Archive for March 10, 2019

Persecution of Anti-Vaxxers Will Backfire on Believers in Scientism: 1

March 10, 2019 9 comments

Over the past few months, we have seen a barrage of attention-seeking types, supported by the dying MSM, who claim to defend “science” from anti-vaxxers (link 1, link 2 and link 3). However, as anybody who has read enough about the history of modern medicine knows, there have been anti-vaxxers, of some type, as long as there have been vaccines. Which is a nice way of saying that all the effort expended by all those pro-vaccination supporters is about self-aggrandizement, rather than anything altruistic. See.. the thing is, the first major anti-vaxxer movements petered over a century ago once it became very obvious that specific infectious diseases were caused by specific microorganisms and exposure to an attenuated form of the pathogen or its main toxin would confer functional immunity to those diseases.

In other words, the modern anti-vaxxer movements are NOT populated by rubes who reject the idea that pathogens cause infectious diseases or deny that vaccines elicit an immunological response. In fact, I wrote a couple of posts on this topic in the past where I pointed out that the modern anti-vaxxer movements are an inevitable consequence of profit-driven medicine and that the effects of late-capitalism on the medical system have made it increasingly untrustworthy. Sharp eyed readers might have noticed that I used the plural rather than singular form of ‘movement’ in my previous sentences. As you will see, there is a good reason behind using the plural form and it is very relevant to the rest of this series- specifically the part about how persecution of anti-vaxxers will backfire on believers in scientism.

Let us now talk about the real factors at play in this conflict, and let us be honest about how things are in real-life as opposed to how they should or ought to be.

1] Public trust in the medical profession, especially in USA, has been dropping at an increasing rate over past two decades. Regardless of what you want to believe, it is hard to escape the fact that public faith in “credentialed experts” of all types has been steadily going down over past 2-3 decades. And let us be honest about something else- this loss of faith is grounded in very solid reasons. It takes too much effort to keep believing in priests.. I mean”credentialed experts”.. who have made repeatedly been shown to wrong, greedy and incompetent. By now, almost every person in USA has had personal experience or knows somebody directly who has suffered due to dogma, greed or sheer incompetence of physicians who behave as if they are incapable of making mistakes. And the effect of such behavior and attitudes on their overall credibility is cumulative.

How many of you would willingly place your trust in people who have repeatedly displayed their ability to believe and promote bullshit, derive their livelihood via cartelisation of their profession and are generally incapable of accepting their past mistakes? Why, then, would you expect people with skin in the game aka parents to blindly trust any guidelines or recommendations these “credentialed experts” with no skin in the game come up with? And let us be honest about something else.. “revised guidelines and recommendations” during the past 20 years have almost exclusively been used to sell increasingly more expensive drugs and other medical services without a corresponding increase in life-expectancy. And this leads us to the second issue- namely, the risk-benefit ratios for each vaccine.

2] Too many losers.. I mean supporters of scientism.. believe (or pretend to) that all vaccines are wonder drugs with almost no side-effects and almost universal efficacy. The reality, as usual, is more complicated. While there are vaccines with almost 100% efficacy and almost non-existent serious adverse effects (Diphtheria and Tetanus toxoids, oral and injected polio vaccines, Mumps and Rubella component of MMR, Hepatitis A and B vaccines etc), not all vaccines with almost universal efficacy are free of a small risk of serious side effects. Two of most well-known vaccines (Vaccinia-based smallpox vaccine and Rabies Vaccines- even the latest ones) are known to cause serious side-effects in about 1 in 1000 to 10,000 recipients. That is why we stopped vaccinating the general population against Smallpox a few years after it was eradicated in the late-1970s and also why the Rabies vaccine is usually used for post-exposure treatment in humans.

Now you know why only veterinarians, bat cave explorers, people who travel in wild areas of poor countries and people who work with the rabies virus are vaccinated pre-exposure, and everybody else is vaccinated immediately after exposure. This is also why the yellow fever vaccine, which is also very effective, is used so sparingly outside countries and localities where that disease is endemic. Long story short- even extremely effective vaccines can have adverse effects at unacceptable rates in areas where the disease is not prevalent. For example- vaccinating everybody in USA with the smallpox, rabies and yellow fever vaccines would cause more deaths and illness than those diseases cause under current long-established guidelines.

3] Not all vaccines are highly effective. Yearly influenza shots are a very good example of vaccines whose real-life efficacy rarely exceeds 50%. In most years, their efficacy is closer to 30%, and it often dips as low as 10-20%. Did I mention that influenza stains at the start of an epidemic are often not the same as those near the end? Pretending that yearly influenza vaccination protects people from that disease at a higher rate than wearing a magical charm or talisman is scientifically disingenuous. Maybe, someday we will have an efficacious vaccine for all strains of influenza that can infect humans or attenuate the disease. However, as things stand today we don’t have one and it is stupid to keep pretending otherwise.

And then there is the issue of established and efficacious vaccines, which nonetheless, could use some improvement. For example- the cellular pertussis vaccine has pretty good efficacy (85-90%) but is known to make a few children ill enough to require hospital care. The acellular version, while displaying far fewer serious side effects, is a bit less efficacious (60-80%). Clearly, we should try to develop a better pertussis component in the DPT vaccine with more efficacy and fewer side effects. Also, a better system for identifying kids who will react poorly to the cellular version of that vaccine is required. The Measles component of the MMR vaccine provides a pretty high degree of complete protection (over 85%), however about 1 of 10 vaccinated children can still develop a very mild form of the illness if exposed to that virus.

Let us, therefore, not pretend that the Measles competent of MMR is close to 100% effective. The same is true for Chickenpox vaccine- which provides total protection for about 80%, while providing protection against moderate to severe disease to the other 19-20%. Note that I am using numbers and percentages based on standard multiple-dose vaccinations schedules. In the next part, I will go into the efficacy and effectiveness of these and other vaccines from a public health standpoint. As you will see in that part, some vaccines are far more consequential from the public health standpoint than others- which is a fancy way of saying that some are more important than others.

What do you think? Comments?