US CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/whatifstop.htm)

    In my experience, showing the evidence is necessary, but rarely effective due to fixed false beliefs.

  24. #24 khan
    October 9, 2007

    Is there anything on the horizon to shorten the vaccine manufacture time?

  25. #25 Pyre
    October 9, 2007

    It may be true that [flu vaccine] is sometimes oversold and that not everyone needs it….

    Besides whatever direct benefit the vaccinated people receive (even if all they themselves avoid are the sniffles), the rest of society benefits from their not contracting and then passing along the virus. In effect, they form a firebreak, an immune barrier which keeps the annual “nuisance” from becoming a pandemic.

  26. #26 Bryn
    October 9, 2007

    “With curiosity about why someone would make such a bold statement, we engaged in conversation and I spent the next ten minutes giving her an earful.”

    As I imagine the poor clerk wishing hard for a panic button and the guy, three people back, with the (now) half-melted ice cream……

  27. #27 Xanthir, FCD
    October 9, 2007

    Yay herd immunity!

    Donald J. Engel:
    Re: WHO researcher
    Cite please? “I heard that…” is unfortunately not actually a form of evidence.

    Re: Smallpox vaccinations
    You’re talking about the mercury/autism link. Which doesn’t exist. Go read those words that Orac wrote again. You know, “Correlation does not equal causation”. We say it over and over again, but people never listen.

    Kids get their smallpox vaccinations at around the same time that autism is first testable. Plenty of other things happen around the age of 2 as well; do any of those cause autism? Or are they caused by vaccines? The ‘epidemic’ of autism is due to the fact that we are much better at catching it now, and accept a broader range of symptoms than we used to. A lot of parents with autistic children realize that, had they been tested when they were kids, they’d have been classified autistic as well. You have to control for that sort of thing, or else your numbers are meaningless!

    As for “it is a fact that dirty smallpox vaccinations melt brain connections to various brain segments”, cite please? Surely we’d see some medical research on this, right? You understand that we can’t take your word for this sort of stuff.

    Re: self-imposed diseases
    Dude, vaccinations use DEAD material. The viruses aren’t alive! They can’t infect you! You might feel a little crappy for a bit after getting the shot, but that’s just your immune response kicking in. None of your cells actually get infected. Unless you have one of the special live vaccines like Orac mentions, but a jab in the arm isn’t one of them.

    Finally, I have yet to see a massive re-outbreak of polio. It’s, um, pretty much dead now, because we vaccinated everyone. If your logic was right, it would only be in remission, essentially, and would have popped back out as soon as people let down their bodily defenses. We have yet to see this! Smallpox, too. There’re plenty of diseases that we’ve wiped out or nearly so, and we haven’t seen the massive resurgence that you predict.

  28. #28 HCN
    October 9, 2007

    Smallpox?!!

    Kids have not been vaccinated for smallpox in over 30 years!

    Mr. Engel, you need to cite some real evidence. Not news articles and google searhes.

    (um, Xanther… I think you should know that some vaccines are live virus types. The viruses are very weakened. These would include the MMR, chicken pox and polio vaccines.)

  29. #29 Texas Reader
    October 10, 2007

    I’d like to see the Center of Disease control sue the guy for misrepresenting the facts about the influenza vaccine. Even better, when some believer of his crap dies from influenza the family can sue him for negligent homicide.

  30. #30 how's the hubris going?
    October 10, 2007

    It must be great to have such confidence in your own superiority.

  31. #31 soteos
    October 10, 2007

    “the flu shot, and all vaccines for that matter, violate Biblical law”

    GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!!
    How could someone so stupid possibly manage to breath and eat at the same time without suffocating themselves?

  32. #32 James
    October 10, 2007

    Leviticus 17:11-12 that: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood

    Curious … that was Renfield’s favourtive Bible verse, aha! this Ciola is nothing more than a shill for Big Vampire! In any event he certainly sucks.

  33. #33 Freddy the Pig
    October 10, 2007

    I just used his logic to prove seat belts kill people.
    Passenger cars have 3 point seat belts – risk of getting killed is very low.
    Back when I was racing, ice racing only required a 4 point seat harness (lap belt and 2 soulder straps) – ice racing was probalby more dangerous than driving on the street, but I never heard of anyone getting killed or seriousl injured.
    Road racing in a production car – required a 5 point harness with the additional strap running from the “buckle” to the floor to prevent “submarining” under the lap belt. Risk of getting killed in this type of racing was much higher.
    Open wheeled cars wwhere the driver was in in semi laydown position required 6 point harnesses – these cars were much more dangerous.
    Therefore seatbelts are part of Satanic government to kill us all.
    I believe this correlation – causation fallcy can be used to “prove” that nearly all safety equipment/procedures in any activity increase the risk of death or injury.

  34. #34 Danny Haszard
    October 10, 2007

    The entire JW doctrine is senseless and deadly.

    The Bible says nothing about blood transfusions. They didn’t exist when the Old Testament and Acts were written. The Bible passages in question (kosher law) have to do with diet. Neither the Kosher Jews nor other groups oppose blood transfusions because they don’t try to put a spin on something that isn’t there.

    If the Watchtower sect leaders had not issued this prohibition, no Jehovah’s Witness would oppose them on Biblical grounds.

    Wonderful medical advances will surely come ‘synthetic blood’ will be a reality soon and the Red Cross won’t have to have collection centers anymore.
    The point is everyone,is that the Watchtower forbids whole blood transfusions now,and has prohibited any and all blood transfusions until recent changes.

    To bolster their dogma they have bragged in their own publications (that they bring to your door) how thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses have “kept their integrity to Jehovah” and DIED by the THOUSANDS for refusing blood.

    Yes,thousands of devout obedient Jehovah’s Witnesses have DIED for this no blood stance.

  35. #35 victoria
    October 10, 2007

    While I agree totally that this guy is a nutcase, and a public nuisance in the supermarket, it is possible to go too far in the other direction.

    Vaccines are not entirely safe particularly for certain people, and the autism connection is *not* disporved, merely not proven (quite a different issue).

    I was blessed with a family history of allergies and a double dose of certain genes. This didn’t bother me up into my twenties, in fact I was as tough as old boots, but after several misdiagnoses and extreme mistreatment of some diseases — I just didn’t look sick enough — I developed a massive autoimmune complex and on the way a destroyed thyroid. Quite simply I am now allergic to just about everything — no gluten, no lactose, no citric acid, no sulfates, and no chemically treated water just for starters. Also no contact with animal saliva or liquid wastes; no perfumes or sprays. Still tough as old boots and watching allergens like crazy.
    For obvious reasons I say “No thanks” to vaccines — I get over the flu in a week with little difficulty, but a vaccine can cause who knows what reactions.

    Yes I did get my daughter vaccinated — but at a much slower rate than the standard calendar. She inherited milk allergy (such a joy wth a baby) and celiac tendency and was terribly underweight. We got her vaccinations when she got big and stong enough; and she reacted to each and every one of them with a fever of 104 F for over two days, hardly “harmless”, although yes, I do prefer it to the alternative.

    The whole thimerosal link is genuinely still up in the air. As one doctor pointed out, if you gave every newborn baby a kitty-cat, most of them would do very well; but a small number would become ill with sniffles and rashes, and a very small number would get asthma, and an even smaller number might die frm the asthma. Does the rarity of severe asthmatic reaction make it nonexistent? Does the fact that 99 percent of children do well with cats mean that those who claim problems are liars and wackos? Or does it mean that two factors, the cat AND a severely allergic tendency in the child, are working together?
    Some people have suggested that a small number of chldren may not excrete heavy metals as well as average, and thus may be far more sensitive to exposure. Large-scale statistics do not show such patterns; in fact, large-scale statistics are designed to concentrate on the average, the 70 or 80 percent of “normal”, and deliberately omit or wash out the outliers. More detailed studies on subgroups often show up effects that were at first discounted. The whole autism issue is stll under study, a negative result is not a proof of a negative, and it is not good science to theorize ahead of the data.

    I am definitely in favour of modern medicines and vaccines, just attempting to sugest a balance here. If you claim that c=vaccines are absolutely harmless, tha tthe flu vaccine is absolutely required for every person over 50, that you know absolutely what does and what does not cause autism, then you are just as dogmatic as the anti-vaccine nutcase, and you will turn people away from your side rather than towards it.

  36. #36 victoria
    October 10, 2007

    While I agree totally that this guy is a nutcase, and a public nuisance in the supermarket, it is possible to go too far in the other direction.

    Vaccines are not entirely safe particularly for certain people, and the autism connection is *not* disporved, merely not proven (quite a different issue).

    I was blessed with a family history of allergies and a double dose of certain genes. This didn’t bother me up into my twenties, in fact I was as tough as old boots, but after several misdiagnoses and extreme mistreatment of some diseases — I just didn’t look sick enough — I developed a massive autoimmune complex and on the way a destroyed thyroid. Quite simply I am now allergic to just about everything — no gluten, no lactose, no citric acid, no sulfates, and no chemically treated water just for starters. Also no contact with animal saliva or liquid wastes; no perfumes or sprays. Still tough as old boots and watching allergens like crazy.
    For obvious reasons I say “No thanks” to vaccines — I get over the flu in a week with little difficulty, but a vaccine can cause who knows what reactions.

    Yes I did get my daughter vaccinated — but at a much slower rate than the standard calendar. She inherited milk allergy (such a joy wth a baby) and celiac tendency and was terribly underweight. We got her vaccinations when she got big and stong enough; and she reacted to each and every one of them with a fever of 104 F for over two days, hardly “harmless”, although yes, I do prefer it to the alternative.

    The whole thimerosal link is genuinely still up in the air. As one doctor pointed out, if you gave every newborn baby a kitty-cat, most of them would do very well; but a small number would become ill with sniffles and rashes, and a very small number would get asthma, and an even smaller number might die frm the asthma. Does the rarity of severe asthmatic reaction make it nonexistent? Does the fact that 99 percent of children do well with cats mean that those who claim problems are liars and wackos? Or does it mean that two factors, the cat AND a severely allergic tendency in the child, are working together?
    Some people have suggested that a small number of chldren may not excrete heavy metals as well as average, and thus may be far more sensitive to exposure. Large-scale statistics do not show such patterns; in fact, large-scale statistics are designed to concentrate on the average, the 70 or 80 percent of “normal”, and deliberately omit or wash out the outliers. More detailed studies on subgroups often show up effects that were at first discounted. The whole autism issue is stll under study, a negative result is not a proof of a negative, and it is not good science to theorize ahead of the data.

    I am definitely in favour of modern medicines and vaccines, just attempting to sugest a balance here. If you claim that c=vaccines are absolutely harmless, tha tthe flu vaccine is absolutely required for every person over 50, that you know absolutely what does and what does not cause autism, then you are just as dogmatic as the anti-vaccine nutcase, and you will turn people away from your side rather than towards it.

  37. #37 victoria
    October 10, 2007

    Apologies for the double comment; internet froze while sending and I re-clicked twice.

  38. #38 Occam's Trowel
    October 10, 2007

    Good editorial on this subject in the NYT this morning:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/10/opinion/10sachs.html

  39. #39 Mongrel
    October 10, 2007

    The whole thimerosal link is genuinely still up in the air. As one doctor pointed out, if you gave every newborn baby a kitty-cat, most of them would do very well; but a small number would become ill with sniffles and rashes, and a very small number would get asthma, and an even smaller number might die frm the asthma.

    The thimerosal link is fairly well settled as non existent. Mixing up your analogies, right now it’s like kids getting the jab AND a kitty. When a few get ill with the sniffles (or worse) the parents then blame the jab because they “saw it on a website”.

  40. #40 Orac
    October 10, 2007

    The whole thimerosal link is genuinely still up in the air.

    No, it isn’t, and repeating it doesn’t make it so.

    The evidence is about as strong as epidemiological evidence can be. Multiple large studies have been done, and none of them have shown a link between thimerosal and autism–or vaccines in general and autism, for that matter. If the CDC study coming out next year shows a different result, I’ll reassess my position. That’s what scientists do. However, given previous results, the likelihood that the CDC study will show any different results is small.

    You’re also attacking a strawman at the end, and it irritates me. I never claimed that vaccines are “harmless”; I said that they are safe. Perhaps the difference is too subtle for you to grasp. Basically, the tiny risk of complications from vaccines is far outweighed by their benefit.

    Strawman #2: I have never claimed to know “absolutely” what causes autism; I have merely stated over and over again (with evidence most times) that the scientific evidence that exists now strongly argues against thimerosal or vaccines as a cause.

    Strawman #3: I never said that the flu vaccine is “absolutely required” for everyone over 50. I said it’s a “good idea” that people over 50 be vaccinated.

    The “balance” that you are suggesting is not really a “balance” at all. It’s nothing more than the “I’m not an antivaxer, but…” ploy that I’ve seen so often.

  41. #41 Kathleen Seidel
    October 10, 2007

    Ciola’s ten-minute tirade makes me think of the sign at a store where I shop: “Our staff have the right to work free from verbal abuse by customers.” The manager needs to show that jerk the door — permanently.

    But personally, I’m less concerned about Ciola and his wacky ilk than I am about the United Methodist Church Women’s Division’s support of the “vaccine safety” campaign led by Rev. Lisa Sykes, the Geiers and their comrades.

  42. #42 Orac
    October 10, 2007

    Yeah. If I were in the checkout line behind a loon like Ciola when he went off on that poor clerk, I’d have pointed out in no uncertain terms what an idiot he was and told him to stop holding up the line.

  43. #43 PalMD
    October 10, 2007

    Quoting my favorite bard, “You’re an idiot, babe, it’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.”

    People persist in believing things, despite the evidence, and our only useful job can be convincing those who don’t already believe the idiots. It’s hard work.

  44. #44 Nomen Nescio
    October 10, 2007

    ah, the stupid, it uses the catchphrase “thimerosal (mercury)”. that really ticks me off; it betrays ignorance of high school chemistry.

    thimerosal is no more mercury than table salt is metallic sodium. covalent bonds matter, dammit! molecules are not just the atoms they are composed of. somebody so ignorant and hysterical as to make this kind of mistake should not be humoured when they babble on about whether thimerosal — or any of the atoms that go into it — is or is not harmful, because they have proven to the world that they don’t know what they’re talking about.

  45. #45 Ezekiel Buchheit
    October 10, 2007

    ” the autism connection is *not* disporved” – emphasis mine.

    I agree with this statement 100%, unequivocally, with no qualms or qualifiers. I have yet to see science disporve anything. It’s one of those areas on which science just really doesn’t have much of a hold.

    Now religion. Religion can disporve some shit.

  46. #46 Caledonian
    October 10, 2007

    After all, the entire point of a vaccine is to stimulate the immune system…

    Wrong.

  47. #47 David Marjanović
    October 10, 2007

    Still laughing at “neurotoxic poisons like [...] DNA from animals”.

    Curious … that was Renfield’s favourtive Bible verse, aha! this Ciola is nothing more than a shill for Big Vampire! In any event he certainly sucks.

    ROTFL!!!

  48. #48 David Marjanović, OM
    October 10, 2007

    Wrong.

    Caledonian, it is stupid to say “wrong” without explaining why, when you know full well that there are plenty of people around here who don’t know what the point of a vaccine is.

    The point of a vaccine is to switch on the production of antibodies and killer T-cells against (parts of) one particular pathogen. This has little to do with the overall activity level of the immune system. If your whole body is inflammated, yet you don’t produce antibodies against the one pathogen you actually are infected with, you still get ill (in addition to the inflammation). Also, as mentioned above, the immune system can overreact and make more damage than the pathogen did.

    On another point, the Greek god in question was Asklepios (Latin: Aesculapius), not Hermes.

  49. #49 AngryToxicologist
    October 10, 2007

    My nomination for most acutely toxic substance would be VX. It f@#ks your AChE up and then if your body can get it out, it goes back for seconds (no room for thirds unfortunately. Mercury, while nasty and common doesn’t really make the top 10.

    Victoria, while there are a still a few questions about thimerosal (are there a subset of kids that are uniquely susceptable), the above posters are correct, it doesn’t look like there is a link (with autism or other neurological deficits – I had a post on this a couple days ago). The thing that can’t be done is ever say with certainty that something is safe. There will always be deficiencies with studies and always alterantive hypotheses that can be developed to fit any conclusion. Activists need to stop focusing on the deficiencies and look at the weight of evidence. Likewise, public health officials need to stop denying that any deficiencies exist (they are getting better at this for this issue). This whole “Safe!” vs “Autism!” isn’t getting anybody anywhere. In fact, it’s keeping people from being focused on really understanding what’s going on. There very likely isn’t a link, and if there was one through one of the small possibilities that have been suggested out of the deficiencies of the previous studies, at worst, it would be so small as to not explain anything about the etiology autism, anyway. It’s time for a new focus, people.

  50. #50 David Marjanović
    October 10, 2007

    And I should probably clarify that inflammation is a reaction of the immune system, not something a pathogen does.

  51. #51 PalMD
    October 10, 2007

    Yes, uncontrolled, system-wide inflammation is knows by various names, including SIRS, sepsis, etc, and it sucks. Vaccines do not cause SIRS. They stimulate a particular immune response as stated above.
    Influenza, however, CAN cause SIRS and thereby kill people, and in pandemics, it tends to be younger, healthier people who die.
    Get the damn flu shot, and if you don’t, and the flu nearly kills you, don’t come whining to me.

  52. #52 David Harmon
    October 10, 2007

    Kathleen: By his account, he apparently got the checker interested enough to listen, so he wasn’t abusing her. The customers behind him, on the other hand….

    Orac: As usual, you invoked Dr. Strangelove just about a paragraph after you had me thinking the same thing. I bet you kick butt from a lecture podium!

    Ironic that the JWs use that Leviticus quote to ban the receiving of voluntary donations….

  53. #53 Rae
    October 10, 2007

    So I’m kind of pissed off about the last link in the addendum. Low vaccination among Orthodox Jews (where it exists) has nothing do to with religious convictions, and the assertation that “most” Orthodox Jews don’t vaccinate is false.

  54. #54 Kathleen Seidel
    October 10, 2007

    David, I don’t assume that her responsiveness and patience implies interest. She may have been trying her best to be polite, and there may not have been anyone else in line who could have enabled her to gracefully extricate herself from the situation. (“Excuse me, I have another customer, have a nice day.”) In my previous incarnation as a public librarian, I was subjected to more than a few long-winded harangues from zealous library patrons, they always showed up when there was no one else around, and it was always excruciating.

  55. #55 HCN
    October 10, 2007

    Rae, then you will have to bring it up with that particular group. Because if you click the link it says “Most of the ultra-Orthodox families refrain from vaccinating their children against measles despite Health Ministry attempts to persuade them to do so”

    It was referring to “Most” of the families in THAT particular area. Not the Orthodox Jewish families everywhere. It certainly does not pertain to the Orthodox Jewish families in my neighborhood (I am within walking distance of one of their congregations)… One of whom complimented my son for wearing his safety gear when using a scooter on the bike path (he is also a doctor).

    and continues “Health Ministry workers have recently visited Jerusalem’s utlra-Orthodox neighborhoods in an attempt to vaccinate children, but with limited success.

    “There are entire groups [of utlra-Orthodox people] who refuse to get a vaccination for various reasons. We asked rabbis to help us to persuade them but they refused,” a senior Health Ministry official said.”

    It did say “various reasons”. But it is a specific group based on religion. One of the “various reasons” may be a leader of the group who is discouraging protecting their children. Much like what happened in Nigeria with Islam clerics discouraging polio vaccines, or the church schools in Philadelphia a that had several children die of measles in the early 1990s:
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE7DF163BF935A25751C0A967958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1

  56. #56 ebohlman
    October 10, 2007

    I have to say that “allergic to citric acid” has to be the most mindboggling claim I’ve ever seen on the Net. For a prize of infinitesimal value, guess which Blink-182 song (hint: it’s on the album whose title is related to this blog’s mascot) started running through my head when I read that.

  57. #57 HCN
    October 10, 2007

    ebohlman said “I have to say that “allergic to citric acid” has to be the most mindboggling claim I’ve ever seen on the Net.”

    Ah, gee… you didn’t think that http://gateworld.net/omnipedia/characters/links/mckayrodney.shtml was the only one allergic to citric acid?

  58. #58 Rae
    October 10, 2007

    HCN, Ha’aretz is notoriously unfair to the Charedi community in Israel. Since the outbreak is a stringent religous group, pinning it on anti-vaccination prejudice provides a convenient and plausible excuse for the health ministry, but there is no party line for them to point to. The consensus among the people I know in Israel (living in the neighbourhood or with relatives there) is that the child health organizations there failed to do their jobs and decided to manufacture non-compliance claims as a CYA strategy.

  59. #59 Bronze Dog
    October 10, 2007

    The thimerosal link is fairly well settled as non existent. Mixing up your analogies, right now it’s like kids getting the jab AND a kitty. When a few get ill with the sniffles (or worse) the parents then blame the jab because they “saw it on a website”.

    I’m suddenly reminded of a little thing my brother once mentioned: One of his classmates had this line in his bibliography:

    “Google, Internet”

  60. #60 Common Sense
    October 12, 2007

    “Get the damn flu shot, and if you don’t, and the flu nearly kills you, don’t come whining to me”.

    You are a nutjob. It is an extreme situation if someone DIES from the flu… I imagine there are other issues if DEATH occurs from the flu (supposedly helped by a flu shot)… Please. Don’t give me that bogus 36,000 people die from the flu each year. We all know that this is a bold faced lie from the CDC.

    Liars, liars…

  61. #61 Orac
    October 12, 2007

    A “lie” from the CDC?

    Surely you have evidence to back up such an assertion?

    I won’t hold my breath waiting to see you produce it.

  62. #62 HCN
    October 12, 2007

    Rae said “HCN, Ha’aretz is notoriously unfair to the Charedi community in Israel. Since the outbreak is a stringent religous group, pinning it on anti-vaccination prejudice provides a convenient and plausible excuse for the health ministry, but there is no party line for them to point to.”

    Oh, boo hoo!!! It is the big bad journalists fault they are unfair to a group who endanger their children by denying them preventative medicine.

    Oh, and then it is the public health department’s fault that this particular group cannot be convinced that they are endangering their children by denying them preventative medicine.

    Get over yourself!

    There is a group that is centered around a certain religious belief that are denying their children disease prevention. But others who practice that same religion do provide their children with vaccines.

    It is not the religion’s fault, is NOT the journalist’s fault and it is not the fault of the public health agency… it is the fault of the leaders of THAT particular group.

    Now if you have an issue, go and take it up with those who are the leaders of that particular group. I hope you have better luck than the public health servants of that area.

  63. #63 PalMD
    October 13, 2007

    [quote]You are a nutjob. It is an extreme situation if someone DIES from the flu… I imagine there are other issues if DEATH occurs from the flu (supposedly helped by a flu shot)… Please. Don’t give me that bogus 36,000 people die from the flu each year. We all know that this is a bold faced lie from the CDC.

    Liars, liars… [/quote]

    First, the usual phrase is “bald-faced lie”, but some folks recognize “bold faced” as a variant.

    Next, you don’t know whether or not I am a liar. Apparently you THINK you know that I and the CDC are liars. I’m not sure why I should find myself and the CDC to be liars rather than you. Should i use the magic eight ball to see if it’s you or if it’s me who is lying? I’d rather use data.

    Yes, of course it is an “extreme situation” if someone dies of the flu…also if they die of a heart attack, etc. It still sucks to die of a preventable disease. Do you want to be one of the “extreme cases”? Prob not.

    Also, during the most famous pandemic, it was HEALTHY, YOUNG people who died the most–some posit it was because their relatively healthy immune systems, set off by the flu, went out of control, killing the folks with sepsis.

    Anyway, I probably shouldn’t feed the troll.

  64. #64 Bronze Dog
    October 13, 2007

    Woos have no sense of scale or concept of a big picture.

    When groups of people get a disease, some of them are going to have extreme cases. If a lot of people get the disease, that’s going to feature more extreme cases.

    I remember a South Park joke that isn’t funny when you think about it. Stan’s dad got SARS: “Stan, I only have a 98% chance of living.” If the mortality rate is 2%, that means 1 in 50 people are going to die. If 1,000 people get infected, that’s 20 people. If 100,000 people get it, that’s 2,000 dead. If the flu reaches pandemic levels again, that will be a lot of people dead, even if the average person is only inconvenienced.

    I often have a hard time figuring out if anti-vaxxer nonsense is spawned by sheer selfishness or innumeracy.

  65. #65 tourettist
    October 17, 2007

    Ciola’s reliance on etymology and symbolism is something I’ve seen before in religious extremists. They seem to really think stuff like this is valid reasoning.

    The symbols of the pharmaceutical companies are extremely meaningful. For example, the winged staff with a serpent wrapped around a pole is the ancient magic wand of the pagan god Hermès.

    Magical thinking in its purest form. There are a certain number of people who are lost to any rational persuasion.

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