Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Vaccine Debates: A Healthicine View

The internet is awash with vaccination posts.  Everybody, it seems, has an opinion, and want you to see their point of view. Punt "vaccine myths and facts" into Google today and you will see over 700,000 hits. Many of the so called "myths" are not myths at all. The 'myths' chosen, and the 'facts' that follow are opinions, designed to support each individual author's objectives.

Let's forget myths.  What vaccine facts are actually important? What vaccine questions are important? What answers are important?

This post presents some important questions about vaccines - as a test.  Can you answer these questions?  Check it out, move the cursor over the answer of your choice and see your results.

1. What is the purpose of a vaccine?

To create immunity to a disease To create immunity to a disease, ✓ Website: Wikipedia: "A vaccine is a biological preparation theat provides acquired active immunity to a particular disease.
To improve immunity to a disease. To improve immunity to a disease. ✓ Website: World Health Organization: "A vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease"

2. How effective are vaccines?
Not as effective as better food, clean drinking water and improved sanitation. Not as effective as better food, clean drinking water and improved sanitation. ✓ Website: Child Health Safety: "The main advances in combating disease over 200 years have been better food and clean drinking water.  Improved sanitation, less overcrowded and better living conditions also contribute. This is also borne out in published peer reviewed research"

3. Do vaccines save millions of lives?

Vaccines save lives, but we're not sure how many. They cause deaths as well. Vaccines save lives, but we're not sure how many. They cause deaths as well. ✓ Legal Document: "There is established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program to be administered by the Secretary under which compensation may be paid for a vaccine-related injury or death."

4. How many deaths were caused by vaccines in the USA, in 2014?
None proven: Correlation is not Causation None proven: Correlation is not Causation ✓ Website: Government: " Note that the inclusion of events in VAERS data does not infer causality."

5. Is the data in the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) accurate?
No, it's too high. No, it's too high. Website: News: "In many cases, the side effects reported to VAERS are coincidences."
Yes, it's good data. Yes, it's good and it's our best source. ✓ Website: Government: " VAERS data contains coincidental events and those truly caused by vaccines."

6. Can vaccines cause autism?  
Maybe Maybe: US Federal courts have awarded compensation for at least 83 cases of vaccines causing autism. But "in settled cases, the court does not determine that the vaccine caused the injury".✓ Website: Blog: "83 Cases of Autism Associated with Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensated in Federal Vaccine Court "
Yes. Yes, at least 22 published research studies, published in multiple medical journals, provide evidence that vaccines cause autism. ✓ Website: "22 Medical Studies That Show Vaccines Can Cause Autism"

7. Can you get a disease from the vaccine that’s supposed to prevent it?
Yes, and you can get other diseases too. Yes, and you can get other diseases too. ✓ Medical Clinical Practice Guideline: "the increasing prevalence of H. influenzae among other upper respiratory tract infections of children, particularly AOM, since the introduction of conjugated pneumococcal vaccines"

8. What is "herd immunity"?
the proportion of subjects with immunity in a given population the proportion of subjects with immunity in a given population. ✓ Research Paper: Medical: "the proportion of subjects with immunity in a given population"
occurs when a significant proportion of the population have been vaccinated occurs when a significant proportion of the population have been vaccinated, ✓ Online Medical Dictionary: "occurs when a significant proportion of the population (or the herd) have been vaccinated"
a reduction in the probability of infection that is held to apply when a significant proportion of the individuals are immune a reduction in the probability of infection that is held to apply when a significant proportion of the individuals are immune. ✓ Medical Dictionary "http://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/herd%20immunity"
The term herd immunity carries a variety of meanings The term herd immunity carries a variety of meanings ✓ Medical Journal Article: "The term herd immunity is widely used but carries a variety of meanings"

9. If people are vaccinated for influenza, does"herd immunity" protect those who cannot be vaccinated?
No, not even with everyone vaccinated. No, not even with everyone vaccinated ✓ Website: Government: Influenza Vaccine effectiveness ranges from 10 to 60 percent over the past 10 years.

So, how's your score? If you have chosen an answer to every question, you have a score of 100 percent, because every answer can be supported by evidence. If you chose more than one answer, you get more than 100 percent, because you learn more.  The only ways to get less than 100 percent are to not choose, because you don't know, or to not choose, because you are so certain you don't need to look.

Is this some kind of trick?

No. Let's look at a simple example:  Answer this question

Is a zebra a black animal with white stripes?

Yes Yes, ✓ Of course it is. 
No No, ✓ It's a white animal with black stripes. 
Of course not. Of course not. ✓ A zebra is a black and white striped animal.  

  Equus quagga

When multiple answers, opposing answers, to a question are found to be correct, science does not assume that one answer is correct, it concludes that better questions are needed.

But, if you really need to answer that specific question, it depends, the answer does no depend on any element of the question:
 - it depends on what you choose to accept.
 - you can choose. You can decide.
 - you can change your mind,
 - and you can change it again later.

This is the reality of much of the vaccine debates, they are not science, they are debates. Debaters often use 'science' in their arguments, but that does not make the debate scientific. Everyone has an opinion, and many opinions can be supported by more or less reliable sources. There are few absolute truths, and fewer absolute 'negative truths' (eg. X is NOT caused by vaccines), because most negative truths are impossible to 'prove'. As a result, you can easily find thousands of people, articles, research papers, websites, etc. using science to convince you of their view about vaccines. They simply do not understand science. And they usually do not care - their debate is not about science.

I am in favor of science. Science is about finding interesting questions, searching for and testing answers, and then looking for better questions and better answers.  Science does not find 'truth'. Science is about the search, not about the truth.

I am in favor of choice.  I am in favor of the right to decide, or not, and to choose, or not, and the right to change our decisions and our choices. The issues around vaccines are very complex.  Some of us want simple choices, and that's OK.  Some of use want to understand the complexities, and make our own decisions on a case by case basis.  That's OK too.  That is the nature of freedom. This is a blog about freedom.

Only one person can make your choice. You. You need to choose. You have a right to choose. You can choose to give that right to someone else, but it will still be your choice. You are the only person who is responsible for your choices. You cannot give that responsibility away, although some people want to take it away from you.

Debate Posts

Most posts about vaccines are simply 'debate' posts.  One side wants to defend vaccines, or even to propose mandatory vaccination, the opposing side either wants the right to choose, or opposes vaccines entirely.  There is a spectrum of opinions about vaccines, but that spectrum is very one-dimensional, as shown in this diagram.

The truth about vaccines is very, very complex, and is different for each vaccine, sometimes different for each batch. That's why the government's VAERS system tracks immunization by batches. When we add the complexity of each disease, from smallpox and polio, to measles, to influenza, the complexity rises.  Then we add the layer of vaccine schedules and vaccine combinations it rises again. Then we add people into the mix; we have babies and seniors - who might not be able to make full use of vaccines, who might be more prone to damage by vaccines, we have people with very serious allergies to vaccines, or less serious allergies, we have people who want to exercise their personal belief with regards to vaccines, both for and against vaccination, and we have people who simply want to understand the science as best they can, and make the best decision for themselves and their children.  It make no sense to make one dimensional decisions about 'vaccines' as if they were 'one thing', and attempt to apply those decisions to all cases.

The people we hear, the people in the news, the people blogging, are those with strong beliefs, we are hearing the people at either end of the diagram.

The majority of people are in the middle, believing that knowledge, freedom, and free choice are important. There are small numbers of people on both ends, working hard to get everyone 'on their side'.  Proselytizing their personal beliefs, using 'selected science', to support their faith.


When science finds questions that cannot be answered, it breaks them down into smaller, answerable questions, or steps up to a higher perspective, in order to understand more. When we break the vaccine questions down into smaller questions, we get more answers.  We need to step the questions up to a higher level, from the level of medicine, to the level of healthicine.

There is one question, a very important question, that has not been asked, much less answered, about vaccines. We need to use science to consider, to study this question:

Do vaccines make us healthier?

Today, we simply do not know.  We have no idea.  We don't study health seriously.  Our current medical paradigm operates under the simplistic assumption that 'not sick' equals healthy.

Healthiness is not binary, not a YES/NO question, not a YES/NO answer.  Healthiness is a scale, ranging from very, very healthy, to very, very unhealthy.  It is possible to be very healthy, and still sick (with a cold, for example). It is also possible to be very unhealthy, but not sick.

When we learn to study healthiness, to measure healthiness, the science of vaccines might become more complex, not simpler. But we will understand more. And we will need better questions.

And that will be science. And that will be good.

to your health, tracy

Tracy is the author of two books about healthicine: