Or: I’m not anti-vaccination, I just don’t recommend it.
Hello friends! long time no bloggy-blog etc. Apologies, but there was this small thing called #TAMOz. Dunno if you’ve heard of it, but it completely took up my life for the last six months so everything else had to take a back seat. I apologise, I hope you’ll forgive me, etc etc.
Let’s move on.
So now I’m back in investigative sceptic mode, I will tell you what I did on this fine Saturday afternoon. I attended a seminar from Pediatric Chiropractor, Nimrod Weiner, at Newtown Community Chiropractic entitled Vaccinations: Make an Informed Decision. Sounds like a loaded title doesn’t it? And it was, as you’re about to find out.
To set the scene, the audience consisted of about 20 people, mostly women (several pregnant) and assorted couples with very young babies (< 2 years old) gurgling in the background. Then there was me and my mate Frode (I don’t think he is pregnant).
Nimrod started by saying he was going to provide us with both sides of the story to vaccination. He acknowledged that vaccination is an emotive issue, but he asked that we do not let our emotions get in the way. He was happy for dissenting views to be aired and he would respect people for their views.
He also said (and I think I recall this correctly) that he had been called anti-vaccination after giving some of his lectures, but that he was no such thing. I settled a little lower in my seat when I heard this.
After detailing his qualifications (which include a masters in Chiro with units of peadiatric chiropractic) Nimrod emphasised he would stick to the science about vaccinations in an effort to arm parents with the ability to ask the right questions and weigh up the evidence from both sides. He said he approached the research from a logical and rational point of view and his aim was to “empower parents to make a good decision” (does this sound like someone else we know?).
He was also going to explain to us “how safe the diseases (we vaccinate against) are” and thereby allow us to make “an informed decision based on science”. So far this is sounding pretty anti-vaccine to me. I had so many flags up already it felt like a flag festival (or something) and we were only 5 minutes in.
After a brief explanation of what chiropractic is – chiros keep the nervous system healthy – stressors can “imprint on the nervous system” and cause decay, a healthy body heals itself – Nimrod attempted to explain the immune system to a room full of lay people. He used the rather unusual analogy of “Avatar” (the movie) and the reactions of the female versus male population of the fictional planet to invaders, to describe that Th1 cells are the warriors (they go in fighting without much thought, like the males in “Avatar”) and the Th2 cells maintain a memory and “learn” from the invaders (there were the female characters in “Avatar”).
I guess if you’ve seen Avatar this might work ( I haven’t) , but for me, it was a long-winded and not very effective approach. Further, I don’t think a lay audience needs to know the ins-and-outs of the immune system, especially since he hardly referred to Th1/Th2 later.
Finally we got on to vaccines, however the talk was still peppered with phrases such as “leave out emotions and propaganda”, “respect critical thinking and analysis” but immediately followed with “information about vaccines is laden with propaganda”. Nimrod continued to emphasise that his information is based on current research and science and further, he has spent more than 100 hours on “this topic alone”.
I reckon if you can count the number of hours you have spent on a topic, then you haven’t spent nearly enough. Also, it doesn’t matter if you’ve spent more than 100 hours, if you’ve read the wrong information from the likes of Mercola*, Mike Adams or the AVN, then you’re not going to glean anything based on research and science by the time you finish.
Nimrod then proposed, “no criticisms are allowed (from the audience) without an accompanying suggestion for improvement”. We’ll get to that later.
It was here that I began to tally the number of times he said, or referred to vaccines as “injected into the blood”. Granted, the first time he mentioned it, he did say “straight into the blood or a muscle….”.
But, I ticked off at least 6 mentions of INJECTED INTO THE BLOOD. Anti-vaxers love to do this – it sounds so SCARY and EBIL. He did follow this up with by saying that some vaccines can be inhaled but they are not as effective.
Which is interesting, because his whole explanation about the immune system being like “Avatar” was designed to illustrate that vaccines by-pass the “first line of defence” (being the skin and mucous membranes) therefore can never be as effective as natural infections. Yet vaccines that are inhaled are not very effective? Does not compute.
He also said that injecting a vaccine DIRECTLY INTO THE BLOOD means the immune system can’t respond as effectively. Which made me wonder, what happens when I cut myself and germs get in? Isn’t my immune system able to cope just as well in this instance, compared to when I breathe in a virus or bacteria?
So then we got the old antivax canards:
1) Non-one knows how long vaccines last
2) No guarantee of their effectiveness
3) Antibodies have no role in immunity
4) These diseases are designed to come into our bodies when we are kids
6) Vaccines have never been tested
Nimrod then went onto to talk about lots of pseudoscience, lack of ethics and negligence associated with vaccine manufacturers and government health bodies. Some of his points were quite valid, such as Big Pharma test the vaccines they make hence there is propensity to bias, some government advisors have links to Big Pharma suggesting a conflict of interest, and the TGA doesn’t independently test drugs.
But then he went and undid all his good work by saying something like:
No lot of vaccines have ever been recalled for increased adverse reactions, lots that may have caused harm in children, they have never been taken off the shelf. In the “whole history of the world” this has never happened.
Oh, except in WA with the recent fluvax reactions scare.
So he scares parents into thinking that vaccines batches that may be faulty and cause increased adverse reactions are ever recalled EXCEPT that time when they were.
He also claimed that parents are not told what to expect after a vaccination. I’m pretty sure
everyone is told what to expect and even made to wait for at least 15 minutes in case of an immediate adverse event.
He then cited deaths from vaccine preventable diseases in the last decade (cited as sourced from Immunise Australia) and proposed reasons for the cause of death, since vaccine preventable illnesses are not so bad. Really.
He suggested that since vaccination status was unknown, these people may have had other illnesses, they may have been Aboriginal (a population which suffers a greater incidence of disease that the rest of the country), they may have lived in unsanitary conditions and perhaps they were in refugee camps. So in other words, any number of explanations – including they were somehow in squalid refugee camps – could explain their death from vaccine preventable disease. Cause it sure as hell wasn’t the disease.
There was no acknowledgment of the “poison is in the dose”, or that there are 2 types of mercury, the one in some vaccines being much less SCARY. All the usual suspects got a mention including ABORTED HUMAN FOETUS, thimerosal, aluminium, bacteria, formaldehyde, and anti-freeze.
We were also reminded that scientists say that vaccines are safe but what about ASBESTOS AND CIGARETTES AND THALIDIMIDE!!!!1!!eleventy11 – they said they were safe too.
As expected, the old “vaccines cause autism” show boat was rolled out several times. When myself and Frode politely pointed out that Nimrod should probably not be using Wakefield’s Lancet (since retracted) paper as evidence for such – if, as he claims he was basing his research on good science – he insisted that the science was still valid. According to him, Wakefield was only in trouble for 2 things in regards to that paper – he didn’t have ethics for the birthday party blood taking and he paid the parents – otherwise it was solid science. When Frode gently pointed out that you generally have to do more than that to get struck off the medical register, Nimrod said it was political.
During this discussion Nimrod also stated he had read The Lancet paper. I propose he didn’t read it properly, because in his summary he wrote it showed a link between MMR and autism. But The Lancet paper doesn’t address a connection between MMR and autism, this was suggested at a press conference after the paper was published.
When both Frode and I informed him that Wakefield was paid by lawyers to show a link between MMR and autism and had a patent pending on a single measles vaccine, he again claimed to not know anything about this. So he was quite happy to throw mud at Big Pharma for bias, pseudoscience and vested interests, but these same rules do not apply to Wakefield.
In fact, the Wakefield-in-the-room was addressed several times, once by a lady inquiring about the Swedish study (actual it’s Danish) of all children born in Denmark from January 1991 through December 1998 which provided strong evidence against the hypothesis that MMR vaccination causes autism. Nimrod said he had not heard of that study either but he would like to see a copy.
There was more vaccines cause autism to come, with evidence in the form of a American Dental Association video showing a neurone dying in culture when incubated with mercury. The dose of mercury was not specified, how a cell in a dish is relevant to a child’s brain was not discussed, and fortunately for us the video stopped working half way through.
We were then told that vaccines are associated with shaken baby syndrome, SIDS, ADD, asthma, MS, suppress the immune system and “shift the balance for life”. We were told that polio has not been eradicated in many countries, but has simply been renamed (in an attempt to hide the ineffectiveness of the vaccine I presume) by Big Pharma, as flaccid aseptic meningitis or aseptic meningitis. We were also told that one in two people now have a chronic disease, herd immunity doesn’t work, and most childhood illnesses are self limiting, rarely dangerous and have few serious consequences (except the ones that kill you).
Nimrod ended by saying he treats babies as young as one day old and if your baby is sick get it to a pediatric chiropractor for treatment as soon as you can. Thanks, but I’ll go to a real doctor.
So after listening to this propaganda for two hrs and asking a few polite questions here and there, I decided to offer “criticism….with an accompanying suggestion for improvement”.
I asked Nimrod why he didn’t tell us from the very beginning that he was against vaccination. Recall that he told us at the beginning of the lecture that some people come away from his seminars thinking he is anti-vaccine, (he didn’t like me reminding him of this btw, and mumbled something about “not my words”). I suggested that he had not shown anything about the risk/benefit ratio of vaccination – that is, the risk of getting an adverse reaction to a vaccine is tiny compared to the risks associated with the disease. He said he was not anti-vax, but admitted that he would not choose to vaccinate, but it is the choice of the parents. My suggestion for improvement was therefore that he inform people from the very beginning that he is against vaccination.
My second criticism was that nowhere in his seminar had he addressed the issue of the seriousness of childhood diseases and that as a pediatric chiropractor, it was irresponsible not to inform a room full of mums holding babies and pregnant women that there is currently an epidemic of pertussis and pertussis kills babies. I suggested to him that he had glossed over the seriousness of this disease (and others) and that whilst he spent a lot of time talking about vaccine reactions, he didn’t even mention that in babies under the age of two years, pertussis can be fatal at the worst, and at the best have complications such as broken ribs, hernias, vomiting after coughing episodes, pneumonia etc. My suggestion for improvement was that when there is an epidemic of a vaccine preventable disease in our community, he might remind parents that they should vaccinate their kids and get their own booster shot to protect theirs and other babies.
My final criticism was he said that vaccines don’t work because I can still get the disease even if I am vaccinated. My suggestion for improvement was that although a vaccine is not a force field, it can significantly reduce the severity of the disease. So kids who have had two or three shots for pertussis can still get the disease, but they have a reduced risk of getting complications and suffering long term effects.
It was at this point that a discussion ensued around the room in which one pregnant lady asked Nimrod if there was a cure for whooping cough. She looked over to me and I shook my head and Nimrod confirmed this. She then asked Nimrod which vaccines were important and which you could skip. As she listed them off, she said one thing that made me pause. She said something like, “Obviously I can’t skip the pertussis vaccine, that disease sounds really bad”.
So maybe we achieved something today.
Yet, sadly, she included chicken pox in her list of “not so bad childhood diseases”. It was on my tongue to remind her of the death of a seven year old from chicken pox recently, but by this stage I was tired and also losing my temper.
For a pediatric chiropractor I couldn’t be more disappointed in Nimrod Weiner. He’s a smart man who has studied extensively, but he sat in a room filled almost exclusively with pregnant women and parents with babies and scared them into not vaccinating. He told them never to get vaccinated if they are pregnant “no matter what they tell you”. He cited studies that have been struck from the literature because they were found to be fraudulent and he defended them when questioned. In the middle of a pertussis epidemic in which at least three babies have died, he told parents that childhood diseases are self limiting and not very harmful.
But worst of all, as we were gathering our stuff and about to leave, someone asked him a question about homeopathic vaccination. He said although he wasn’t a homeopath, he understood it worked like vaccines, in that it had contained small amount of the infectious material, but was safer because it didn’t have the toxic chemicals that vaccines have.
Ironic really, when he had just stood in front of us for two hours, spouting misinformation about vaccines and never once did he say he was not an immunologist or a medical doctor. He gave medical advice to pregnant women and parents for two hours and much of it was wrong.
I guess all we can hope is that Frode and I planted a seed in some people’s minds today. Also thanks to the lady who cited the Danish study (woo hoo!). As for us, We didnt give up on the Wakefield stuff. We didn’t let it go when Nimrod kept saying it was “good science”. He told us he updates his slides every time he gives a talk, to which I suggested next time you do that, remove the Wakefield one.
Who knows if he will. At least he was willing to listen to our criticisms. Unlike some, he didn’t have us ejected from the room as soon as we started to ask questions. But when someone who calls themselves a pediatric chiropractor and says homeopathic vaccination works and “That Lancet Paper” is valid, well it’s time to notify the relevant authorities.
Especially when kids’ lives are at risk.
* To his credit, Nimrod did end by saying he reads Mercola “with a grain of salt” and that his website does have some strange ideas about medicine, but if this is the case why mention him at all?