Doctors Scare Patients to Vaccinate | Health Newsletter

Date: 08/29/2015    Written by: Jon Barron

Vaccination Scare Tactics

Vaccination Side-Effects, Vaccine Safety, Dangers of Vaccines, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Diphtheria, Polio, Flu Vaccine

It's time once again for one of my least favorite topics: vaccinations. Why do I have such a problem with the topic? Quite simply, no one wants to listen to a nuanced opinion that doesn't come down firmly on one side or the other. Everyone, on both sides of the argument, believes that anyone who doesn't agree with their position 100% is evil and ignorant. Anti-vaxxers don't want to listen to anyone who won't unreservedly condemn vaccines as more dangerous than the plague and swear they provide no ostensible benefits. Meanwhile, the medical community and, therefore, the mainstream media believe that anyone who doesn't drink the Kool-Aid they're selling that vaccines are perfectly safe and completely effective is an ignorant quack. In fact, as I have stated on numerous occasions, vaccines:

  • Are not as effective as the medical community and the media promote.
  • Nor are they as safe as promised.
  • On the other hand, they are not as ineffective as many in the alternative health community believe.
  • Nor are they quite as dangerous as claimed.

Unfortunately, as I've already said, when it comes to vaccines, reason and nuance are in short supply and, in any case, despised on both sides of the argument. Alas, thanks to a new study, things are likely to get worse--much worse.

We'll talk about the study in a moment, but first I would like to tell you a true story. As I suggested at the top of the newsletter, every time I write an article on vaccines, the staff here at the Foundation has to brace itself for a hail storm of complaints. Here's one such email we received the last time I wrote anything about vaccines.

"There is so much evidence against the dangers of vaccines, publishing this article does you no favours! Here in the UK hundreds of thousands of young children's lives have been so terribly damaged by vaccines, they will never live a normal life. Their parents have such a burden to carry, the whole business is beyond words. The government's response................they shut them up!

"The molecular structure of vaccines are highly toxic to the body's cellular system.  This is what keeps the body in good working order. To damage it in this way (by pumping individuals with nasty chemicals) then blame them, their parents for the ill health, which will undoubtedly ensue, is the height of barbarism. 

"Nature knows best. Always will."

Our staff responded.

"In his article, Jon acknowledges that vaccines are not as safe as claimed, but your claim that ‘hundreds of thousands of young children's lives have been so terribly damaged' in the UK alone seems a skosh high. Do you have any references that can validate that number in any way other than just an article on the net written by someone asserting it? We can find validated numbers that show 2,000 new cases of measles every year in the UK, whereas, just a few decades ago it was virtually non-existent.1 This represents a 20-fold increase in the incidence of measles in just the last decade--a timeframe that mirrors rapid growth in the anti-vaccination movement in the UK. Incidentally, measles kills over 150,000 children worldwide every year.2 And that number is documented. And that is indeed "such a burden for parents to carry--beyond words."

"Ultimately each vaccine must be evaluated on a case by case basis--risk vs reward. We don't think anyone really wants a return to the days when children were mowed down by diphtheria and crippled by polio. Would you really want to console a family that lost half its members to small pox last century with ‘nature knows best?'"

baby with measles cryingNot surprisingly, we didn't hear back on our request for documentation. In fact, between 1993 and 2,000, the number of claims made by families in Great Britain against vaccine manufacturers totaled just over 1,000, which is a far, far cry from hundreds of thousands. So was the person who wrote in lying? I highly doubt it. They seemed quite sincere. What I believe is that they read on some website that hundreds of thousands of children had been damaged by vaccines in Great Britain, and since that narrative fit their preconceived narrative and was also decidedly scary, they accepted it as fact, without ever bothering to verify. And the problem is that when enough people pass the same misinformation back and forth amongst themselves often enough, it acquires the "mantel of truth" simply by virtue of repetition. Hey, this is hardly restricted to the anti-vaccination movement. How many doctors believe and have passed on the "fact" that the flu vaccine is 90% effective. It's not, of course. As the CDC itself has pointed out, effectiveness for the flu vaccine ranges from 20-60%. In fact, the vaccine for the last flu season was only 23% effective.3

So, do I think our response changed the commenter's mind? Not at all; it didn't fit her paradigm. And, unfortunately, facts rarely penetrate paradigms. I have a friend who is always sending me the latest conspiracy theory he's seen on the net. You might think that when I send him back categorical proof that the so-called conspiracy is nothing more than a long running hoax, it might serve to change his mind. Not a chance. All it does is make him angry that I didn't believe it anyway, so I no longer even bother.

And that's the problem when it comes to vaccines: everyone's position is already fixed. Any facts that contradict someone's preexisting position are immediately dismissed as irrelevant or fabricated, and any data, no matter how fantastical, that supports your position is accepted without question, without verification. Unfortunately, vaccination is far, far too important an issue to be debated in terms of misinformation that caters to our worst fears.

And as I said at the top of the newsletter, thanks to a new study, it's about to get even worse.

The Study: Countering Anti-vaccination Attitudes

In 2000, measles was thought to have been eradicated in the United States. Since then, however, it has made a comeback. The reemergence of measles has been linked by the medical community to an increase in the number of parents refusing to vaccinate their children. According to authors of a study that came out earlier this month, parents who refuse vaccines cite fears that vaccinations have harmful side effects--specifically a causal link between certain vaccinations and a child's risk for autism.4 The medical community claims that any studies that link vaccines to autism have now been discredited.5, 6 [And in fact, they might be right on this particular point. But they also claim that this proves that vaccines are perfectly safe, which it doesn't. We'll talk more about this later.]  In any case, as the researchers state, despite efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to undermine anti-vaccination attitudes and almost universal support for vaccinations among healthcare providers, vaccination rates have declined and the incidence of measles has gone up. In 2014, there were 644 cases of measles reported in the United States--three times as many cases as were reported the year before.7 In Europe, where the anti-vaccination movement is even stronger than in the US, the numbers are much worse. Between 2010 and 2013, an average of 30,000 cases of measles were reported each year.8 Notably, as vaccination rates in Europe finally began to improve, the number of cases dropped dramatically--effectively halving in 2014.

As the study points out, it was assumed by the medical community that, having "disproven" the harmful effects of vaccines, doctors and health organizations should have simply been able to reassure parents about the safety of vaccines through direct scientific education. However, recent findings have led researchers to question whether direct pro-vaccine messages actually work, even raising the possibility that they may be counterproductive.9 One study, for example presented parents with pro-vaccine information from the CDC website, but these pro-vaccine messages failed to improve the parent's attitudes toward vaccination.10 In fact, these studies reported a "backfire effect." Vaccine skeptics formed even stronger negative opinions about vaccinations after being given information intended to undermine the supposed connection between vaccinations and autism.11 (Remember, I did say that facts rarely penetrate paradigms.)

Given this background, the researchers then determined the focus of their study. "We suspect that a stronger direct message holds promise for influencing parents' vaccine attitudes. A normative analysis of vaccination decisions implies that parents' decisions to accept or refuse vaccinations for their children should depend on not only the risks associated with vaccinating, but also the risks of not vaccinating. This reasoning suggests another avenue by which people's attitudes might be influenced. Rather than attempting to overcome vaccination myths by convincing parents of the safety of vaccines, pro-vaccine messages might be more effective if they work to convince parents of the dangers of failing to vaccinate their children."

Or, to translate into English: scaring the bejeebers out of parents might be the surest way to get them to vaccinate their children. Or, in other words, let's use the tactics of the anti-vaxxers--but even stronger!

The participants in the study -- led by University of Illinois researcher Zachary Horne -- were randomly assigned to one of three groups: (1) disease risk intervention, (2) autism correction intervention, (3) or a control intervention.  

Group 1 was essentially the scare tactics group: They learned about the disease risks by reading three pieces of information taken from the CDC website in randomized order: (i) a paragraph written from a mother's perspective about her child contracting measles, (ii) a picture of a child with measles, a child with mumps, and an infant with rubella, and (iii) three short warnings about how important it is for people to vaccinate their children. The clincher might have been "i", the written account of a mom's experience dealing with her 10-month-old boy's life-threatening bout with measles. "We spent three days in the hospital fearing we might lose our baby boy," Megan Campbell wrote. "He couldn't drink or eat, so he was on an IV, and for a while he seemed to be wasting away." Internalizing Megan Campbell's fear seemed to be the thing that sealed the deal.

Participants assigned to group 2, the autism correction condition, read information taken from the CDC website summarizing recent research showing that vaccines do not increase the risk of autism in children. This is essentially the standard approach currently in place that has proven largely ineffective.

And participants in group 3, the control group, read an unrelated scientific vignette about birds.12

vaccine chart with autism and control 

The chart is pretty clear: those who were fed stories about the terrible things that can happen as a result of avoiding vaccines (far left, in green) recorded the greatest change in attitude--by a lot. Quite simply, debunking doesn't change minds--fearmongering does!

As the study's authors write, "Rather than attempting to dispel myths about the dangers of vaccinations, we recommend that the very real dangers posed by serious diseases, like measles, mumps, and rubella, be emphasized." Even better, they suggest that parents are likely to be more responsive to "warnings (in the form of graphic pictures and anecdotes) of the severity of these diseases."

In other words, I see your fearmongering, and I raise you.

Ballot Measure to Repeal SB-277

On June 30th of this year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law California Senate Bill 277, which prohibits students from attending public school without getting vaccinated. Before 277, parents were allowed to obtain an exemption from their doctors, which allowed their children to avoid being vaccinated against more than a dozen highly contagious and sometimes deadly diseases before entering school, purely on the basis of personal belief.

And in California, over the past few years as a result of some information that was indeed true and other information that was not, thousands chose exemption. In some areas of the state, particularly well-to-do areas such as Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Pacific Palisades, Marin County, and Santa Cruz, as many as 30 percent of families opted out of the required vaccinations. Note: according to the CDC, you need vaccination rates of at least 95 percent in a community to create "herd immunity" in which highly contagious diseases are unable to gain traction and spread. Before 277, it is estimated that as many as one quarter of all the schools in California had measles-immunization rates below the 95 percent mark.

The measles outbreak in Disneyland earlier this year proved the tipping point.

california governor jerry brownGov. Brown asserted when signing SB 277, "The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases. While it's true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community." Interestingly, as I mentioned, the push for 277 was largely driven by the Disneyland measles outbreak. But much of the information being circulated was simply not true. Quite simply, the outbreak was blamed on children who were not vaccinated, but that ignored the fact that almost half the people who caught measles during the outbreak were adults, not children. And yet, somehow, nebulous evidence became proof that anti-vaxxers were at fault. In fact, according to the CDC's most recent 2015 data, of the 159 measles cases recorded between January 4 and April 2 of this year, 60 were adults--not children.13 Again, facts rarely penetrate paradigms, and both sides are locked into their paradigms.

The bottom line is that it really doesn't matter if what you say is true or not, the best way to break through a paradigm is to make what you say scary enough and say it with conviction. In any case, under the new law, one of the toughest in the country, children will no longer be allowed to attend public school without all of their shots. The only exemptions will be for those children who have an actual medical exemptions approved by a qualified medical doctor. Personal belief no longer qualifies. Now, it is crucial to understand that 277 does not force parents to vaccinate their children. Yes, they have to be vaccinated if you want them to attend a public or private elementary or secondary school, child care center, day nursery, nursery school, family day care home, or development center. But despite scare stories circulating in the anti-vaxxer blogosphere, this is not a fascist decree. Parents who refuse to vaccinate will be allowed to home school or group together in an as yet undefined off-campus "public independent studies" program.

Not surprisingly, that's not good enough for the anti-vaccination movement, and so they are turning both to legal challenges and the initiative process to overturn 277. In truth, legal challenges are unlikely to gain much traction with the courts. The initiative process, however is likely to go further. In fact, California's secretary of state has announced that proponents of a ballot measure to repeal the state's new mandatory vaccination law can begin collecting signatures for their effort. The initiative was submitted by former Republican state Assemblyman and one-time candidate for governor, Tim Donnelly. Proponents will need to collect nearly 366,000 signatures for the initiative to appear on the 2016 ballot--something they are likely to do. But then they will need half the voters in the state to agree with them--something they are significantly less likely to do. Quite simply, most people don't care or if they do, are likely to come down on the side of their doctors and the mainstream media.

Considering past history, not to mention the fact that the recent study has shown that fear works better than reason when arguing your vaccination position, we can look forward to some really scary propaganda filling the airwaves on both sides of the question. Think Walking Dead for children.

Finally, it should be noted that more than 30 other states are moving to enact vaccination laws similar to California's, or at least trying to improve "public education" about the "dangers" of non-vaccination.

Herd Immunity

I’ve talked about herd immunity in some detail in previous articles, but we probably need to explore it again in some detail since it really is the crux of the argument when it comes to mandating vaccines or not. So what is herd immunity?

Vaccines are not ironclad protection when used in isolation. Think of them as providing resistance to a pathogen, but not an unscalable barrier. A major portion of a vaccine’s effectiveness comes from herd immunity. When vaccination levels reach 80-95%, there is virtually no way for a pathogen to gain access beyond a handful of individuals and infect the herd/community at large. The greater the infectious capability of a pathogen, the higher level of herd immunity you need. Measles, for example, is extremely infectious; therefore, you need close to 95% vaccination rates to achieve herd immunity for measles. With less infectious diseases, that number drops. Once herd immunity is achieved, one person may come down with a bug, but it cannot spread. Herd immunity is particularly crucial for protecting people who cannot be vaccinated. This includes children who are too young to be vaccinated, people with compromised immune systems, and those who are too ill to receive vaccines (such as some cancer patients).

Ultimately, it is herd immunity that provides the unscalable barrier to pathogens, not individual vaccinations. Beyond the unprotected, when you do not have herd immunity, then it is possible for a bug to gain entrance to the herd, mutate, multiply, and infect even those who were previously vaccinated—but against the unmutated version of the pathogen.

The bottom line is that your choice to vaccinate or not is not a purely personal choice. Your choice affects the immunity of the herd. Your choice not to vaccinate your child could ultimately lead to the infection and death of someone else’s child.

Now here’s the tricky part. If fewer than 5% of parents refuse to vaccinate, all is cool. They don’t have to get vaccinated; the herd’s immunity is fully maintained. The problem is that anti-vaccination has crossed the 5% mark several times over in many, many communities throughout the developed world. Herd immunity had been widely compromised, and that’s why diseases such as measles are making a comeback. That’s why Europe is now seeing 15,000-30,000 cases of measles a year.



But keep in mind, despite everything we’ve said, herd immunity by itself does not morally justify governments forcing vaccinations on all of their citizens. Ultimately it depends on:

  • How virulent is a particular pathogen?
  • What are the mortality rates and serious side effects associated with that particular pathogen?
  • How effective is the vaccine against that pathogen?
  • What are the side effects and incident rates of the vaccine used to combat that pathogen? Again, $3 billion in payments to the families of damaged children says they are not insignificant.
  • Does the vaccine contain additives that may be particularly questionable for children?
  • And most important of all, is the government truly mandating the vaccination of your child, or merely saying that if you don’t vaccinate, your child can’t attend public schools. In the same way that you should have the right to opt out of vaccination for your children, other parents should have the right not to put their children at risk by enrolling them in schools with compromised herd immunity.

There is a way for everyone to have their rights protected here, but only if we have a rational discussion. The odds of that, of course, are very low.

Final Thoughts

It probably should be noted that the just published fearmongering study runs contrary to previous research that concluded that it doesn't matter whether you use fear or reason, there is simply no effective way to change minds about vaccines.14 On the other hand, these studies used different designs, which might explain the different results. But they also point out that the newest study is by no means the final word. Nevertheless, the new study "sounds" good, and the medical community and media seem to be taking it to heart. So again, we can look forward, when it comes to vaccines, to ever greater levels of fear mongering and ever decreasing levels of reasoned discussion.

Again, my position on vaccinations is very clear, at least in a 50 shades of gray sort of way. Do I believe that vaccinations work? Yes, to some degree, but the effectiveness varies from vaccine to vaccine--and it always comes at a cost. Most people, such as Governor Brown, probably believe that cost is worth it, but I don't believe they've ever actually looked at how profound it is. By 2010, the US Vaccine Injury Compensation Program had paid out nearly $3 billion dollars to vaccine victims for their catastrophic vaccine injuries, even though two out of three applicants have been denied compensation.15 I'm sorry, Governor Brown, that's a lot of collateral damage. And if you or one of yours happens to have a severe reaction to the vaccination and paid "the price" for herd immunity, then you might not think it's worth it.

Ultimately, the decision to vaccinate should be a personal one. Unfortunately, governments are feeling ever more empowered to mandate the practice. Yes, as some people claim, pharmaceutical money and politics are involved, but in truth, most protectors of the establishment believe in Mr. Spock's dictum from Star Trek (or John Stuart Mill for those who know better), "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." This is another way of saying that if your decision only affects you and your family, it's your decision, but if your decision can provide a vehicle for a major "deadly" contagion to spread far and wide and cause serious harm to a neighbor's child, then it becomes a community issue. Unfortunately, that also can be used as an excuse for ambitious or ill-informed bureaucrats to force dangerous or ineffective health protocols on an unsuspecting community. It should not be forgotten that today's scientific fact can become tomorrow's public health horror story. (Remember the oral polio vaccine which seemed like a good idea at the time.)

The bottom line is that this discussion would be a lot more fruitful if people on both sides of the debate stopped exaggerating the facts to make their point and stopped resorting to fear mongering. When medical authorities tell you that the flu vaccine is 90% effective and has no harmful side effects, or that all vaccinations are harmless, they are not helping their cause. Once you realize that both statements are patently untrue, why would you believe anything else that "authority" has to say on the subject? And when people in the alternative health community state that vaccines are a complete lie, totally ineffective, and harmful to everyone who uses them, that is equally untrue. Again, gross exaggeration about even one "fact" to make a point undermines everything else you have to say on the subject--even those things that are true. In fact, each vaccination should be debated on a case by case basis with a clear presentation of risk vs reward. Every vaccination has both. Ultimately, the question comes down to risk vs reward. Would you be willing to risk a one in 10,000 chance of having your child suffer from serious side effects from a vaccination? Doesn't that depend on what the disease is and what the odds of your child getting that disease (and possibly giving it to a neighbor's child) are without vaccination?

And finally, it's worth remembering that in the early 1900's, 30% of all children died before their first birthday. That rate is now down more than 90%--a stunning achievement.16 Yes, improved sanitation, pediatric care, and obstetrics contributed, as did improved treatment of infectious diseases and surgical techniques. But make no mistake, despite all claims to the contrary and despite all the problems associated with them, mass vaccination played a major role in that reduction of infant mortality.

  • The number of indigenously acquired cases of measles declined 22-fold in just five years after implementation of the Childhood Vaccine Initiative (CII).17 In fact, in the United States before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, there were four million measles cases with 48,000 hospitalizations and 500 deaths every year.18 I'm sorry, but to maintain that vaccines don't work or that measles just disappeared on its own when the incidence of measles went from four million to virtually non-existent after the introduction of vaccines is simply an untenable position. But please understand, that is not the same thing as saying that vaccines work flawlessly; they don't. And it doesn't mean that vaccines are perfectly safe; they are not. 
  • Before the introduction of a vaccine, in the 1920's, diphtheria affected 100-200 out of every 100,000. Now, the incidence is approximately 0.001 per 100,000. That represents better than a 99.9% reduction.19
  • As for polio, the 1952 epidemic produced 57,628 cases with 3,145 deaths and 21,269 left with mild to disabling paralysis.20 Since the introduction of the polio vaccine, the United States has been polio-free since 1979. Yes, I understand that the oral polio vaccine actually caused a number of cases of polio, not to mention untold numbers of cases of brain cancer, but the benefits of 57,000 cases of polio to none is undeniable.
  • And then there's smallpox, the first plague to actually be wiped from the face of the earth as a result of vaccination. No small achievement.

The bottom line is that once you begin to treat the discussion rationally and consider each vaccination on its own terms, it becomes clear that not all vaccinations are the same and that we may come to different conclusions when we look at the risk VS rewards for each of them individually.

Sadly, as we learned from the study of the moment, that kind of reasoned discussion looks less likely by the day. In fact, we can pretty much guarantee that the upcoming debate on the SB 277 repeal initiative will, instead, be marked by extensive fearmongering and irrational, hostile argument.

angry men arguing in the office

Addendum 9/1/2015

It seems that many readers are having a hard time understanding the concept of immune system memory and herd immunity. There seems to be a deeply ingrained belief in the alternative health community that herd immunity is not real, that it's a myth promulgated by the medical establishment to trick people into getting vaccinated. This is usually followed by, "All you need is a strong immune system and you won't get sick."

These, however, are misconceptions. I'm going to give you an historical example of both the validity and importance of herd immunity, but first, I want to discuss immune system memory. As I just stated, when people say "All you need is a strong immune system," that's based on a misconception of what the immune system actually is and how it works. People believe that a strong immune system simply means that your immune cells are "jacked up," and that prevents you from ever getting sick. But your immune system is so much more complex than that. For example, the probiotics in your gut may account for as much as 60-70% of your immune function. And then there's immune system memory. As I have explained in other newsletters:

Once an invader is defeated, most of the active T4 and T8 cells dry up and disappear. However, the T4 cells produce a clone of themselves called Memory Helper T-cells, which can last a long, long time (anywhere from several years up until the day you die) to resist the next invasion of that specific antigen. This is an amazing advantage when you consider that building that first recognition response can take up to a week or ten days. That's a lot of time for an invader to have free rein in your body -- more than enough time to make you extremely sick, or even kill you when faced with an aggressive invader. However, having Memory Helper T-cells in place cuts that time to just a matter of hours.

Consider the example of a mother taking care of her child with measles. How does her previously acquired immunity prevent her from getting measles? Surprise! It actually doesn't. Every mother actually "catches" measles from her child no matter how many times she's been vaccinated or had measles herself. But because of her immune system's "memory" of measles, her immune system's response is so fast that she totally eradicates the invader before she even gets one single symptom. This is a really, really important point to understand about your immune system. Even if you have immunity, you're still going to get the disease, if the virus enters your body. The virus absolutely starts reproducing in your body, but the response is so fast that it kills the virus before it can ever really get started. It's gone before you ever even knew it was there. And just as important, it kills the invader before it ever has a chance to multiply enough to become infectious. That's how immunity works. But it's not only the speed of the response that's increased, it's also the strength.  The response triggered by memory cells during second exposure to an invader can be as much as a 1000 times stronger than the initial response. This is known as an anamnestic (or accelerated) response. And that's how a trained immune system protects you against a foreign invader -- virus, bacteria, fungus, whatever. And in fact, approximately one in every 200 immune systems can even protect against seemingly "unprotectable" viruses such as HIV AIDS. Pretty amazing, not to mention being indicative of opportunities for optimizing your immune system through both natural and medical means.

Historical Example

I mentioned that there is a historical example of both the validity and importance of herd immunity. It shows you what happens when these things are not present--if all you're relying upon is a "strong immune system" with no memory or herd immunity to support it, as so many people advocate. I'm talking about the American Indians.

By all accounts, before the Spanish arrived, the native populations in North and South America lived the lifestyle idealized by those of us in the alternative health movement. They ate fresh, natural foods. They lived in villages, not cities. They were physically fit, with everyone involved in active labor. There were no factory workers, no shopkeepers, no clerks sitting for hours tabulating numbers and writing in ledgers. By any account, these people would have had as "strong" an immune system as it is possible to have. What their immune systems didn't have, however, is any memory of diseases such as measles, influenza, chicken pox, typhus, typhoid fever, dysentery, scarlet fever, and diphtheria that had been widespread in Europe for centuries.

But of all of the diseases the Europeans brought, smallpox was the most devastating. It was carried by some of the African slaves Columbus brought with him to be used as laborers on sugar plantations in the West Indies. The Lakota Indians called this disease the running face sickness. Ultimately, smallpox was lethal to countless Native Americans, bringing sweeping epidemics and affecting the same tribes repeatedly.

There may have been as many as 100 million Native Americans living in the New World at the beginning of the European invasion. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, American Indians were remarkably free of serious diseases. As the European explorers and colonists began to arrive, this changed, and the consequences were disastrous for Native American peoples. In 1495, just three years after Columbus' first visit, 57-80% of the native population of Santa Domingo, and in 1515, two-thirds of the Indians of Puerto Rico were wiped out by smallpox. Ten years after Cortez arrived in Mexico, the native population dropped from twenty-five million to six and half million, a reduction of 74%. Ultimately, the native population was reduced by 80-95%. (Even the most conservative estimates place it at 65%.) Quite simply, lack of immune system memory is why individuals succumbed to these diseases in the first place. And lack of herd immunity is why entire tribes vanished from the face of the earth so quickly.

That's why immune system memory and herd immunity are so important.

columbus' affect on the american nativesNow, that said, that does not mean that vaccination is 100% effective, that it lasts a lifetime, or that it's perfectly safe. None of those things are true. It is not 100% effective. When you vaccinate people with weak immune systems, those systems don't respond strongly. The immune system memory established is very weak. Then there's the fact that different vaccinations have different "life spans." As I've explained previously, some immune system memory is lifelong, but some, such as from the rabies vaccine, only lasts about 2 years, tetanus and whooping cough vaccine about 10 years. And they are far from being perfectly safe. As I mentioned several times above, $3 billion in payments for people damaged by vaccination is clear testament to that fact.

So once again, this article is not an endorsement of vaccination. It is an endorsement of reasoned discussion--with both sides backing off from fear mongering and hyperbole. Unfortunately, based on the initial response to this article, I am more convinced than ever that's not going to happen anytime soon. And without reasoned discussion, the anti-vaccination movement is out-gunned, out-moneyed, and out-politically-resourced. Unless the movement changes tactics, it will lose across the board-- and is, in fact, already losing. And that should be of concern to everyone.

  • 1. "Confirmed cases of Measles, Mumps and Rubella 1996-2013." The National Archives Public Health England. (Accessed 21 Aug 2015.)
  • 2. "Global Measles Mortality, 2000--2008." CDC MMWR December 4, 2009 / 58(47);1321-1326
  • 3. "Protection from Flu Vaccination Reduced this Season." CDC. January 15, 2015. (Accessed 21 Jan 2015.)
  • 4. Zachary Hornea, Derek Powellb, John E. Hummela, and Keith J. Holyoakb. "Countering antivaccination attitudes." PNAS 2015 ; published ahead of print August 3, 2015.
  • 5. T. S. Sathyanarayana Rao and Chittaranjan Andrade. "The MMR vaccine and autism: Sensation, refutation, retraction, and fraud." Indian J Psychiatry. 2011 Apr-Jun; 53(2): 95--96.
  • 6. Taylor LE, Swerdfeger AL, Eslick GD. "Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies." Vaccine 2014 Jun 17;32(29):3623-9.
  • 7. "Transcript for CDC Telebriefing: Measles in the United States, 2015." CDC January 29, 2014. (Accessed 13 Aug 2015.)
  • 8. "Measles incidence drops in Europe, but transmission continues." WHO 13-02-2015. (Accessed 25 Aug 2015.),-but-transmission-continues
  • 9. Nyhan B, Reifler J, Richey S, Freed GL. "Effective messages in vaccine promotion: A randomized trial." Pediatrics 133(4):e835--e842.
  • 10. Nyhan B, Reifler J. "Does correcting myths about the flu vaccine work? An experimental evaluation of the effects of corrective information." Vaccine Volume 33, Issue 3, 9 January 2015, Pages 459--464.
  • 11. Lord CG, Ross L, Lepper MR. "Biased assimilation and attitude polarization: The effects of prior theories on subsequently considered evidence." J Pers Soc Psychol 1979, Vol. 37, No. 11, 2098-2109.
  • 12. Hornea Study, Supplemental Information
  • 13. "Measles -- United States, January 4--April 2, 2015." CDC MMWR April 17, 2015 / 64(14);373-376. (Access 22 Aug 2015.)
  • 14. Nyhan "Does correcting mths"
  • 15. "Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP)" National Vaccine Information Center. (Accessed 25 Aug 2015.)
  • 16. "Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: Healthier Mothers and Babies." CDC MMWR October 01, 1999 / 48(38);849-858.
  • 17. "Status Report on the Childhood Immunization Initiative: Reported Cases of Selected Vaccine-Preventable Diseases -- United States, 1996." CDC MMWR July 25, 1997 / 46(29);665-671. (Accessed 22 Aug 2015.)
  • 18. Julia Belluz "9 things everybody should know about measles." Vox Science & Health Feb 19, 2015. (Accessed 22 Aug 2015.)
  • 19. "Diphtheria: DBMD." Right Diagnosis. December 2001. (Accessed 22 Aug 2015.)
  • 20. "History of Polio." The History of Vaccines. (Accessed 21 Aug 2015.)

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    Submitted by bill on
    August 30, 2015 - 7:57pm
    san fernando , California

    so many ways to look at the subject. jon looks at the statistics. but what about the formulas used? if the poisons were removed from the content of the needles, there would be way fewer bad results and much of the vitriol would be dissipated.

    the question is why aren't the mercury and other objectionable ingredients removed?

    jon quickly brushes over the money and politics of the problem, but when viewed from the wider perspective of bribes and payoffs from monsanto, etc., etc., via
    all the lobbyists, there is way more to it than statistical juggling.

    jon needs to write more on this and from various perspectives.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    August 30, 2015 - 11:15pm

    Exactly!! You and Jon are in agreement! We need to get past the fear mongering generated by both sides—including that spewing from governments and pharmaceutical companies. As Jon says in his article.

    Keep in mind, despite everything we’ve said, herd immunity by itself does not morally justify governments forcing vaccinations on all of their citizens. Ultimately it depends on:

    • How virulent is a particular pathogen?
    • What are the mortality rates and serious side effects associated with that particular pathogen?
    • How effective is the vaccine against that pathogen?
    • What are the side effects and incident rates of the vaccine used to combat that pathogen? Again, $3 billion in payments to the families of damaged children says they are not insignificant.
    • Does the vaccine contain additives that may be particularly questionable for children?
    • And most important of all, is the government truly mandating the vaccination of your child, or merely saying that if you don’t vaccinate, your child can’t attend public schools. In the same way that you should have the right to opt out of vaccination for your children, other parents should have the right not to put their children at risk by enrolling them in schools with compromised herd immunity.

    There is a way for everyone to have their rights protected here, but only if we have a rational discussion. The odds of that, of course, are very low.

    Submitted by Lorraine on
    August 30, 2015 - 9:02pm
    Topsfield , Massachusetts

    I am not one to ever get a flu vaccine and I refuse most general vaccines, but once in a while I feel I must update ones such as tetanus or for travel to another country, Hep A. In such cases I always spend the time to DETOX before and after to get rid of the unhealthy elements included in the medicine I want for my health safety. I don't understand why medical professionals can't go that route and help their clients detox from the vaccines. That is a great route for all and would make the most skeptical feel more comfortable with the crucial vaccinations. I NEVER hear anything about detoxification....that word could be the bridge to bring both sides together if more info. was out about how to do that! I am fortunate to have a medical Dr. who quit his practice to study natural healing and use both to help his clients with their health. He is honest about the dangers of vaccinations and when I want to get one he tells me how to detox. ;)

    Submitted by Mary Nelson on
    August 30, 2015 - 9:18pm

    I hear what you are saying about vaccines.

    I have seen a few videos on YouTube about vaccine damages to both adults & children.

    It can be a tough decision to make. I remember your story about your brother and how vaccines messed with him. Others have said their child screamed like your brother did and it was ignored as well.

    No one knows until it is ignored or until it is too late.

    I feel they vaccinate too many at a time on young children making them pin cushions.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    August 31, 2015 - 2:00pm

    Hi Mary, It’s been 50 years since the vaccination incident with Jon’s brother, and Jon still carries a picture of him in his wallet. Thank you for remembering. We know Jon will appreciate it. For anyone who doesn’t know what Mary is referring to, here is the article.

    Submitted by Swati on
    August 30, 2015 - 10:45pm
    Chennai ,

    I am worried about the herd immunity. Vaccinated people shedding virus and allowing it to mutate in natural environment may be hazardous. Can you explain the rise in acute flaccid paralysis cases in India, when government has declared India polio free?

    Submitted by Mary Nelson on
    August 31, 2015 - 10:15am

    On another blog, someone came in stating that she was GIVEN the measles from a vaccine given to a family member.

    Made me wonder how many times that happens with measles plus others.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    August 31, 2015 - 12:56pm

    Hi Mary,

    It can’t be too many times as measles was pretty much eliminated in the US after vaccination began. But again, pointing out flaws in the anti-vaccination position doesn’t mean that vaccines are 100% effective and without serious side effects. As Jon pointed out, there is serious exaggeration on both sides of the question. Quite simply, vaccines are not 100% effective, and they are far from 100% safe.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    August 31, 2015 - 12:54pm

    Yes, some sources are citing evidence that cases of NPAFP are climbing in India and claiming that the polio vaccine is responsible. Government health workers, on the other hand, claim that the incidence is not increasing—that there is merely better surveillance. Let’s bypass that debate for the moment and look at things in a different way by asking a simple question. If the polio vaccine was the cause of NPAFP, then we would had to have seen a similar increase in the incidence of NPAFP in the United States and Europe after the introduction of the polio vaccine. We did not. Logically, then whatever is responsible for the increase in reports of NPAFP in India must lie elsewhere. 

    As for mutating in the body, if the vaccine is training the immune system to destroy the disease when it later encounters it, then there is no chance for mutation or transmission of any mutation. Mutation is far more feasible within communities that have no resistance to the pathogen as it can multiply freely within those communities and spread more easily from person to person. As an example, now that smallpox has been eradicated, are we seeing any mutations appear anywhere, and in anyone? The answer is clearly, no.

    Submitted by Tristan on
    August 31, 2015 - 2:02pm
    Canberra ,

    As for the differential diagnoses themselves, measles/rubella are now called roseola, fifth disease etc; polio is now called Gullain Barre, transverse myelitis, coxsackie etc; pertussis/diphtheria are renamed strep, croup, RSV, bronchiolitis, pharyngitis, etc; hepatitis just runs through the alphabet; meningitis blamed on Hib is just meningitis blamed on some other bacteria. Now, the feeble responses to these points is to say either "oh but the vaccines didn't necessarily contribute to the rise in paralysis since the polio vaccine it is just a coincidence" but of course that is not the point, which is that the vaccine didn't give us what it promised us. Secondly, people will say "but we can differentiate these by antibody tests or similar" but even if such tests are valid and they were always done in each and every possible case today, they certainly weren't done in the days before the vaccine was introduced.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    August 31, 2015 - 5:05pm

    You’re just making this up to see how we respond, right?

    Your comparison between diseases past and present is simply not correct and not born out by any reality. For example: Guillain-Barre syndrome has only a superficial resemblance to polio in that it brings on muscle weakness and paralysis. But it is not polio; it is not even a viral disease. It's a nerve disorder in which the insulating material around nerves is lost. That leads to a short-circuiting of nerve signals and a loss of muscle function.

    Submitted by HOWARD KIRSHENBAUM on
    August 30, 2015 - 10:59pm
    Deerfield , Illinois

    I think that much would be accomplished if the pharmaceutical companies and the government would be honest with us as to the ingredients in vaccines and the known side effects and the number (not a nebulous % of total) adverse reactions. That at least would give us something concrete to go on.
    Also, I am of the group that espouses one stick, one vaccine per visit. This way, if there is an adverse effect, we know which one is the culprit. The problem is that we are inundating undeveloped systems with these chemicals when we really have no way to know how an individual body is going to react. When you give these kids 3 or 4 vaccines with one stick, it only benefits the doctor, not the child. And we know that the Gardasil vaccines has caused untold grief to kids and given to them at a time when for almost all, it is not needed and a second dose is needed when they might become sexually active. So we know we are being lied to. We don't trust the FDA who are in the pockets of the food and drug industries.
    Give us the facts so we can intelligently make up our minds and do the vaccines in a reasonable way so as to reduce the chance of a negative effect on our kids.

    Submitted by Chef Jemichel on
    August 31, 2015 - 1:05am
    San Diego , California

    Jon, I've read the source article for your # 18 footnote and find that "... one or two in 1,000 children (with measles) will die (from) complications (that) mostly arise in people whose immune systems are already weakened because of their age, preexisting diseases or malnutrition." What is so unacceptable to you about that? Isn't point 1 or point 2 a low % of mortality among all who have been infected? If I understand your presentation correctly you would like at least 950 of every 1000 individuals immunized. What is the percentage of complications that typically result from the vaccination? Can we compare that with the .1 to .2 % death rate from the disease?

    Submitted by lee robertshaw on
    August 31, 2015 - 2:32am

    Thank you for this article. It is mentioned that the for or against argument on vaccines depends on the vaccine. Please could you share your thoughts specifically on the HPV vaccine?

    Submitted by Floyd Kopietz on
    August 31, 2015 - 4:57am
    clarkston , Michigan

    Great article. This is the 1st reasonable post I have seen on immunizations. Immunizations have played an important role in disease prevention. Having said that, I wonder if there isn't a problem in the number of immunizations that children get today. I believe our bodies can tolerate a considerable amount of toxins but there are limits depending on the health of our immune systems. I also believe good nutrition (especially vitamin D) can help prevent reactions to immunizations and increase their effectiveness. At this time, I have found no research to back my beliefs, just circumstantial evidence.

    Submitted by [email protected] on
    September 16, 2015 - 7:28pm
    Medford , Oregon

    I was shocked by Jon's article..... Instead of promoting a TRUE IMMUNITY VIA 10 NATURAL LAWS OF HEALTH Jon just went on promoting vaccines! '' '' Your choice not to vaccinate your child could ultimately lead to the infection and death of someone else’s child.'' SO if your child is vaccinated and protected. s/he should not be threatened by a child that is not vaccinated...... it should be the unvaccinated child that would be in danger of getting sick! Not your vaccinated one ! So what is the problem? Almost all recent outbreaks have been in vaccinated kids/adults! Fewer unvaccinated ones were affected.

    So you don't get POLIO but you get vaccine induced polio === polio is now called Gullain Barre, transverse myelitis, coxsackie etc; pertussis/diphtheria are renamed strep, croup, RSV, bronchiolitis, pharyngitis, etc; So why vaccinate?

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    September 18, 2015 - 1:26pm

    Deep sigh!  You really need to reread the article. Jon doesn’t say anything of the kind.  In fact, he talks about the number of adults who got measles at Disneyland. He talks about the problems with the oral polio vaccine in the past. All he’s saying is that there is an honest discussion to be had here. And playing to fear will only guarantee a one-sided victory for the pro vaccination forces. As to your final statement, conflating polio with other diseases, just because you read it on the internet doesn’t make it true. You’ve bought into nonsensical fear. For example: Guillain-Barre syndrome has only a superficial resemblance to polio in that it brings on muscle weakness and paralysis. But it is not polio; it is not even a viral disease. It's a nerve disorder in which the insulating material around nerves is lost. That leads to a short-circuiting of nerve signals and a loss of muscle function.

    Submitted by Xenia on
    August 31, 2015 - 6:46am

    Herd immunity is a myth. There is no herd immunity. Herd immunity is just something they needed to invent when people looked around them and started pointing out, quite justifiedly, that the vaccines didn't (and don't) work.

    And here is the proof that there is no herd immunity:

    You write, quote "When vaccination levels reach 80-95 %, there is virtually no way for pathogen to gain access beyond a handful of individuals and infect the herd/community at large". Well, vaccines do not prevent infection. They also do not prevent transmission of pathogens, nor do they prevent that the vaccinated people contract the pathogens and become carriers. There was never a claim for any vaccine, and especially not a proven claim, that they will prevent pathogens invading your body. They just claim to prevent the disease from developing (this is not true,either, but it IS what they claim).

    So since they do not prevent people from getting the pathogens in the body, if vaccines did work, they should work regardless of whether other people got vaccinated or not. But since this is not the case, and since we all know that all people are pathogen carriers regardless of the vaccination, it is a proof in itself that vaccines don't work and are therefore a dirty scam to get your money, and a total lie.This also proves there is no herd immunity. Plus, let's add to that the fact that vaccinated people get the disease more frequently than the not vaccinated ones.

    No matter how big the "herd", there is no immunity and there is also no herd immunity. Immunity comes from your own immune system and from nowhere else. They are just using this scam to try rto convince people that the not vaccinated individuals are guilty if a vaccinated person gets the disease, and that therefore, we should all be vaccinated.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    August 31, 2015 - 12:59pm

    Hi Xenia,
    We’re not quite sure how to answer this. What you call proof is more a series of unsubstantiated assertions that are not entirely connected. The best thing might be to address some of the points in bullet form:

    You say that vaccines don’t prevent infection, but that depends on how you define infection. Most definitions state infection requires both “invasion” and “multiplication.” You are correct, that vaccines don’t prevent invasion, but they do train the immune system to resist multiplication. And that’s the key, isn’t it?

    You state that vaccines don’t prevent people from becoming carriers. Actually, they do. Simply being invaded by a pathogen does not make you a carrier. Pathogens have to multiply enough before a person becomes infectious. That’s exactly what we saw with Ebola, where medical workers who had contracted the disease and wandered around New York for several days transmitted the disease to not one single person because they had not yet become infectious.

    You say that vaccines don’t work and are a dirty scam. Actually, the evidence is pretty much definite that some can work. As Jon cited:

    • Measles was virtually eliminated after vaccination was introduced--until people stopped getting vaccinated.
    • Polio cases dropped from 5 million to zero in the US after the introduction of the polio vaccine.
    • Smallpox has been eliminated from the face of the earth.

    All of that said, as Jon pointed out, that does not mean that vaccines work flawlessly or that they are perfectly safe. Again, $3 billion in payments to families of damaged children says that they are not. The bottom line is that once you begin to treat the discussion rationally and consider each vaccination on its own terms, it becomes clear that not all vaccinations are the same and that we may come to different conclusions when we look at the risk VS rewards for each of them individually. Sadly, as Jon pointed out, that kind of reasoned discussion looks less likely by the day.

    PS: As for herd immunity, you probably should reread the article again, since all of your arguments against it are fully covered in the article.

    Submitted by Xenia on
    September 1, 2015 - 2:17am

    What I am saying is:

    If you are vaccinated, this does not prevent you to carry the pathogen or to transmit it to others. Therefore, herd immunity does not exiast. Vaccination, even if you believe it protects you, does NOT protect anybody else.

    This was the key part of my comment and you have not disproven it - or even addressed it. Please describe how being vaccinated prevents you from contracting the pathogen. There is no such mechanism.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    September 1, 2015 - 6:25pm

    Actually, it was addressed in great deal in our response. It appears you were unable to see what was there. To repeat, briefly. Yes, everyone gets the virus, but it doesn’t become infectious until, and unless, it has replicated itself and grown exponentially.

    Submitted by Xenia on
    September 1, 2015 - 2:25am

    Oh, and I forgot:

    The above video on so called herd immunity automatically presumes that everybody who gets the vaccine is protected from the disease. Which we all know to be false. It is different with different vaccines but vaccination is not an automatic protection against the pathogen - or a guarantee you will not get sick. Just look at the flu vaccines!

    And I gotan awful whooping cough as adult even though through my childhood vaccination, I was supposed to be protected "for life".

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    September 1, 2015 - 6:28pm

    No, not at all. The video does not presume anything of the kind. In fact, the video specifically talks about those who fall outside the protection of vaccination such as those with weak immune systems, the elderly, and the very young. As for whooping cough, no it was never supposed to protect for life. Keep in mind that this article was not about the nature of viruses and vaccination, but about the politics and strategies of the vaccination issue. If you had followed any of the links that were provided, you would have found Jon’s articles on the nature of vaccines and vaccination, and you would have seen that very few vaccinations are for life. Immune system memory is just like memories in your brain; information gets fuzzier and less accurate as the years go by. Some things you remember perfectly. Others not so much. “What was the name of that song?” In fact, the anticipated life-expectancy of a whooping cough vaccination is about 10 years—not for life. Part of the blame for your misunderstanding certainly goes to the medical community and the media that, as Jon pointed out, uses hyperbole, misinformation, and fear to spread their pro-vaccination message. But part of the fault is certainly yours for not reading carefully—for seeing what you expect to see, not what is actually there. In any case, there is now a substantial addendum at the bottom of the newsletter that goes into herd immunity in more detail. Perhaps it will help.

    Submitted by Laurel on
    August 31, 2015 - 7:05am
    Oak Ridge , New Jersey

    All I know is that I brought my bright, happy, smart, talkative, giggly, affectionate and very healthy 4 year old daughter for her "well child visit" for her second MMR vaccine. She skipped into the pediatricians office in good spirits and good health.

    By the time we got home she was all red, screaming(a high-pitched horrid scream) and had a high fever. I called the Dr and she told me to give her Tylenol every 4 hours and she "will be fine in a day or two."

    Well, my daughter was NEVER the same again. By the next day she was flapping her hands and feet and screeching like a bird, withing two months she was diagnosed with Turret's Syndrome, Autism and seizure disorder.

    If ANYONE wants to say that was not DIRECTLY CAUSED BY THE VACCINE I have a bridge to sell you.

    I found a support group and there were over 80 parents (just in my area of NJ) that had similar experiences. These children all were healthy one day - then had a vaccine and BOOM -then they were not.

    I don't believe it's as rare as this and other articles make it sound because most of our children's illnesses were NOT reported. Mine wasn't because the doctor refused to acknowledge it and I did not know at the time that I could have reported it myself.

    How many kids were harmed and we have not counted them? I bet way more than you think.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    August 31, 2015 - 12:52pm

    Yes, it is very unfortunate when this happens, so sorry to hear this. As Jon mentioned in the article: By 2010, the US Vaccine Injury Compensation Program had paid out nearly $3 billion dollars to vaccine victims for their catastrophic vaccine injuries, even though two out of three applicants have been denied compensation.15 I'm sorry, Governor Brown, that's a lot of collateral damage. And if you or one of yours happens to have a severe reaction to the vaccination and paid "the price" for herd immunity, then you might not think it's worth it.” 

    On the other hand, as he also points out:

    Measles kills over 150,000 children worldwide every year.”  If you’re the parent of one of those children, you might have a different opinion of vaccination. 


    There are no easy answers when it comes to vaccination. There are merely pros and cons that need to be rationally evaluated.

    Submitted by Tristan on
    August 31, 2015 - 1:38pm

    Those measles deaths numbers from I presume the WHO are a complete fabrication. They come from countries without reliable cause of death data and are, quite literally, no better than random numbers.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    August 31, 2015 - 4:52pm

    Yes, there is certainly some fudginess to health numbers gathered on the world stage. But although the numbers themselves may be a bit loose, the trends they point to are unmistakable and undeniable. And if you don’t use those numbers, what numbers do you use—or do you just make up whatever data you want to fit your argument as many people do?

    Submitted by 258cinnamongirl on
    September 3, 2015 - 4:34pm

    Laurel, I am so sorry to hear about your little girl. I have a good friend who had the lives of her 2 boys completely changed due to vaccination. It breaks my heart. Any chance of such a drastic and devastating effect (however "small" of a percentage) is too much in my book. In the toxic world we live in, there is no easy answer. I hope you are able to find some peace and wish the best for you and your family.

    Submitted by nino kolarevic on
    August 31, 2015 - 9:49am
    Ljubljana ,

    It is true, that after starting vaccination against polio in late 50's, occurrance of this disease dramaticly declined - in USA. But this happened in Europe too, even they started to vaccinate their children later, in late 60's.
    Your comment, please.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    August 31, 2015 - 12:48pm

    As it turns out, there is a huge amount of misinformation out there. In fact, by 1956, almost all European countries had started vaccination programs. Here’s the actual timeline.


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