Vaccination v. Faith in Vitamins: Touching, But Insufficient Evidence
This week, I was told that my stance on vaccinations is proof that I am a fool and a pharma shill which is par for the course. I was informed that it has been proved both that healthy children don't get childhood illnesses and that if they do, those illnesses strengthen their immune systems. It is hard to pin down the origin of these assertions (although I have located one egregious documentary in which these claims are included (I will discuss this at another time); in the interim, Skeptics has put up a fine examination of Dr. Scheibner's 'science').
The example that was quoted to me was measles. Apparently, it is only those children who are deficient in vitamin A who develop measles; just to cover all of the bases, the categorisation of 'deficient' applies both to those with clinical and sub-clinical deficiences (of course). I was told that WHO had used vitamin A with remarkable success in developing countries.
I attempted to distinguish between vitamin A being used to prevent measles infection or to reduce the morbidities of children who had already contracted measles. I pointed to the remarkable reduction in measles' deaths thanks to an aggressive vaccination programme. The success of the Measles Initiative reflects the increased uptake in measles vaccination; the countries involved have not suddenly had a influx of quickly-built civil engineering projects that have provided clean water and better sanitation. Nor, sadly, has there been a remarkable upswing in the nutrition of the children. There is no evidence of a co-simultaneous vitamin A supplementation programme in the same countries that were covered by the Measles Initiative. Vaccination is responsible for the different outcomes for these children. I argued that prevention (vaccination) was much better than treatment and less devastating for the child.
I was then informed that having childhood illnesses like measles protects you from developing cancer and a range of auto-immune diseases. In the following quotation, I'm unclear as to whether it is the vaccines that stand accused of causing these dread diseases or the lack of immunity conferred by failing to contract preventable childhood illnesses.
There is growing suspicion that immunization against relatively harm-less childhood diseases may be responsible for the dramatic increase in auto-immune diseases since mass inoculations were introduced. These are fearful diseases such as cancer, leukemia. rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease, lupus erythematosus, and the Guillain-Barre syndrome. An autoimmune disease can be explained simply as one in which the body's defense mechanisms cannot distinguish between foreign invaders and ordinary body tissues, with the consequence that the body begins to destroy itself. Have we traded mumps and measles for cancer and leukemia? [I'm not going to sic out all the errors in this piece. N.B., I'm horrified at what this link will do to this blog if it is submitted to the Black Duck's quackometer but these things have to be discussed.]Nonetheless, it wasn't difficult to find epidemiological studies to rebut these claims: e.g., a study that reported no possible causation between MMR vaccines and Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Dr. Flea has compiled More notes from the lunatic fringe and reports sightings of claims that Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is a mis-diagnosis of vaccine injury. The vaccine injuries in question include scurvy which is said to be responsible for the pattern of bony injuries seen in SBS. Dr. Scheibner claims that her services are in demand as an expert witness in SBS legal cases and as an expert addressing governmental committees. Dr. Kalokerinos is the source of many of the claims about scurvy as a vaccine injury (you can read more about him, courtesy of Rat Bags discussion of a meeting that Kalokerinos addressed) during which he claimed that:
massive doses of vitamin C would cure just about every ailment, and that vaccination was a deliberate process of genocide carried out under the auspices of the World Health Organization and the Save the Children Fund. He went on to say that these two groups "put Hitler and Stalin in the shade" when it came to deliberate and intentional mass killings. [Emphasis added.]I did try to consult Kalokerinos' papers on Entrez PubMed but because most of them had been published in the Australasian Nursing Journal, none of the abstracts were available and I haven't been able to find them in the British Library. I've had to fall back on an extract from one of Kalokerinos' books to learn more about his claims for the value of vitamin C:
The matron was convinced that the diagnosis was meningitis so she prepared a lumbar puncture. I had however, seen this problem before. Lumbar punctures performed by me had been negative and the infants died....the trauma of inserting a needle..might result in a haemorrage that might cause spinal cord paralysis. So I decided to give an injection of vitamin C..I probably gave as many as 6 injections, each 100mg. After half an hour Mary was normal. It was hard to believe, but I had performed a miracle!...I found that any viral infection, including measles and hepatitis, could be dramatically 'cured' by administering Vitamin C intravenously in big doses--provided that treatment was commenced early. Dr. Kalokerinos MD (Medical Pioneer of the 20th century pg. 175.) [Emphasis added.]Kalokerinos claims that without his vitamin C intervention, 1 in 2 aborigine children were dying after vaccination. Unfortunately, without being able to consult any of his papers on the matter (and I have reason to believe that none of these is a substantial or refereed paper), these claims are only available in his books, e.g., Every Second Child.
Reading about these self-styled voices in the wilderness and truth-tellers encouraged me to adapt a piece that was recently written about autism 'experts'. The similarities are striking.
So these mavericks continue to circulate, paddling in the same scientific shallows, attending the same conferences and boasting connections with the same research institutes. They travel the world quoting each other in circular support, reinforcing a fringe belief in unproven interventions for [vaccine injuries] and propagating the mistaken view that ordinary doctors are cowed by mysterious vested interests (pharmaceutical companies?) into not doing their best for children...I am more than a little puzzled that it is acceptable to believe that medicine is involved in a vaccination hoax, conspiracy and deception. I also find it quite touching that some people appear to be so ready to place so much faith in vitamins and vitamin supplements. The latter seem to be necessary because in the West, unlike much of the world, we tend to have sub-clinical rather than verifiable deficiencies. We appear to have been brainwashed into this by the progaganda about the poor nutrition of the average mixed diet. Oddly enough, it is media nutritionists who attempt to convince us of this, and those self-same people tend to have their own brands of vitamins and minerals to remedy those deficiencies.
Their [anti-vax] agenda is, regrettably, assisted by newspapers with acres of space to fill, who delight in feeding the middle-class paranoia over perfect parenting...
There is nothing wrong with a scientist pursuing a hunch, and everything right about parents wanting to do the best for their child. There is nothing even particularly sinister about [anti-vax proponents] gambling [their] reputation on an instinct. But there is something depressing beyond belief about a scientist who refuses to recant in the face of overwhelming opposing evidence.
Now, I think that most parents would readily dismiss most of the stranger anti-vax arguments and refuse to waste precious minutes of their lives even thinking about them. I don't imagine that people who are swayed by these arguments would be at all convinced by discussion about the correct interpretation of medical literature that is cited in support of some anti-vax claims. I also think that it is verging on the impossible to anticipate where the next anti-vax argument will come from (e.g., it's an instrument for genocide; it leads to cancer; it is linked to diabetes; it is linked to a decline in fertility; it's linked to pervasive developmental disorders). You can not successfully counter the bizarre or irrational. Attempting to counter some of the anti-vax stuff that is out there would be a sisyphean task. And yet, I am still horrified at the search results from Google. Irrelevant or worth countering some of the more egregious nonsense?
Edited 28 Feb. I am grateful to a correspondent for sending me a link to The Anti-Immunization Activists: A Pattern of Deception. Dr. Friedlander is board-certified in both anatomic and clinical pathology; he has specifically addressed the misuse of scientific articles by anti-vax activists.