Opinions on who to coerce and who not
Beoordeeld in de Verenigde Staten op 18 augustus 2020
There are two types of vaccines: those that Gøtzsche maintains everyone should have, and those that he maintains no one should have. For convenience, I will call the former G-yes and the latter G-no. Some vaccines for which Gøtzsche presents less ardent arguments are also included, such as those for travelers to South East Asia, but as the G-yes and G-no vaccines occupy the bulk of the book, I will focus on these.
The G-no vaccines are flu shots and HPV. They are ineffective and harmful. Statistics, according to him, do not demonstrate that flu shots reduce deaths. “No one knows how many people die after being infected with the flu virus. The numbers are not based on body counts, lab tests or autopsies; they are based on computer models. … Few people get influenza whereas it is recommended that all get vaccinated. Thus, the risk of developing [Guillain–Barré Syndrome] could be higher if you get vaccinated than if you don’t.” Harms have been underreported, not researched, or hidden. “For aluminium hydroxide, human and animal studies have shown harms. In a large randomised trial in humans, influenza vaccines caused 34% more adverse events when they contained adjuvant than when they did not.” I haven't yet figured out whether adjuvant means asomething like a preservative or filler; or that it is an active ingredient. Gøtzsche doesn't explain.
G-yes vaccines are polio, measles, and mumps. These are heroic vaccines that have saved millions of lives according to Gøtzsche. “Vaccination against polio is one of the greatest triumphs of healthcare research. It is therefore not necessary to check any information about benefits and harms...” Bookchin & Schumacher think otherwise. Gøtzsche concedes that in rare cases vaccines do cause injury, disease, and even death. His argument is that statistically, the reduction of risk from childhood diseases far outweighs the risks from the vaccine. “A 10-year review of claims noted [in the US] only five deaths from anaphylaxis after vaccinations.” That may well be true, but it will be no consolation for the parents of those five children, and is anyway only one of several types of harms. Unfeelingly, he states “a few deaths should not lead to anti-vaccination sentiments.” He also concedes that it is sensible to administer “single” vaccines, as “we don’t know what we are doing when we combine several vaccines”. Single G-yes vaccines, to be administered one at a time, are not marketed. Yet to Gøtzsche, people who do not have their children vaccinated are immoral: “vaccinating about 95% of the population is necessary and we therefore have a joint societal responsibility...”
Conversely, “[Unwanted vaccination] is an intrusion in one person's body in order to *possibly* … lower the risk of something untoward happening to another person.” (his emphasis) This he states in a chapter regarding flu shots, a G-no vaccine. When it comes to G-yes vaccines, he displays sympathy for coercion, especially in the U.S. where “weird ideas” are common. Regarding G-no vaccines he states “We should avoid mandatory vaccination even if it is only indirect like prohibiting access to school for unvaccinated children, which can stigmatise them and might handicap their possibilities in life, for example if the parents resort to home schooling.” Since when does homeschooling handicap children? When it comes to not vaccinating for measles, “it could be considered child neglect, [and] the state might intervene.” Do you see the pattern? G-yes vaccines, coerce. G-no vaccines, don't coerce.
“I call [anti-vaxxers] vaccine deniers, since they deny the science, just as there are Holocaust deniers... ” It is insulting to compare people who question vaccines with people who deny the mass torture and genocide of the Holocaust, especially for someone who has written a book called Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime.
No less than eight times in the book Gøtzsche calls anti-vaxxers irrational, but almost nowhere does he address their motivations. An exception is in the chapter on measles. He posits that “the prevailing dogma that malnourishment plays a significant role for measles mortality” has been “disproved.” Although in “the tropics ... the more children there are in a family, the higher the death rate during measles epidemics” this is because of “overcrowding,” not malnourishment. He claims the same about refugee camps. How would anyone know? Overcrowding and malnourishment are likely to go together. On the contrary, precisely in tropical climates people live largely outdoors and in drafty dwellings. Even if it were true, overcrowding in the tropics and refugee camps does not inform us about the natural course of measles in comfortable high-income homes. Neither does the fact that in Copenhagen in the year 1887 (133 years before publication of this book!) five percent of children who contracted measles died. Nor does the outbreak in Madagascar in 2018-2019 which took the lives of 1% of infected children (infected children, not all children), though certainly tragic for their families. Gøtzsche adds that in Madagascar 60% of children are vaccinated. This must mean that the measles cases were among the other 40%, who were probably unvaccinated not because their parents were anti-vaxxers, but because they lived in dire poverty. His dismissal of the nourishment argument utterly fails.
He concedes “Contraindications for the vaccine include a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine” but how can there be any such history if this is the baby's first exposure, and anyway, since when are parents told what the components of the vaccine are?
Gøtzsche carries on extensively against Andrew Wakefield* whose concerns first suggested a link between the measles vaccine and autism. Gøtzsche calls Wakefield's work fraud. Obviously I cannot vouch for Wakefield's integrity. In general, I am skeptical of all medical research. Gøtzsche repeats over and over that Wakefield's work was discredited. That Wakefield's peers professionally lynched him does not persuade me of his guilt. Wakefield did not conduct his research for free, moans Gøtzsche. Does Gøtzsche? If the lawyer who paid Wakefield committed fraud, that does not make Wakefield guilty by association. Why would 1600 British families, including Dr. Wakefield himself who has an autistic son, lie about seeing their child turn autistic after a measles vaccine?
The image of my neighbor holding her trembling tot in her arms is still burned on the back of my retina. She asked me, “Do you know why he shivers so since his vaccination this morning?” This was decades before the internet. I had no idea that vaccinations contain preservatives, that one such preservative is mercury, that mercury is toxic, and that one symptom of mercury poisoning is tremors. Even if I had known, I couldn't have reversed the damage done to her child. You may be wondering why my neighbor asked me instead of the pediatrician. She had asked the pediatrician already. He brushed her off with a silly answer. Apparently he didn't know either.
Thanks to Wakefield's efforts, mercury has been quietly dropped from the measles vaccine,** so quietly, that Wikipedia doesn't (can't?) tell me in which year. Gøtzsche contends that there was subsequently no drop in rates of autism, which according to him proves there is no connection. This is a sloppy conclusion. Mercury poisoning through vaccines was merely one of many suspected causes of autism. The others have all since that period sharply risen. Consider toxins in the air, water supply, food chain, clothing, and plastics. Add in increased medicalization of pregnancy, labor, and neonatal care, including keeping younger and younger preemies alive. And don't forget political, financial, legal, and professional factors that have led to explosive diagnosis creep. Regardless of Wakefield's integrity, which, again, I cannot vouch for one way or another, humanity owes him a great debt for being instrumental in influencing the pharmaceutical industry to drop mercury from vaccines, even though they will of course never admit that it is thanks to him. According to Wikipedia in some low-income countries, where parents are not so critical, it is still used.
Gøtzsche also rants extensively against Vera Sharav for expressing support for Wakefield on her website, which is her good right. Why does Gøtzsche care what Vera Sharav writes on her website? He even returns to her towards the end of the book. I'm glad Gøtzsche has found her site and I hope he read it all, not just the part he uses to drag this admirable lady's name through the mud.
In spite of the DTP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis or whooping cough) shot being the first to be injected into little babies according to national vaccine schedules,*** Gøtzsche discusses this combination vaccine only with regard to countries where parents are unlikely to read his book. “... the DTP vaccine likely increases total mortality in low-income countries. I therefore believe no one should be offered this vaccine without full informed consent that includes information that the vaccine is likely to increase total mortality.” If it causes more deaths than it prevents, why should it be offered at all, with or without informed consent? And does this apply only in low-income countries, or should parents in high-income countries be informed of the lethality of the DTP shot as well? Or does it behave differently in high-income countries? Is this a G-yes or a G-no? What about anti-vaxxers, are they rational when they refuse killer DTP shots for their children, or should they be charged with child neglect?
“I do not suggest of course that the reason for the poor health outcomes [in the U.S. and U.K.] are due to more vaccinations,” says Gøtzsche. Why not? Maybe there is a link. Research on the health and longevity of unvaccinated people in high-income environments has never been done. Gøtzsche prefers to blame poorer health in the U.S. and U.K. in relation to other high-income countries on privatization and “the extreme degree of unrestrained capitalism.” It is disappointing that he does not anywhere in the book address the issues raised by Mikovits. Granted, her most recent book was published around the same time as this one, so Gøtzsche could not have read it yet, but that isn't her first publication. He surely must be familiar with her work?
He ends with the corona crisis. So hot off the press (although apparently available only for Kindle) is this book at the time of my review that we are still in the middle of the mess. Like regarding G-no vaccines, he is no fan of the authorities in this matter. “Since there seems to be no major differences between COVID-19 and influenza in terms of infectivity and mortality, one might ask: Why were draconian measures not applied during the 2009 influenza pandemic, and why are they applied now? … Part of the explanation for the panic is that no one will ever get in trouble for measures that are too draconian, only if it can be argued that they did too little.” He warns us, “Many companies and public institutions are working on developing a vaccine, which will undoubtedly be fast tracked through drug agencies and perhaps even approved based on surrogate markers only.”
In summary, it is a pity that Gøtzsche opposes parents who are hesitant to vaccinate by bullying them, calling them names and suggesting they should be deprived of their liberty, rather than by respectfully dealing with the concerns they raise. This detracts from the valuable contribution he could make to the vaccine debate. He does state in the book that he is careful to not be associated with anti-vaxxers. That is understandable considering one is judged by the company one keeps, but it does not justify his rude and beligerant tone towards them.
I leave you with two fine aphorisms, though regrettably referring to G-no vaccines only:
“To be free is more important than getting a free injection.”
“Nothing is both safe and effective; effectiveness always comes with a price.”
The reviewer is a board member of MeTZelf.
*After reading Gøtzsche's rant against Wakefield I wanted to see Wakefield's side of the story. This I found in Wakefield's book Callous Disregard, first published in 2010 and a second edition in 2017 so Gøtzsche had plenty of time to read it before publishing Vaccines. However, he must not have, as he makes no reference to it. This demonstrates bad faith.
**After reading Wakefield's book, I'm not so certain all the credit goes to him. He mentions mercury several times but only briefly.
***Apparently in the US a hepatitis vaccine is injected on the day of birth.
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