April 2, 2017
Positive Futures Network
284 Madrona Way NE, Suite 116
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110-2870
Attention: Clo Copass, Managing Editor
RE: Need for a Retraction and an Apology
Dear Ms. Copass,
I am writing to express my disappointment and dismay at two statements contained in the article ‘We Are All Scientists Now’ by Madeline Ostrander (Spring 2017).
Ostrander undermines the credibility of what is otherwise a very important and inspiring article on empowering citizens to participate in the role of scientist. She does this by making an inaccurate statement about the safety of vaccines, and being disrespectful of those citizens advocating for safe vaccines.
It seems rather ironic that Ostrander invites and encourages citizens to gather data and participate in the science of climate change, seeing this as a powerful investment in democracy, and then dismisses and discredits the efforts of citizens whose inner climate (personal health) has been dramatically changed by vaccines.
I refer specifically to these two statements:
“Then presidential candidate Donald Trump met with leaders of a discredited anti-vaccination group and infamously called global warming a hoax”
“Is smoking really bad for you? (Yes.) Aren’t vaccines a bit dangerous? (No.) Is the pesticide DDT linked to cancer? (Yes.)”
As the parent of a vaccine injured child I find it very ‘un-YES!-like’ to make such inaccurate and disrespectful statements.
The commentary ‘Suddenly, Science is Badass’ carries an important message:
“We all can dive into observing our world, gathering information, and insisting that decisions at every level of government be based on our best understanding of scientific fact. That’s where the democracy comes in. We the People need to demand truth and then ensure that government and industry use such fundamental research for the common good.”
What is confusing and disconcerting is that it appears this wisdom and encouragement is not to be applied to the topic of childhood vaccinations. With this topic we are not to question, not to demand the truth, and not to insist that decisions at every level of government be based on our best understanding of scientific fact.
Aren’t Vaccines A Bit Dangerous?
To make the statement – “Aren’t vaccines a bit dangerous? (No.) is not supported by the evidence and shows incredible ignorance of the topic or willful blindness. Neither of these explanations serves the goals of YES! as a credible purveyor of truth.
Ostrander seems oblivious to the following facts:
- In 2011 the US Federal Court deemed vaccines “unavoidably unsafe”.
- The US Vaccine Injury Compensation program has awarded more than $3.3 Billion dollars in compensation for vaccine injury since 1986.
- Every G7 Nation, excepting Canada, has a national vaccine injury compensation program.
- The vaccine industry has been forced to withdraw numerous vaccines throughout its history because of the significant injuries and harm these vaccines have caused. This includes the swine flu vaccine, whole cell DPT vaccine, MMR vaccine (Urabe strain), and the oral polio vaccine (OPV).
- More than 128 independent studies show a relationship between vaccines and autism. https://www.scribd.com/doc/220807175/128-Research-Papers-Supporting-the-Vaccine-Autism-Link
- The safety of the current childhood vaccine schedule has never been proven in large, long-term clinical trials.
- Vaccines have not been tested for carcinogenicity (the ability to cause cancer), toxicity (the degree to which a substance can damage an organism), genotoxicity (the ability to damage genetic information), or mutagenicity (the ability to change the genetic material).
- The current vaccine schedule has never been tested for safety in the real world way in which the schedule is implemented.
- No independent trials confirm the safety of giving multiple vaccinations at once. Research shows a dose-dependent association between the number of vaccines administered simultaneously and hospitalization or death.
- No long-term clinical evidence exists that show vaccinated children have better overall health than unvaccinated children.
- There is no independent biological science that shows injecting mercury into humans is safe. There is increasing evidence that the use of mercury in vaccines increases the risk of neuro-developmental disorders.
- No clinical studies have been conducted to establish the safety of using aluminum in vaccines. The neurotoxicity of aluminum is well documented, affecting memory, cognition, psychomotor control, and damage to the brain when the aluminum passes through the blood brain barrier.
- The amount of aluminum used in vaccines regularly exceeds the maximum amount permitted by the FDA.
- Most vaccine safety trials use control groups consisting of other vaccinated populations, or placebos containing aluminum and other vaccine ingredients. These are not true placebos. The failure of the medical industry to use a neutral placebo undermines the integrity of vaccine safety claims as this does not adhere to good scientific practice.
- Vaccine producers Merck and GlaxoSmithKline have paid billions in criminal penalties and settlements for research fraud, faking drug safety studies, failing to report safety problems, bribery, kickbacks, and false advertising.
References for each of these statements is available upon request.
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
~ Aldous Huxley
A Discredited Anti-Vaccination Group
With regard to Ostrander’s statement of Trump meeting with leaders of “a discredited anti-vaccination group”, I can only speculate on whom Ostrander is referring to because the vagueness of the statement makes it impossible to verify the truth. I suspect however that she is referring to Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the gastro-enterologist at the center of the MMR vaccine safety debate.
While it is true that Dr. Wakefield had his medical license withdrawn by the British Medical Council, the reason was not based on the merit of his findings published in the Lancet. I appreciate that mainstream media has made this claim repeatedly. This does not make the statement true.
Dr. Wakefield’s paper was a case study that investigated a consecutive series of 12 children with chronic enterocolitis and regressive developmental disorder. http://www.wellwithin1.com/WakefieldOriginalPaper.pdf His findings have been replicated by dozens of laboratories around the world and this relationship is now accepted medical science. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/Supplement_2/S160
Dr. Wakefield has been falsely attributed to the claim that vaccines cause autism. Dr. Wakefield never claimed that their case study proved vaccines cause autism; nor was this the intent of the case study. Dr. Wakefield’s own statement in the Lancet paper is: “We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described.” Dr. Wakefield concluded that: “Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine.”
Dr. Wakefield, when asked, did recommend parents use the single dose vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella rather than the MMR shot, until the risk of injecting three live viruses at once was better understood. It was the UK government’s decision to withdraw the license for the single measles vaccine, and Merck’s decision to stop producing single dose vaccines in the US and Canada that gave parents no choice but to accept the triple live virus vaccine or not vaccinate.
Ostrander may also be referring to Mr. Robert Kennedy Jr. whom President Trump has invited to Chair an independent ‘Vaccine Safety and Science Integrity Commission’. While the media has again misrepresented Kennedy as an “anti-vaxxer”, the evidence does not support this.
Mr. Kennedy has clearly stated he supports the childhood vaccination program. He admits to having fully vaccinated his six children. Nowhere in his public statements has Mr. Kennedy advocated against vaccinations.
Mr. Kennedy has, however, been very critical about the lack of credible evidence of the safety of the current vaccine program, and the conflicted interests within the Vaccine Safety Division of the CDC. Mr. Kennedy is internationally recognized for his work on the toxic effects of mercury. Mercury is an ingredient used in vaccines as a preservative and can still be found in select vaccines today despite claims made by the media and medical industry that mercury is no longer in vaccines. A more accurate descriptor of Mr. Kennedy’s position relative to vaccines would be “vaccine safety critic” or “vaccine safety advocate”. This is something I would hope we all support.
Ostrander appears not to be aware that the vaccine industry is the only industry, other than the nuclear industry, that is not legally responsible for the safety of their products. This has created a dangerous situation made even more dangerous by the efforts of government and industry, supported by mainstream media, to erode our medical and legal rights to informed consent.
In this fear-based scenario, the questioning voice of reason is drowned out amid the hysteria surrounding the emerging ‘killer infections,’ which are such a favorite media topic. The propagation of fear by the media and by its sources in the public health industry has resulted in a growth of power in this industry far beyond the usual checks and balances of our democracy.”
~ Dr. Philip F. Incao MD
Use of the Term “Anti-Vaxxer”
Finally, the use of the term “anti-vaxx” is disrespectful, dismissive, and dishonest. I invite Ostrander to consider the following recommendations for good journalism provided by Dr. Peter Doshi, Associate Editor for the British Medical Journal: http://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.j661.full?ijkey=PLLsazuxmr6PVC1&keytype=ref
Good journalism on this topic will require abandoning current practices of avoiding interviewing, understanding, and presenting critical voices out of fear that expressing any criticism amounts to presenting a “false balance” that will result in health scares.
It does matter if the vast majority of doctors or scientists agree on something. But medical journalists should be among the first to realize that while evidence matters, so too do the legitimate concerns of patients. And if patients have concerns, doubts, or suspicions — for example, about the safety of vaccines, this does not mean they are “anti-vaccine.”
“approaches that label anybody and everybody who raises questions about the right headedness of current vaccine policies as “anti-vaccine” fail on several accounts.
Firstly, they fail to accurately characterize the nature of the concern. Many parents of children with developmental disorders who question the role of vaccines had their children vaccinated. Anti-vaccination is an ideology, and people who have their children vaccinated seem unlikely candidates for the title.
Secondly, they lump all vaccines together as if the decision about risks and benefits is the same irrespective of disease — polio, pertussis, smallpox, mumps, diphtheria, hepatitis B, influenza, varicella, HPV, Japanese encephalitis — or vaccine type — live attenuated, inactivated whole cell, split virus, high dose, low dose, adjuvanted, monovalent, polyvalent, etc. This seems about as intelligent as categorizing people into “pro-drug” and “anti-drug” camps depending on whether they have ever voiced concern over the potential side effects of any drug.
Thirdly, labeling people concerned about the safety of vaccines as “anti-vaccine” risks entrenching positions. The label (or its derogatory derivative “anti-vaxxer”) is a form of attack. It stigmatizes the mere act of even asking an open question about what is known and unknown about the safety of vaccines.
Fourthly, the label too quickly assumes that there are “two sides” to every question, and that the “two sides” are polar opposites. This “you’re either with us or against us” thinking is unfit for medicine.
Many parents who deliberate on decisions regarding their children’s health ultimately make decisions — such as to vaccinate or not vaccinate — with lingering uncertainty about whether they were right. And among those uncertainties are the known and unknown side effects that each vaccine carries.
Contrary to the suggestion — generally implicit — that vaccines are risk free (and therefore why would anyone ever resist official recommendations), the reality is that officially sanctioned written medical information on vaccines is — just like drugs — filled with information about common, uncommon, and unconfirmed but possible harms.
Medical journalists have an obligation to the truth. But journalists must also ensure that patients come first, which means a fresh approach to covering vaccines. It’s time to listen—seriously and respectfully—to patients’ concerns, not demonize them.”
With regard to science, the sad truth is that science is no longer exclusively “a means of gathering knowledge”, but rather has become a marketing tool of the corporate world. Much of what we call science today is no longer in service to the truth. It is in service to those with enough money or power to determine the outcome of scientific research.
Research is plagued with dogma, politics, corporate interests, and other biases. These pressures restrict scientists to certain areas of study and limit publicly held “beliefs”. This is not my opinion. This is the opinion of the President of Cold Spring Harbor Lab, and the editors of two of the most respected medical journals.
“Science cannot have an agenda, and it appears that this science does.”
~ Bruce Stillman, President of Cold Spring Harbor Lab
“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.”
~ Dr. Marcia Angell
“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half may simply be untrue. Scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they retrofit hypotheses to fit their data. Science has taken a turn toward darkness.”
~ Richard Horton, Editor in Chief, Lancet
Because of this corruption of science, we cannot rely solely on corporate and politicized government science, and instead need to democratize science as Ostrander suggests.
I understand the vaccine issue is complex, controversial, and emotionally charged. But this is all the more reason why YES!, a respected and credible resource, needs to get it right. Making disrespectful and inaccurate statements causes harm to our efforts to know the truth about vaccine safety and undermines the credibility of YES!.
I request YES! make an immediate public apology for their disrespectful use of the term “anti-vaxx”, and issue a retraction of the statement – “Aren’t vaccines a bit dangerous? (No.)”
Ms. Copass, it is my hope that YES! become a courageous advocate for the truth about vaccine safety, and creates a public space where this important discussion can be held in a thoughtful and respectful way. I have been researching vaccine safety and effectiveness for 30 years. I would be glad to assist YES! to be a well informed resource on this important matter. As a long standing subscriber and donor to YES!, its important to me that YES! maintain its credibility and integrity.
Vaccine Choice Canada