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reader comments: Joseph Mercola

1 July 2010

Your site, with all of it's blasting of Dr. Mercola and his information against vaccinations is what should be listed under "quackery".  You, along with the FDA, the AMA and various other heavily funded organizations continue to spread fear and misinformation, and propaganda to the vast majority of folks who do not happen to have a PhD in biochemistry, or know someone who does.   Fortunately I do have access to certain knowledge, and it is "science based".   If you don't know that what you are opposing is indeed TRUTH, then you are as ignorant as the folks you claim to be superior to.  

reply: The likelihood that you and I are going to have a fruitful discussion about Dr. Mercola's vaccination claims seems small, given your opening salvo. But I'll give it a try.

Mercola claims that too many vaccines are used too soon during infancy, but the scientific evidence does not support his belief that numerous vaccines in infants and children under two is unsafe. Of course, there are exceptions. Children suffering from any of a number of disorders, especially immune-compromising disorders, should not and would not be vaccinated by a science-based physician.

The available scientific data show that simultaneous vaccination with multiple vaccines has no adverse effect on the normal childhood immune system. There is no evidence that the recommended childhood vaccine schedule can "overload" the immune system. In fact, a new study in Pediatrics examined the long-term effects of delaying vaccines and found that children whose parents refused or postponed vaccines did no better than children who were vaccinated on time, when tested on things like speech, language, achievement, fine motor skills, attention, and general intellectual function seven to 10 years later.

From the moment babies are born, they are exposed to numerous bacteria and viruses on a daily basis. Eating food introduces new bacteria into the body; numerous bacteria live in the mouth and nose; and an infant places his or her hands or other objects in his or her mouth hundreds of times every hour, exposing the immune system to still more antigens. An upper respiratory viral infection exposes a child to 4 to 10 antigens, and a case of "strep throat" to 25 to 50. The evidence is simply not there that multiple vaccinations at an early age is harmful to children. On the contrary, early vaccination has been shown to be beneficial to both children and those they come in contact with, especially other children who have not been vaccinated and persons with weakened immune systems.

Dr. Mercola claims that mercury and other "toxins" in vaccines are causing great harm. Again, he does not have the support of the scientific evidence. Mercury has been removed from most vaccines, with no demonstrated benefit. It was removed because of fears spread by people like Mercola that thimerosal causes autism. Even though the scientific evidence is overwhelming that there is no connection between vaccines, much less thimerosal, and autism, many people like Mercola and Vernon Coleman continue to distort and misrepresent the scientific data. Perhaps they have good intentions, but they ignore all the evidence that does not support their positions. To the uninformed, they make a very persuasive case for their viewpoints. You say you have access to the scientific evidence, but you don't mention anything specific.

Both Mercola and Coleman (and others like them) claim that flu vaccines are full of toxins and should be avoided. The fear they generate is based on a misunderstanding of toxins. In small doses, toxins are not harmful, and can even be beneficial. It is the dose that matters. As I mention in my entry on Mercola, he repeats the false claim made by other antivaxxers (e.g., Russell Blaylock) that squalene "in vaccines has been strongly linked to the Gulf War Syndrome," despite the fact that there was no squalene in vaccines given to Gulf War soldiers.

Mercola claims that children don't need to be given a flu shot, since very few children die of the flu. However, the fact is that 10-40% of all children are infected each year and by immunizing children we protect others who come in contact with them, especially the elderly who make up the bulk of the approximately 36,000 seasonal influenza deaths each year.

There is NOT ONE study that has been done to prove the effectiveness of vaccines.

reply: If you mean there has not been a randomized control study for vaccines in humans, you are correct. It would be unethical to randomly assign children to receive either a polio vaccine, for example, or a placebo and then observe the two groups to see if more polio cases occur in the control group. However, much to the dismay of some animal rights advocates, there have been numerous controlled studies on monkeys and other primates that have demonstrated the effectiveness of vaccines.

On the other hand, there have been many observational studies that attest to the effectiveness of vaccines. I realize that people like Vernon Coleman have provided polemical pieces claiming that, for example, smallpox was not eliminated by vaccinations but by "surveillance, quarantine and better living conditions." Coleman has it partly right. Surveillance, quarantine, and better living conditions along with a vigorous vaccination program combined to wipe out the most deadly disease of all time. For the whole story, see Smallpox- the Death of a Disease: The Inside Story of Eradicating a Worldwide Killer.

Other observational evidence includes repeated concomitant variation between vaccine compliance or non-compliance and reductions or outbreaks of diseases like measles.

NOT ONLY THAT, many physicians will not vaccinate their own children because they are too aware of the risks.

reply: I don't doubt that there are some physicians who won't vaccinate their children, but I would like you to be more specific (how many is "many"?) and I'd like to know the source of your claim.

I cannot tell you how many mothers I meet because of my line of work, who unfortunately are suffering most likely with a child who has been permanently vaccine injured, who was developing otherwise normally until around 3 (age 6 months), or around 4, etc.  You see, we never know what the toxic dose will be.  For some kids, it's none (or at least the injuries from vaccine are not obvious).  But for others, it's 6 months, 9 months, a year, and all of a sudden, the seizures start.  The muscle tone is gone, the eyesight diminishes.  The speech development stops. They are robbed of a healthy child.

reply: Seeing mothers with their suffering children is heartbreaking. Concluding that vaccines caused the heartbreaking damage on the sole grounds that a vaccine preceded the onset of observation of the damage is unjustified and certainly unscientific. It is natural to look for something to blame when a child develops a serious disorder. Vaccines are a current bogeyman in the Mercola, Coleman, Jenny McCarthy, et al. community, but the scientific evidence does not support the claim that some, many, most, or all of these childhood ailments are caused by vaccines. Nor is there anything but intuition to support the notion that children have some mysterious and variable vaccine threshold, a threshold where the danger ranges from 0 to 100%, occurs in from 0 to some unknown percentage of children, and manifests itself anywhere from never to any time after birth.

I know you don't reference Jenny McCarthy, but I think she is typical of many mothers who attribute their children's autism and other neurological disorders to vaccines. She calls her son Evan "her science." She is a loving mother, but she is not a scientist. She uses intuition as both a basis and justification for her claims that the MMR vaccine caused his autism. She claimed (long after the fact that it was obvious something was neurologically wrong with her son) that she noticed a change immediately after he was vaccinated. I suggest that her memory is faulty by her own subsequent, often contradictory, stories, and by the fact that such a dramatic scene is unlikely or it would have been reported by numerous pediatricians over the years. There is good evidence that her son doesn't even have autism and that her claim to have cured him of autism is exaggerated and unsubstantiated. But the main thing I want to express here is that a mother's intuition about the cause of her child's illness is not science. It is desperation seeking an answer to the question "why? why my child?"

If you truly believe IN YOUR HEART that you are on the right side of this argument, then I pray that you will some day see the light. If you do not have kids, perhaps you could believe all this. But I know that one day, even if it is your last day on earth, you will realize that you have promoted a lie.  If you do feel in your gut, that there is some TRUTH to the information about the negative impact vaccines can have, that where there's smoke there's fire, then I pray you start listening to that little voice inside that might be saying "perhaps, this isn't so farfetched."  


Rachel L.

reply: Rachel, I have studied these issues for several years and have not come to my conclusions hastily. There are three distinct issues here: one has to do with the evidence for and against the value of vaccinations; another has to do with critical thinking about the evidence. We should look at all the evidence, not just the evidence that supports our intuitions or beliefs. We should make an effort to question assumptions and not draw grand conclusions based on speculations such as the one about "toxins" and dangerous thresholds in children. We should weed out the irrelevant data from the relevant data.

The third issue has to do with understanding the difference between personal experience and impersonal scientific studies. When the evidence warrants it, I will change my mind. Can you honestly say you will do the same?

Joseph Mercola

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