Show us the evidence

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Where is the evidence that vaccines are either safe, effective, or necessary?

Evidence-based medicine has been the buzz-word of the last 10 years. It makes people feel confident about seeing their doctor and taking the treatments on offer if they are thought to be ‘evidence-based’. After all – medical drugs (and vaccines are a drug) are supposed to be ‘evidence-based’, right? They’ve been through all the standard tests, have been studied for years before being released and have stood the test of time to prove they are both safe and effective.

Only they haven’t. Estimates that pharmaceutical products have any benefit range from a low of 15% to a high of only 50% (Ioannidis JPA (2005) Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. PLoS MED 2 (8)) – a pretty sorry situation – especially when we see industry-sponsored front groups like the Friends of Science in Medicine (FOSIM) trying to destroy 5,000 year old practices like Ayurveda and Chinese Herbal Medicine because they are not ‘evidence based’.

Of course, my focus is and always has been the practice of vaccination, so how can I show that vaccines are not evidence-based?

I have often posted copies of graphs from Greg Beattie’s excellent book, Fooling Ourselves on the Fundamental Value of Vaccines showing the decline in mortality (deaths) well before the introduction of either vaccination or (in most cases) antibiotics. (and these or similar graphs can be found for just about every country that instituted mass vaccination campaigns in the early part of the 20th century)

These graphs demonstrate clearly and scientifically that there is little to no evidence that vaccinations were responsible in any way for the decline in deaths from infectious diseases experienced over the last 2 centuries.

But what about today? 

Australia instituted mass vaccination in 1953. At that time, the only vaccines being used were DPT (diphtheria, pertussis [whooping cough] and tetanus), smallpox, tuberculosis for some individuals, typhoid (mostly for indigenous populations) and a couple of years later, oral polio.

So, we would expect that the introduction of and encouragement to vaccinate all children would have seen an immediate and permanent decline in the rates of infectious diseases we vaccinated against.

But have they?

Pertussis is the most obvious example that all is not right in the state of vaccine effectiveness. We first started using the DPT (whole cell) vaccine in the 1930s, but it was not in widespread use until 1953. In 1991, the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) created a database of all laboratory-confirmed cases of infectious diseases in Australia. This database tracks ALL confirmed cases of these illnesses each year, though it does not track (or even ask) about vaccine status. Now the database itself is suspect because vaccinated people are FAR less likely to be tested for a so-called vaccine-preventable disease than their unvaccinated peers, so we know that this database would underestimate the true rate of infection. But bad data is the only data we have to we’ll go with that for the time being.

For all we know, 100% of those on the NNDSS database who are reported to have had these “vaccine preventable’ diseases were fully vaccinated against them. The fact that this basic information is not requested is an omission so blatant, it would appear to most of us to have been intentional.

But I digress.

Below is the table of reports for pertussis from 1991 (when the NNDSS started collecting data) to 2016. Of course, the 2016 figures are only preliminary and not complete. As you can see, there has been a huge increase in laboratory-confirmed cases of pertussis – an increase that would indicate there must have been a decline in vaccination. After all, if vaccination rates were steady or even increasing and the vaccines provided ANY protection whatsoever, we would expect to see a decline in incidence, not an increase.

Pertussis notifications 1991 to 2016 NNDSS

But over the time period covered by this table, Australia’s childhood vaccination rates went from a low of 68% (in 1991) to a high of 95% in 2008.

Evidence-Based medicine demands that there be at least some proof of a treatment’s or preventative’s effectiveness. Well here, we have proof positive that the whooping cough vaccine is ineffective (and evidence that it might be counter-productive since increases in vaccination rates have been met with concurrent increases in notifications).

To add insult to injury, if we look at the per capita (per head of population) rate of whooping cough, we find that in 1953, when mass vaccination began, the rate of whooping cough was approximately 100 cases per 100,000 Australians. In 2011 when we had nearly 40,000 cases of pertussis reported in Australia (and a 95% vaccination rate), that equated to a rate of over 181 cases per 100,000 head of population – nearly double what it was before the vaccine was used nationally in 1953.

Mumps (see NNDSS table below) has gone from less than 200 cases per year to over 600 in 2015. This year looks like it might be even higher. Again, there is no information about the vaccination status of these children and adults, but if the Australian situation is anything like that in the US, most of them would have been fully vaccinated with 2 doses of MMR. America has now added a third dose of MMR to the vaccination schedule, simply because the number of mumps and measles cases amongst the vaccinated is exploding.

Mumps notifications 1992 to 2016 NNDSS

One has to ask – if 2 doses aren’t working (and when this vaccine was introduced, we were assured that it would be one dose for life), why in the world would 3? Is that really the answer to a vaccine that is not effective – give more ineffective vaccines? I guess if you were a drug company profiting from every shot, it would be the best possible answer. But if we are talking about ‘evidence-based’ medicine, surely we can do better?

In addition, the mumps portion of the MMR vaccine is now the basis of a major whistleblower lawsuit in the US. Two Merck scientists have been granted whistleblower protection for their claims that the protective efficacy of the mumps vaccine has been fraudulently overstated! Merck says it protects 95% of those who receive it – these scientists say it could be less than 60% protective. If Merck loses, they could be subject to a fine totalling in the billions of dollars. Just the cost of doing business for a company like Merck, however.

Reports of influenza are a true shocker! According to the NNDSS, there were over 100,000 cases of laboratory-diagnosed influenza last year – a year in which the stated efficacy of the flu vaccine was 17%. Influenza seems to be exploding in Australia and the more the government and the medicos campaign to get people – from 6 months of age through to the elderly – vaccinated – the higher the number of reports of influenza (much like pertussis).

Influenza Notifications 1992 to 2016 NNDSS

There are many more tables that you can access at the NNDSS – click here or on any of the tables above for a searchable page where you can filter by disease so you can see for yourself how little vaccination has done to reduce reports of infectious diseases.

The last illness I would like to cover – briefly – is Hepatitis B. A birth dose of Hep B vaccine was introduced in Australia in the 1990s. As most of you would know, Hep B is a sexually transmitted disease and a disease of intravenous drug users. It is NOT a disease you can contract from casual contact and it is NOT a disease that newborns or children are prone to contracting unless their mothers are carriers (and women are routinely tested for this during pregnancy).

To target babies with this vaccine would require real evidence that they are at risk of contracting and suffering from Hep B. Evidence that is non-existent.

Hep B itself is not a disease that, in most cases, causes disability or serious health problems. In most people, the virus is cleared from the system without long-term issues. In a tiny percentage, however, the virus is not cleared and with those people, it is thought that the infection can lead to liver cancer decades later.

This is why the vaccine was introduced – to prevent liver cancer in those who are affected.

So, we would expect, when looking over the incidence of liver cancer during the period of time after the introduction of the Hep B vaccine, that we would see a huge decline in diagnoses.

Nothing could be further from the truth, however.

Since the introduction of Hep B vaccination in the 1980s, the incidence of and mortality from liver cancer has skyrocketed! (Graph from Cancer Australia)

Liver Cancer Mortality

In conclusion, there is no statistical evidence to show that vaccines have been responsible in any way for a reduction in either the reported incidence of or mortality from most infectious diseases they are meant to prevent.

At a time when all treatments must prove to be ‘evidence-based’ and when our tax dollars are having trouble keeping up with the growing demands for medical services, one has to ask why we are continuing to throw good money after bad on ever-more vaccination campaigns targeting the entire Australian population.

Evidence based medicine? Think again!

While the following article, a review of the book Demand Better by Sanjaya Kumar, mainly involves the American health system, most of this information applies to Australia and every other country where mainstream medicine means pharmaceutically-based treatments.

“In America, there is no guarantee that any individual will receive high-quality care for any particular health problem. The healthcare industry is plagued with overutilization of  services, underutilization of services and errors in  healthcare practice.” – Elizabeth A. McGlynn, PhD, Rand Corporation researcher, and colleagues. (Elizabeth A. McGlynn, PhD; Steven M. Asch, MD, MPH; et al. “The Quality of Healthcare Delivered to Adults in the United States,” New England Journal of Medicine 2003;348:2635-2645.)

Most of us are confident that the quality of our healthcare is the finest, the most technologically sophisticated and the most scientifically advanced in the world. And for good reason—thousands of clinical research studies are published every year that indicate such findings. Hospitals advertise the latest, most dazzling techniques to peer into the human body and perform amazing lifesaving surgeries with the aid of high-tech devices. There is no question that modern medical practices are remarkable, often effective and occasionally miraculous.

But there is a wrinkle in our confidence. We believe that the vast majority of what physicians do is backed by solid science. Their diagnostic and treatment decisions must reflect the latest and best research. Their clinical judgment must certainly be well beyond any reasonable doubt. To seriously question these assumptions would seem jaundiced and cynical.

But we must question them because these beliefs are based more on faith than on facts for at least three reasons, each of which we will explore in detail in this section. Only a fraction of what physicians do is based on solid evidence from Grade-A randomized, controlled trials; the rest is based instead on weak or no evidence and on subjective judgment. When scientific consensus exists on which clinical practices work effectively, physicians only sporadically follow that evidence correctly.

…We could accurately say, “Half of what physicians do is wrong,” or “Less than 20 percent of what physicians do has solid research to support it.” Although these claims sound absurd, they are solidly supported by research that is largely agreed upon by experts. Yet these claims are rarely discussed publicly. It would be political suicide for our public leaders to admit these truths and risk being branded as reactionary or radical. Most Americans wouldn’t believe them anyway. Dozens of stakeholders are continuously jockeying to promote their vested interests, making it difficult for anyone to summarize a complex and nuanced body of research in a way that cuts through the partisan fog and satisfies everyone’s agendas. That, too, is part of the problem.

Questioning the unquestionable
The problem is that physicians don’t know what they’re doing. That is how David Eddy, MD, PhD, a healthcare economist and senior advisor for health policy and management for Kaiser Permanente, put the problem in a Business Week cover story about how much of healthcare delivery is not based on science. Plenty of proof backs up Eddy’s glib-sounding remark.

The plain fact is that many clinical decisions made by physicians appear to be arbitrary, uncertain and variable. Reams of research point to the same finding: physicians looking at the same thing will disagree with each other, or even with themselves, from 10 percent to 50 percent of the time during virtually every aspect of the medical-care process—from taking a medical history to doing a physical examination, reading a laboratory test, performing a pathological diagnosis and recommending a treatment. Physician judgment is highly variable.