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    • There is science on both sides, it just takes way more digging to learn about science on the other side.

      There's also water on both sides of a dam.

      I'm not an expert on structural engineering or fluid dynamics. I couldn't tell you how to build a dam. But if you show me a picture of a dam, I can tell you with 100% certainty which side of that dam I want to be on when the floodgates open.

      How am I able to do this? By using common sense and by observing a preponderance of evidence.

      Science is a little bit like this. Through research and experimentation, consensus builds on one side or another, like water on either side of a dam. Research can be complicated. Sometimes different experiments have different results. Sometimes results are mixed. You rarely end up with all the evidence on one side, and that's normal, because that's the nature of science.

      But the overwhelming majority of scientific evidence indicates that vaccines are statistically more beneficial than they are harmful. In other words, when more people are vaccinated, fewer people get sick and die.

      Some people do still get sick. Some people do still die. In rare cases, some people can even get sick as a result of a vaccine. But overall, when more people are vaccinated, more people live.

      Yes, there is water on both sides of the dam. But if you go fishing on the wrong side, you're probably going to have a bad day.

    • Science is never settled. But with enough work, it can reach a high degree of certainty.

      When you get into a car and drive somewhere, you feel safe because you have a high degree of certainty that you will arrive at your destination. But you also know that car accidents happen. You may even have experienced a car accident yourself.

      Every time you drive somewhere, there's a small chance that you will be injured or killed. But you drive anyway. And you'll probably be fine. Not because science has proven that car accidents don't happen, but because statistics show that you're much more likely to arrive at your destination safely than you are to die in a car accident.

      A preponderance of evidence tells us that driving is generally pretty safe. The fact that some people have car accidents doesn't change that.

      In the same way, a preponderance of evidence tells us that vaccines are generally pretty safe.

    • Chris MacAskill

      I read the intro to Obukhanych's book and this was part of the first sentence she wrote:

      I have yet to encounter one among my own kind: a scientist in the trenches of mainstream biomedical research who does not regard vaccines as the greatest invention of medicine.

      It's a powerful sentence and I immediately wanted to know more about her to give some perspective on the book. All I really knew is it was self-published in 2012. Where is she working? So I searched YouTube and found this fascinating talk that she gave a year and a half ago:

      I paid a lot of attention and learned a number things. You can tell she's very educated.

      She opens with a paper from the 60s by two scientists from the CDC who said measles is a relatively mild disease and fatalities are rare. When asked why they wanted to develop a vaccine they replied "because they can."

      She's right, compared to the diseases they had seen recently back then like polio, measles is relatively mild. I would have preferred her to be precise and say about 500 children were dying of measles per year in the U.S. back then instead of using the term rare.

      I wasn't sure where she was going with this. If she could show that deaths from the vaccine were higher, then that would be a valid point. Instead she said the government was taking our liberties away for a relatively mild disease. I understood the sentiment but it's not science and I think it's valid to be concerned about 500 deaths per year.

      The next thing she pointed out is that tetanus is not contagious. I checked and she's right. I didn't know that. Her point seemed to be the government had no right to require the tetanus vaccine if children sick with tetanus don't endanger other kids at school. Fair point, correct science. I just don't think we should have any child go through tetanus unless there is some greater harm from vaccines. I was expecting her to get to that.

      Her next point is people who have had measles have greater immunity than people who just get vaccines. She's right again. It's possible to get measles even if you're vaccinated. So a higher percent of the population has to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity than the percent of the population who has had measles.

      I was still having trouble getting the point. If you don't vaccinate, a lot of people have to get sick and some die to get much herd immunity.

      Near the end of the talk she brought up the case of a measles outbreak in Canada where the mainstream press reported that it was because of the number of unvaccinated, but she said through surveillance they found out that wasn't true. Wait, surveillance? That seems like a bold claim. Can we see that data? She just dropped that statement and moved on. That didn't sound like science at all. The numbers are usually very reliable about who is vaccinated and how the disease spread from person to person.

      Somewhere along the way she displayed a chart very much like the one below to show you can still have outbreaks in the age of vaccines. I thought it was an extraordinary chart. How two scientists can look at the same chart and take away two completely different conclusions leaves me thunderstruck. The only thing I could think of is she must have some real data to show the vaccines are potentially worse than all those deaths. But she ended her talk without going there. I don't know what to say to that. Maybe she covers it in her book?

    • From an outside point of view, it sounds as if this person is pushing just the right buttons to get the attention of a crowd that values "freedom" and "lack of government interference" above all else.

      This could be a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy (if she hadn't pushed those buttons, we would be talking about a random other person that did instead) - but it could also be by design. Further above, it was suggested to "follow the money" in a different context. I wonder if anyone did the same in this case, following her money back to whatever origin might be found.

      "Divide and rule" is not exactly a new concept. Maybe it is at work here, too:

    • Chris MacAskill

      I stayed up late last night and read the book. I take her at her word that she has yet to encounter one among her own kind: a scientist in the trenches of mainstream biomedical research who does not regard vaccines as the greatest invention of medicine.

      I'm not sure that statement supports or harms her credibility. But she did say up front the book is intended for parents of children, largely non scientists.

      As I read it I couldn't stop thinking of Elizabeth Holmes, the woman who founded Theranos. I am fascinated by that story too, how someone could raise billions of dollars and attract powerful, smart investors, none of whom were scientists.

      This book is filled with perhaps a hundred complicated points with scientific jargon that would take an expert weeks to understand, if ever. Here's an example:

      Furthermore, far from being a biologically inactive substance, alum was capable of activating granulocytes and antigen-presenting cells that prime the immune system for antibody production (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15205534 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19734227).

      👆 Scary. If you follow the first link, you come to a 2004 paper rarely cited whose abstract reads:

      Exposure of naĂŻve B cells to the cytokine interleukin-4 (IL-4) and/or antigen leads to a state of "priming," in which subsequent aggregation of major histocompatibility complex class II molecules induces the mobilization of calcium ions and cell proliferation. However, it is not clear how critical this priming is for immune responses or how it is normally induced in vivo.

      (The exposure was in mice.) I don't think there is a person on earth who could read that paper and understand its significance. Not even the scientists who performed the experiment and published the paper could, and they said so in the abstract.

      The thing is, scary passages like those were the ones being highlighted on Kindle readers.

      I took two things from the book and her talk that will bother me for the rest of my life:

      1. To trust this book you have to mistrust the scientific community. But trust in this book comes from her being a scientist. I can't reconcile that.

      2. She makes very bold and scary claims throughout the book, like vaccines are the cause of the rise of childhood allergies and asthma, but she presents no data, no charts or graphs, to back them up. There is a ton of published data on allergies, asthma and vaccines but she doesn't reference them. They show the same thing as vaccines and autism: no link.

      Here she is in her talk standing in front of one of the world's most astonishing charts. And yet she looked for whatever alternative explanation to the chart she can propose: lack of vitamin A, intravenous injection of vitamin C, better hygiene, quarantining — all without evidence. What makes it believable by some people is better nutrition, better hygiene, and quarantining all help. But as mountains of data show, they are not enough.

      I don't mean this to be sarcastic, but I really do think she explained her opening sentence about why she is the only scientist in her field who does not believe vaccines are the greatest advance in medicine. It's in the chart she's displaying:

    • Chris, your analysis has me speechless—it was that incredible. I think it brings me back to our debate of whether đź‘Ź or 🙌 is the more appropriate accolade.

      **********

      I think the blindness of being “highly educated” is that you think that several hours of research via the Internet and books will give you enough knowledge to make an informed medical decision that’s better than that of the medical community.

      It isn’t that the medical community never makes the wrong treatment decision. It’s that as a layman you don’t have the prerequisite knowledge to understand the data required to draw conclusions.

      And so instead of trusting a doctor, some choose to trust other voices. If your doctor has ever misdiagnosed or failed to diagnose a problem with your child, you’re going to be open to considering those other voices. I think @tornadik mentioned that had happened with her own child.

      I don’t think there’s a rejection of science. Instead there’s a rejection of who mainstream society is telling them to trust.

      I choose to put my trust in mainstream medicine, including vaccination, but I definitely understand why some parents make the decision not to.

    • It's hard to reconcile that all progress depends on believing we can do better than something that exists today — that what we have now isn't perfect, there are flaws, advances to make. I think that's what makes Elon Musk such a great inventor.

      But all progress also depends on someone being able to show that they can make improvements. Anyone can point out that air travel isn't safe, but the people who really matter are the ones who make it safer.

      Anyone can point out that, like air travel, vaccines aren't perfectly safe. But I think the ones we should listen to are the ones who either improve their safety or come up with something better. I don't think the ones we should listen to are the ones who propose that because jets crash we should drive instead. That takes us backwards in safety.

    • I completely agree. I would love for more public push for safety. I am still against uninformed forced “one fit for all” approach due to so many medical deviations in our health condition so I think we should have a right to discuss options.

      We all agree that food is essential for surviving yet somehow we want our food to be tested for safety, quite a few would prefer it to be local and organic, nonGMO, etc. But food saves lives, so shouldn’t we agree that pros outweigh possible cons of someone getting sick from bad food? Yet, we continue on insisting on safe standards.

      Same applies to vaccines or any other no matter how mild medication. If I can exercise informed consent, I feel much safer. The more the topic becomes hush-hush and any questions on safety are put down, the more it fuels anto-vaxxer movement.

    • If I can exercise informed consent, I feel much safer. The more the topic becomes hush-hush and any questions on safety are put down, the more it fuels anto-vaxxer movement.

      I think that's very fair. That's what my son-in-law the family physician advocates.

      On a slightly different topic, one thing I have no understanding of is why vaccines are terrifying and painkillers are not. By the numbers, painkillers are incredibly dangerous and vaccines are incredibly safe. The worry about profit motive of pharma makes more sense with painkillers than vaccines.

      There must be something very important about human emotion I don't understand.

    • Very good point! I think painkillers have only recently started getting the spotlight and people started paying more attention to this matter. Hopefully, this will change too.

      Chris, I just wanted to thank you for your insight, thorough analysis (taking time to read/listen and share) and thoughtful comments. We may not fully see eye to eye on this topic but I very much respect your opinion. This issue is usually so touchy for many but this is the first time I participated in such respectful discussion. Your son-in-law must be from a rare these days breed of doctors and his patients are really lucky.

    • One of my best friends is Nigerian and lives there. In his country and neighboring ones, they have similar fears of vaccines but different theories. One of the scarier diseases is Ebola and there's now a vaccine that's 100% effective during an outbreak if you get it before exposure.

      The issue is you could well have been exposed to Ebola before getting the vaccine but not show symptoms until after getting the vaccine because it takes time for the disease to incubate and for the vaccine to help you develop immunity. That ignites one of the common theories — that the vaccines were developed to control the population and getting the vaccine causes Ebola.

      Public health workers there know that administering the vaccine is the easy part but public outreach is where the hard and important work happens. One thing they do is have public officials publicly receive the vaccine so the population can see that it's safe, although even then there are fears that public officials are not getting the lethal shot they may get.

    • Chris, did you happen to read a testimony by the CDC whistleblower Dr William Thompson? It was not covered in the mainstream media but he did come out explaining that the study to which CDC and the medical community refer to as debunking autism link between the MMR vaccine and symptoms of autism was actually compromised. The study did show 3.4 fold increase in incidents of autism among African American boys when MMR is administered prior to 36 months of age. The results were removed from the published version of the study.

      What if there is much higher risk depending on the age when vaccines are administered? What if MMR vaccine given to a kid of 5 years old has benign effect compared to when it is administered at 18 months when the brain is actively developing? What if the fight should not be against vaccines per se but quantity administered at once and age/health condition of a child? As a child I personally got just a few vaccines and I got the rest at the age of 25. I did not know a single child with asthma, allergy or mental disorder in my entire school. Each class had around 35 students. Right now there is just an epidemic of these chronic conditions. What if the timing and overall quantity makes all the difference?

      Why are there no studies comparing the presence of chronic health issues between unvaccinated and vaccinated kids? Wouldn’t we want to know?

    • I literally just copied this string of text

      studies comparing the presence of chronic health issues between unvaccinated and vaccinated kids

      and pasted it into a Google search to find a ton of links to either studies themselves or pages trying to debunk this myth. Studies like these do exist.

    • Chris MacAskill

      Chris, did you happen to read a testimony by the CDC whistleblower Dr William Thompson?

      Yes, I did because I have an odd fascination about why theories like this spread. The theories are different across cultures and through time but what's fascinating to me is why do vaccines trigger them? Why not antibiotics or painkillers?

      Dr. Thompson is referencing a 2004 study and he was (rightly, in my opinion) concerned about data that could have been included. It's hard for me to say because the excluded data in this case seemed shaky and I probably would have been inclined toward not including it too, but I didn't collect it so I don't know for sure. If you do publish it and it doesn't stand up to scrutiny, you lose your reputation as someone credible. If you don't then you might face accusations of suppressing data, as happened in this case.

      Speaking of suppressing, I think it's important we don't suppress part of Dr. Thompson's testimony:

      I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.

      In any case, the last 15 years of studies have made this shaky data irrelevant. There are many newer, more rigorous studies that had nothing to do with the CDC or Dr. Thompson. To hang our hats on old Metropolitan Atlanta school and birth certificate data when some children (more often black) didn't even have birth certificates seems awfully shaky.

      Here's one of many newer studies that are based on more reliable data:

    • I have a feeling that if I presented studies from sources like that which would say the opposite they would be considered highly unreliable. I have seen some other data from Hong Kong which was considered as the only study of that type but my data may be outdated. From my personal experience I witness a lot more sick kids these days among vaccinated and I barely know any unvaccinated kids to properly compare. I will look into this research more. I am curious now what these studies are about

    • Chris MacAskill

      If you have good data to present, I think the world would love to see it; I know I would. That's really all we ask of anyone who is concerned about vaccines: put forth some reliable data.

      In the meantime, all of us have incredibly authoritative public data we can all analyze. For instance, the sick kids you know are not dying by the millions of smallpox, polio, or tetanus like they used to. The sick kids who are getting autism, allergies and asthma get it at the same rates as vaccinated kids.

      We do have reliable data to show that some children are harmed by overuse of antibiotics and hand sanitizers. Perhaps those are the children you're experiencing?

      Despite the overwhelming evidence of harm from overuse of antibiotics, parents demand them for their children. We'll all see a lot of sick kids if that keeps up.

    • From my personal experience I witness a lot more sick kids these days among vaccinated and I barely know any unvaccinated kids to properly compare.

      I don't know if this is even true, but let's just assume it is for the moment. If nearly all the individuals you are looking at are vaccinated, with no real control group to speak of, then whatever effects you might be seeing can't be attributed to them being vaccinated. You said yourself that you don't have enough individuals to "properly compare" - so you shouldn't try.

      If there is such a thing as "more sick kids these days", then this could be due to them being vaccinated, but it could also be due to a whole range of other factors all just loosely correlated with each other.

      Taking me as an example, I'm a kid of the eighties. In my youth, I still went on biking trips with friends and played in "dirty" forests - but I also got hooked on video games, owned every Nintendo platform and an early computer, and thus spent a good amount of my time not exposed to allergens. I have some allergies now, but I can cope with them.

      Comparing this to some "average childhood" in the 1960s, with no personal computing going on whatsoever - or an "average childhood" now, with Wi-Fi and all sorts of handheld computers being ubiquitous - I can see how this could lead to more people showing allergic reactions to nature now vs. 20 years ago vs. 40 years ago.

      The same or similar arguments could be made for diabetes and weight problems in general, for so-called "attention deficit" disorders, and many other things. Attributing all of that to vaccination, simply because it is one thing of a million that happened to happen in the general timeframe you are looking at, is a bit too easy.

    • diabetes and weight problems in general

      That is definitely true. What was once called adult-onset diabetes is common in kids now due to the rise of junk food and our extra weight. We have very reliable data on that. It's a major factor in health.

    • I am going to present research on comparison of vaccinated vs unvaccinated kids and a few more things but it may take time. I don’t want to present the first thing Google spits out as I am looking for credible and most important unbiased sources. At certain point I spent considerable time looking into it but it has been several years since then and I don’t save links as I normally don’t participate in these discussions. :) So forgive the delay, too much is going on right now and researching again is a bit of a luxury.

      However, I have stumbled upon this pro-vaccines article at CNN. https://m.cnn.com/en/article/h_b480c02513cb5c621aabdf59d868ff08

      I hope that you will read thru it without the bias first. Despite its obvious bias, there are some facts that they try to present as insignificant such as presence of heavy metals in vaccines (in the past no one even talked about it, I learned about them only after my kid got sick). They incorrectly report that presence of heavy metals in vaccines is benign and that the baby gets more via breastmilk. Well, even if that is true, there is a big difference in getting aluminum thru food where there are multiple barriers and excretion mechanisms in place vs getting it via the shot directly in your blood stream and avoid brain barrier. In addition to aluminum, there is still some lead in specific vaccines (not all of them) and formaldehyde.

      Now let’s stop and think about your infant. Parents go to great length to buy safe food for their babies, buy organic whenever they can, avoid plastic, some even buy organic cotton clothes, etc. How many of you would buy baby food that has formaldehyde, aluminum and lead and feed that to your beautiful, healthy baby? Please give it some time and be honest with yourself. Would you naturally go for it even though food is good for your baby as they need food to be alive? Or would you throw a “tantrum” and demand safety standards to be re-evaluated to make food without these metals? Well food with heavy metals may still be better due to specific barriers in your digestive tract than direct shot. If you really want to convince me you would go for such contaminated food without hesitation, I would probably think that you either don’t have kids or a hypocrite. :)

    • Interesting article share. I can’t stop thinking about this comment from a parent:

      She concedes, however: "If there'd been outbreaks like now, it would have affected my thinking about delaying vaccines." (Source)

    • The article is one-sided, of course. True articles from the other side are not ever published in the mainstream media. Good journalism when two sides of this controversial topic are presented without bias with actual facts from both sides (interviews with doctors and scientists from both sides, not just one) is no longer possible (all big sponsors of the main news agencies including well respected NPR are pharmaceutical companies). They only present snippets of interviews with anti-vaxxer parents who are easy to dismiss as ignorant.

      What is important is to analyze what they say in the CNN article is included in vaccines (and they mention only a tip of an iceberg) and read it with an open mind. I understand that a person who believes in vaccines will look for confirmation of his/her belief in such statements but I personally think the conversation should be shifted not from necessarily vaccinating vs nonvaccinating, but to safety.

    • With respect, Chris, as I look at the graphic you posted, I see a rise in Type 2 diabetes in Native American and NonHispanic Blacks, but little or none in Non Hispanic Whites or Asian/Pacific Islanders. Or little change in All Races. I am certain you see it as well.

      Correlations are not necessarily Causations either. Are wealthier folks healthier because they are wealthier, or are they wealthier because they are more more healthy or more health conscious? Or are the numbers just suspect, because the collectors of the numbers have unaware biases?

      I suspect that economic class and education plays a bigger role than race in general overall health. Native Americans do seem to have more trouble with diabetes than most Europeans, that has been a known for many years. African Americans seem to have significantly higher high blood pressure issues than the general US populations.

      When I was in Greenland I was amazed at the large displays of TV dinners for sale in their supermarkets, despite having a significant number of indigenous subsistence hunters and fishermen among the population. I doubt a regular diet of TV dinners is optimal for health, but I don't have data to prove that.

      I find your graphic interesting but it leaves me with more questions than conclusions.