Saturday, January 25, 2014

This Facebook graphic is full of shot

I saw the above image posted on Facebook.  Under the image, below where it says "Protect yourselves with knowledge!", is a laundry list of "knowledge" from such reliable academic sources as Natural News, run by anti-medicine, anti-science conspiracy theorist Mike Adams, and Joseph Mercola, purveyor of quackery and recipient of multiple warning letters from the FDA to stop making misleading health claims.

Normally I don't even bother with this sort of reckless disregard for science.  But this image is so wrong in so many ways, I couldn't help but try and counter the mis- and dis-information it attempts to dangerously spread.

Why is it that someone can post this and, without any valid factual references whatsoever, people start sharing it all over Facebook as though it were true?

This is a long post.  But something this complex requires detail and referencing.  I can't just post a bunch of statements and say they're true.  Unfortunately that is how people consume their health information these days.

You should indeed protect with yourself with knowledge.  But the image does not qualify as such.  It is misleading and dishonest fear-mongering.

And here's why.

1.  There is no longer an H1N1 flu shot.

There is a seasonal flu shot.

Every year, over 100 monitoring centres in over 100 countries around the world monitor active strains of influenza.  Based on all of this information, the World Health Organization makes a projection as to which strains are most likely to be active in the upcoming influenza season.  From this, the vaccine strains are decided.  It is not perfect.  If the prediction matches more than 80% to the actual circulating strains, you only have to vaccinate about 40 healthy, working age adults to prevent one case of influenza.  If the match is poor, that number doubles, and it may not be more effective than placebo.

This year those strains are Influenza A H1N1, Influenza A H3N2, and Influenza B.  There are different types of vaccines made in different fashions.  I will cover the three publicly funded in Alberta.

Agriflu: This is made by growing the selected viral strains in hens' eggs.  This process alone weakens the virus as it adapts to growing in a galline environment, making it less able to replicate in human cells.  But as a safety measure, it is inactivated using formaldehyde (Note: the amount of formaldehyde in a single flu shot is less than would be consumed by eating a single pear).  Then the viral particles are removed through a purification process and only the hemagglutinin is left behind, a protein that occurs on the surface of the influenza virus.  This protein allows the virus to attach to human cells and also causes the immune response to the virus.  So you can remove the virus and isolate the protein itself (also known as a "surface antigen") and still get the desired immune response.

Fluviral: The strains used are the same for this vaccine but it is manufactured slightly differently.  The whole virus is first inactivated using UV light, then formaldehyde, then purified, then disrupted using sodium deoxycholate.


Flumist: This is slightly different.  It is mostly used for children or individuals under 60 who would prefer a nasal spray over a needle.  The virus is replicated in eggs just like the others.  However, it is not inactivated.  It is attenuated, meaning the virus is weakened.  They adapt to grow at 25℃ and cannot replicate efficiently at body temperature.  They also cannot cause influenza.  They replicate efficiently in the nasal passage and thus induce an immune response.

There are also Intanza, Influvac, Fluad, and Vaxigrip, but they are all made with one of the above methods.

It bears repeating that not one of them ONLY contains H1N1.

They all contain the same three strains as above.

2.  Forgiving the creator of the above image for their error, and assuming "H1N1 Flu Shot" means "Seasonal Trivalent Flu Shot", let's see if they contain all of the things they mention and, if they do, if we need to be worried about it.

a.  Beta-propiolactone

i.  Is it in any of the above vaccines?
Nope.  Not a single one of the seven vaccines above contains this ingredient.

ii.  What is it?
It is a sterilizing agent that is NO LONGER USED in medical procedures or for food.

iii.  Is it a carcinogen?
It is considered "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen".  Read this as "We've done rodent studies on it and found it caused tumours in rodents but have absolutely no idea whatsoever if it has an impact on humans because those studies have not been done"  But proving that the medical establishment is not a giant killing machine intent on propagating cancer, it was removed just to be safe.

b.  Neomycin sulfate

i.  Is it in any of the above vaccines?
Vaxigrip, Intanza, Fluad, and Agriflu all contain it as non-medicinal ingredients, usually as trace amounts.

ii.  What is it?
It is an antibiotic, found in topical creams, ointments, and antibiotic eye drops.

iii.  Is it an immunotoxin?
Well, considering that immunotoxin isn't even a real word in the way it is used here, the answer is no.  It is toxic to bacterial cells, which is why it is effectively used as an antibiotic.  Not using it or some other antibiotic would risk dangerous bacterial contamination of our vaccines.

An immunotoxin in the truest sense of the word is a therapeutic molecule created through genetic recombinant technology.  An immune molecule is attached to a toxin.  The targeted cell takes up the combined molecule, upon which the toxin kills the cell.  It is investigated for its use in killing certain cancer cells and viruses.

Neomycin is not one of those things.

It does bear mentioning that some people are allergic to neomycin so should choose one of the vaccines not containing it.

c.  Polymyxin B
This is my favourite one.  It's actually outright hilarious.  This is the ingredient that made me decide I needed to respond to this ridiculous image.

i.  Is it in any of the above vaccines?

ii.  What is it?
It's an antibiotic.

It's one of the most commonly used antibiotics in the world.

Some people would know it better as Polysporin.

iii.  Is it a neurotoxin?
Well let's hope not.  Because there would be literally millions of people walking around being slowly poisoned by the little tube of cream in their medicine cabinet.

d.  Potassium chloride
i.  Is it in any of the above vaccines?
Influvac (100mcg), Intanza (20mcg), Fluviral (trace), Fluad (100mcg), and Agriflu (100mcg)

ii.  What is it?
Potassium chloride is one of those things that is both incredibly necessary and potentially incredibly toxic.  Potassium is crucial to human body function and is commonly supplemented orally as potassium chloride.  If given in high doses it can be toxic, causing cardiac conduction failure.  However, the highest dose in any of the above vaccines is 100mcg.

Is this of concern?

One banana contains roughly 400mg of potassium, 4000x the amount contained in a single vaccine.  The LD50 of potassium (the dose at which it would kill 50% of people consuming it) is 2.5g/kg (keep in mind table salts LD50 is 3.75g/kg).  So if you weighed 75kg (165lbs), that'd be 187.5 g.

This is 187.5 million mcg of potassium.

You would need to get 1.875 million vaccines at once to kill you from potassium overdose.  Even at the IV LD50 of 30mg/kg, you'd still need to receive 22500 vaccines.

So if you plan on being immortal, maybe it should concern you, but for us mere mortals it is of no concern beyond needlessly scaring people.

iii.  Is it a neurotoxin?
At the doses above, maybe.  At the doses in vaccines?  Absolutely not.  If you want a poignant example of the impact of dose on biological effects, read the Material Data Safety Sheet for table salt.

e.  Sodium taurodeoxycholate
i.  Is it in any of the above vaccines?

ii.  What is it?
It is a chemical used for isolation of membrane proteins.  It is also a naturally occurring bile acid in human bodies.

iii.  Is it a carcinogen or immunotoxin?
Well, we've already established that immunotoxin is a made up word in this sense.  What about a carcinogen?  Nope.

f.  Thimerosal
Whole books have been written about thimerosal, so I'll just stick to the focus here.

i.  Is it in any of the above vaccines?
Vaxigrip (2mcg), Fluviral (50mcg/shot).

ii.  What is it?
An organic mercury compound used as a preservative.  It is a form of ethylmercury which is broken down by the body much more quickly than mercury occurring in nature, methylmercury.

If you want to argue about one carbon atom, I ask you to consider this.

Ethyl alcohol (2 carbon groups) is consumed in mass quantities around the world every Friday and Saturday evening.  Methyl alcohol (1 carbon group) causes rapid poisoning and death.

Propylene glycol (3 carbon groups) is a relatively harmless solvent used for medical and food purposes.  Ethylene glycol (2 carbon groups) is used to keep your coolant lines from freezing and is also extremely poisonous if consumed orally.

iii.  Is it a neurotoxin?
I refer to Paul Offit's incredible book, Vaccinated, for this answer.  Yes mercury can be neurotoxic in high doses.  But in the doses and form used in vaccines, it has never been linked to neurotoxicity.

Also consider that a human child ingests about 360 mcg of methyl mercury from breast feeding in the first six months of its life.  So even the Fluviral contains less than a quarter of the mercury that a baby gets just from drinking mommy's milk.

A study done in Canada provides some of the most conclusive evidence that thimerosal is not linked to autism, one of the most common neurotoxic outcomes attributed to its use in vaccines.  Between 1987 and 1991, vaccinated children in the study received 125 mcg of thimerosal, between 1992 and 1995 225 mcg, and after 1996, 0 mcg.  The incidence of autism was actually higher in those children vaccinated after 1995 than those before.  This is likely due, as is the case with most other things thought to cause autism, to a broadening understanding and diagnostic definition of the disorder.

A massive review in the British Medical Journal concluded strongly that thimerosal does not cause autism.  Of particular interest, autism rates have risen in Denmark since 1991, the year they banned the use of thimerosal in vaccines.

Case closed.

Onto the next claim.  Here it is not that the claim is ridiculous, it is more that it is overstated.

Have vaccines actually been linked to the diseases mentioned?

1.  Narcolepsy
Here is one that is not too ridiculous.  There was an observed association between the pandemic H1N1 vaccination program in 2009 and increased cases of narcolepsy.  However, at this point it is an observed association, like ice cream consumption being associated with swimming pool drownings.  One association study suggested an increased risk of 4 additional cases of narcolepsy per 100000-person years (that is, in 100000 people over the course of one year, 4 additional cases may be associated).  However, further immunologic research has called causation into question and suggests this is likely just a fluke association.  More research is required.

2.  Guillain-Barr√© Syndrome (GBS)
The best research suggests the excess risk may be 1-2 extra cases per 1 million people vaccinated.  In contrast, by vaccinating 1 million people with flu vaccine, you would prevent roughly 25000 cases of influenza.

3.  Autism
So thoroughly debunked and refuted by real science it is barely worth arguing about.  See above on thimerosal.

4.  Paralysis
This is a repeat of GBS above.  Let's think of synonyms for the same disease and put them in multiple spots so people think the shot is even more scary.

5.  Dystonia
Nope.  Could find no research supporting this association.  Not even epidemiological evidence.

6.  Rheumatoid arthritis
Only correlational, not causative, associations found.  Whenever controlled studies have been performed, association disappears.

7.  Multiple Sclerosis
No increased risk from Hep B, Influenza, MMR, polio, or typhoid immunization.  Diphtheria and tetanus vaccination potentially PROTECTIVE against MS, not causative.

8.  Lupus
Nope.  No research to support this notion.

9.  Cancer
Vaccines don't cause cancer.  If anything, they prevent it.  Hepatitis B vaccine can prevent liver cancer induced by hepatitis B.  HPV vaccine was developed for the sole purpose of preventing cervical cancer in women.  And although only a concern in chickens, Marek's Disease is prevented by a vaccine against the oncogenic virus that causes it.  (All taken from Offit's book)

I'll get to death last.  But first I will tackle the other two statements in the picture.  The H1N1 shot may have been banned in some countries.  Who knows?  But it doesn't matter because IT IS NOT USED ANYMORE.  Nor could I find any supporting documentation regarding the H1N1 vaccine makers not taking their own vaccine.  However, I find it very hard to believe, given that early vaccine makers often tested their experimental vaccines on family members and drug company executives before bringing them to clinical trial (an obviously unethical practice that would not pass muster today).

10.  Death
Yellow fever vaccine has 10 reports of death associated with its use. The risk is incredibly low.  Millions upon millions of people have received this vaccine.  Risk of serious reactions is less than 1 in 1 million to 1 in 8 million.  Death from those reactions is even less common.

For other vaccines in current use, there is no conclusive links to death.

To quantify the number of deaths PREVENTED by vaccines would require a whole other article.  However, I will use the most poignant example.

Before the vaccine was commonly given, smallpox ravaged populations around the world.  In the 20th century, it is thought to have killed 300-500 million people.  In the 18th century, in Europe alone, it killed 400 000 people per year.  It almost completely destroyed indigenous populations in the Americas upon arrival of European settlers.

Some experts estimate smallpox was responsible for more deaths than all other infectious diseases combined.

Because of Edward Jenner's vaccine, humanity actually eradicated the virus from circulation.

And in case you think influenza is some annoying seasonal pest that causes mild misery, here is a history lesson.  Spanish influenza killed upwards of 100 million people in 1918.  In 1957 Asian flu killed 2-3 million people globally.  And in 1968, Hong Kong flu killed over 34 000 Americans.

Infectious disease is still the second most common cause of death worldwide.  They cause 45% of deaths in low-income countries, 63% of deaths among children, and 48% of premature deaths.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine published in November suggests that vaccines have prevented 100 million deaths in the United States alone.

Vaccines don't kill people.

Ignorance does.

Incidence of vaccine preventable diseases

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This piece was very well done. Thank you for sharing it.