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 naïve 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: