Unexpectedly, I was in a room with Dr. Andrew Wakefield today. What does this name bring up for you?
Dr. Andrew Wakefield.
A quick Wikipedia search defines him to be “a British former surgeon and medical researcher, known for his fraudulent 1998 research paper in support of the now-discredited claim that there was a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.” (Emphasis added is mine.)
He was stripped of his medical license, his research proven fraudulent, and his financial conflicts of interest were exposed. Didn’t he run and hide in a hole somewhere after that world-scale disaster?!
He’s alive and well, and for some reason continues fighting, undeterred. For some reason, he stands by his discredited research. For some reason, he’s still touting an MMR-autism link. For some reason, he hasn’t shut up.
Anyways, unexpectedly, I was in a room with Dr. Andrew Wakefield today. The event was standing room only, and it seemed ALL the hands were up. I didn’t expect to get to ask a question – but I did. What do you ask a disgraced doctor who falsified data for financial gain and is crazy enough to keep preaching the Kool-Aid?
Before I tell you about my question, let me tell you a little bit about my stance on vaccines.
I’ve never liked groupthink, and I tend to steer clear of anything organized. I’m just more comfortable on the outside. For example, when I was in high school people used to analyze my lunch plate and ask me, “So, are you a vegetarian?” It really annoyed me. I’d say, “No. I just don’t eat meat.” “So you’re a vegetarian,” they’d declare. “No, I’m not. I told you – I just don’t eat meat.”
You see, if I’m a vegetarian, I must be an animal rights activist who looks at you and your dead cow burger in disdain. If I’m a meat lovin’ Texan, I probably eat vegetarians with my bacon for breakfast. In reality, I’m a health conscious, empathetic human who respects your right to make your own food choices. I don’t look at your sandwich and judge you. I see a common ground that has a lot of “pros” and no “cons”. I believe we can unite on the idea that there are far more ethical and health promoting ways to eat food in this country.
Similarly, I can’t jump on board with an anti- or pro-vaccine label. It’s so incredibly polarizing. Have you checked your Facebook feed lately? To be crass, it’s a Hunger Games battle where parents pit the pro-vax cancer patients against the anti-vax autistic kids. Everyone is an idiot, stupid, irresponsible, or blind. And absolutely zero collaboration is possible. The only answer seems to be mass conversion to one religion.
I understand the arguments on both sides. I believe in protecting our children from vaccine preventable diseases, and I hear the legitimate concerns about vaccine safety.
And science. Because science.
So here’s what I want to discuss with you: 1) First, I want to share my questions. I want to tell you what troubles me. If you are pro-vax, this part might be hard to read. So skip it if you want, no hard feelings. 2) Second, I want to offer a vision for collaboration. There IS a common ground. 3) Last, I’ll wrap with Dr. Wakefield. I’ll let you know my question and his answer.
In no particular order, these are vaccine related thoughts that weigh on me:
1) My home state of Texas has now introduced over 15 separate bills this session to limit vaccine choice rights. This is happening right now. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. Many states across the country are trying to pass vaccine mandate laws. Goodbye medical choice, personal liberty, and informed consent. This is of course in the name of the greater good. But in reality it is control over our bodies and our choices. That is anti American, y’all. It doesn’t matter if you are anti-vaccine or pro-vaccine – the point is that we are (currently) free to make those personal decisions. That right is at stake. Your new choice will be this: vaccinate your children or CPS will take them and vaccinate them for you. Is brute force the best solution? Really?
2) Vaccines have questionable ingredients; Vaccines are 100% safe. Studies show they do cause autism; Studies show they don’t. Dr. Wakefield is a fraud; The CDC is a fraud. I’m not married to the answers here. But I do ask myself this question: If vaccines are so low risk, if they really don’t cause any neurological or gastrointestinal complications, how would you feel about injecting yourself with the shot ingredients, minus the virus part? If you hesitate at all at the thought, if that doesn’t seem completely innocuous, might it be a tad over reaching to say “vaccines are safe”? And what are we afraid of if the answer is “Well, they are 99% safe”? Wouldn’t we try to make them 100% safe? Why is there an insistence on their absolute perfection as they stand? Only 1% of the population has a peanut allergy. And we care deeply about the causes and researching a solution.
3) The vaccine injured. Here’s the deal. 97% of the US population is vaccinated. There is a real subset of children who are permanently injured for life. The US government has actually made it illegal for these families to sue the companies who made the vaccines that injured them. Instead, they’ve placed a $.75 tax on each administered vaccine to fund a National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. That’s cool, these children “took one for the team” and we’re going to take good care of them, right? Well, no actually. The vast majority of people who apply for compensation are denied because the burden of proof keeps rising. A family who believes in vaccination, vaccinates on time, and ends up with a legitimate vaccine injured child is quite frankly shunned. No one believes it was the vaccine. They are treated like they have the plague. They have to fight costly legal battles for upwards of 10 years *while* caring for their completely dependent special needs children . . . to often be denied. If they took one for the team, shouldn’t they be celebrated as heroes without question? Our society’s reaction to these victims unequivocally disturbs me. It would be like shirking the nut allergy victims, denying nuts caused their life threatening reactions, pushing further nuts on them, and refusing to look into causes and potential solutions for future nut sufferers. Aren’t we more curious, empathetic, and helpful than this?
4) Why do we allow the government-CDC-pharmaceutical bed sharing? Why do we allow drug makers, who are paid by the government, to run efficacy tests on their vaccines that they then present back to the government? Whaaaaat?! No, really – where is the actual independent research with zero data fishing? Thanks to Dr. William Thompson, we know that the CDC has already done that research. It turns out there is an MMR-autism link. Except, wait, lemme just redefine age ranges, change my inclusion criteria, control for some extra stuff . . . yeah, there we go, no link after all. Phew!
5) Why do we allow vaccine creation for treatable diseases with low risks of complications that by themselves offer life long immunity? Since I was a kid, the number of CDC required vaccines has tripled. Sweden currently gives 12 vaccines (we give 36), and they aren’t living in the dark ages. What’s driving this fixation on more and more vaccines – a genuine concern for public health or profit?
6) How does an adult population who largely does not go in for boosters compromise herd immunity? We’re so worried about protecting our children from the very small percent of children who are not fully immunized, yet the majority of parents are walking around out of date on their vaccinations. Keep an eye out – a government mandated adult vaccine program is actually in the works.
7) It’s all or nothing. Give all vaccines on the recommended schedule, or you are compromising public health. Period. But if you really sit down and think about this as 12 decisions (not one), I can’t help but wonder why we are giving two day old infants the Hep B vaccine. Unless s/he will be sexually active, using illicit drugs, getting a tattoo, or needing a blood transfusion, why is this necessary so early? Likewise, how does it make sense to give the HPV vaccine to prepubescent boys and girls? Why is it blasphemous to question this timing? Why is it impious to consider less shots at once in favor of more visits to the doctor? Why is it anti-vaccine to vaccinate?
8) As a nation we polarize this debate. Why? Why do we want to force one side to it’s knees in submission to the other side’s will? Is there not a common ground for understanding and collaboration?
This brings me to the reason I am writing this post – collaboration. I’ll tell you a fact: Neither group is going to change the mind of the opposing group. We are spending enormous energy and dollars trying to do just that. How can we break through that tough exterior of “My way!” so that we can collaborate, not convince. How can anti-vax and pro-vax camps come together for the real greater good? Is it possible to put differences aside and effect positive change?
Here are some thoughts on how we can work together:
1) Unite as pro-vaccine choice. Tell your representatives and senators that parents should make medical decisions for their children in conjunction with their doctors. There is absolutely no need for the government to intervene in that relationship. Tell them you do not support a mandate on childhood or adult vaccines and that you hope they do not either. Ask them to stand up for your freedom. Email, call, write.
2) Demand actual vaccine safety. You may not know it, but once broken, a florescent light bulb continuously emits mercury vapor (a known neurological toxin) into the air. If you switched to LED or supported efforts to create another mercury free light bulb, would you be considered anti-light bulb? No. You’re not anti-light bulb. You happen to think light bulbs are pretty awesome, especially when the sun goes down. You just want a safer light bulb and know that to be a realistic possibility. When you shop for a cell phone, clothes, food, etc, do you look for the best product or settle for one that’s a little less than ideal? “This banana here is perfect, but I think I’ll choose the one with a small blemish – 99% of my banana will be okay!” Actual vaccine safety is achievable. It requires that we admit the current system is not 100% perfect, and it requires that pharmaceuticals lower their profit margins to accommodate. Demand it. It is our right.
3) Demand CDC transparency. Give us the raw data! Let multiple independent researchers run the numbers on health outcomes. Just open source it. Enough of this incestuous money exchange for supposed sound science. Raw. Data. Now. And while we’re at it, how about efficacy stats for ALL vaccines EVERY year? Again, open source the data – there are plenty of us who will run the numbers.
4) It’s hard to acknowledge vaccine injured families when you believe that vaccines do not cause neurological or gastrointestinal complications. Not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer. And not everyone with lung cancer was a smoker. Likewise, vaccines do not equal autism. But I assure you, autism is listed on vaccine inserts as a possible side effect, and the government has backed this up with $3 billion dollars of compensation to injured families since the inception of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. So, support the vaccine injured. Believe people when they tell you that they have a nut allergy a vaccine hurt their child. No one who believes in the benefits of vaccination *wants* to turn around and say, “I think that vaccine hurt my child”. No one tries to fight 10 years for compensation without a legitimate basis. Demand a better system than the NVICP, one that adequately cares for all those who are vaccine injured. Demand that our government and society recognize and compensate these unsung heroes. Tell them you see their children. Tell them you appreciate the hours they spend giving their children the best life possible. Give them your empathy, love, and hugs. Tell them you will stand beside them in the fight for safer vaccines.
5) Demand the option from your doctors for routine genetic screening before vaccination. We may not know every predisposition for vaccine injury, but we do know a few – and we CAN test for them. Here’s what we know:
- Individuals with low levels of glutathione are more susceptible to vaccine poisoning because they are less able to filter toxins out of their brains.
- Both aluminum and testosterone have synergistic (not additive) effects when combined with mercury. A trace amount of mercury in isolation has no effect – but when aluminum and/or testosterone are added, the effects are many times magnified.
- Mercury may have been almost entirely removed from the majority of vaccines (notably the flu vaccine still contains thimerosal), but it is all around us and inside of us. The level of mercury currently in your body can play a role in your reaction to vaccines that contain no mercury whatsoever. Babies can be born with questionable levels of mercury in their blood.
Before giving your child or yourself a vaccine, request that your doctor check your glutathione, mercury, and (if you are male) testosterone levels. Request they test for an egg allergy if you are giving a vaccine containing egg protein. Vaccine reaction is genetic – ask your family members if anyone in the past couple generations has reacted. Read vaccine inserts – not all brands are equal. Educate yourself on least toxic brands. Proceed with caution: when babies begin solid foods, we are advised to introduce one food at a time and watch for reactions – not six foods all at once. Don’t vaccinate blindly. Introduce a vaccine as you would a peanut. Most likely it’s gonna be okay, and you’ll enjoy the life long benefits of eating peanuts or eggs or avocados. But let’s support determining who is allergic and who is not.
6) Last, demand research into causes of and solutions to vaccine poisoning. If we could identify people with nut allergies (pre eating nuts) and cure it, wouldn’t we? Don’t we want everyone to enjoy eating nuts? What other genetic predispositions exist to vaccine reaction? Combined with safer vaccines, we can limit actual reactions to miniscule. And for those reactions that do happen, demand research on how to detox and heal these individuals and families. Demand knowledge and support.
My question to Dr. Wakefield and the panel of vaccine experts at my standing room only event was this: Y’all have been doing this for 20+ years. How do you engage in a productive conversation? With each side so vehemently stuck with their heads in the mud, what advice do you have for actually making progress?
“Talk,” he said. “Don’t stop talking.”