Academic Critique – Vaccine Safety

            Vaccine safety is a social problem that has plagued humanity just as assuredly as disease itself. Many people conflate the terms ‘safety’ and ‘efficacy’ and fail to understand the difference, which shows in their arguments. Many also have yet to dig deep enough into history to surpass their own biases and exit the realm of their own preconceived notions of truth. To make matters worse, vaccine companies which practice proprietary science have marketing and lobbying so expensive, that they have convinced the public at large they represent the best science of our times. Just as the sugar industry has lied for decades about fat being to blame for strokes and heart attacks, America is again being lied to by companies who have a monetary incentive to do so. As doctors in the 1950s appeared in television commercials to tell the public which cigarette was safer, and the American Medical Association was complicit in the lie for money from cigarette companies, politicians of today sound exactly like press agents for the vaccine companies using the word ‘science’ in ways that science itself would not condone.  

            According to one peer’s essay I have just reviewed, “There have been skeptics of vaccines since their invention, but in the past decade an ignorant rhetoric has been flowing through America, that vaccinations, especially among children, are dangerous. This statement, not only erroneous, but dangerous to the safety of the American public.” To begin to unpack these two statements is complex, but begins with separating the claims being made. First, the word ‘ignorant’ denotes a rhetoric that is purposefully ill-informed, and I’m unsure that anyone exists who purposefully misinforms themselves. Even if such ignorant rhetoric existed, it seems dubious to suggest that such rhetoric is to blame for the existence of a disease or its prevalence in society. Yet the public has been swayed by the media and government agencies which have repeated this baseless claim so much that people now repeat it as truth in social circles, expecting it to be accepted without a second’s thought by all rational people. Repeating yet another baseless claim, the student blames those who fail to vaccinate as “dangerous,” rather than the disease itself being the danger to exist. Such baseless rhetoric is implicitly arguing the proven safety of vaccines, in spite of this not being an accurate statement. It also seeks to show that the efficacy of vaccines is all that is left to discuss, which to this student must seem like a simple lay-up. To set the record straight, it would be prudent to review the history of vaccine use and law, in the United States over the 1900s, and to pay attention to the many reports of adverse reactions that are the cause of vaccine skepticism and hesitancy in the first place.

            In the 1950s several companies which developed the Salk vaccine were sued for failure to be safe. “All five companies that produced the Salk vaccine in 1955—Eli Lilly, Parke-Davis, Wyeth, Pitman-Moore, and Cutter—had difficulty completely inactivating the Polio virus. Three companies other than Cutter were sued, but the cases settled out of court.”(2). Two years after my birth, in 1986, the US Congress, concerned for the health and safety of children and people in general, decided to enact the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act to prevent disease while preventing, “against adverse reactions to vaccines.”(3) The Act established a reporting agency called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), to take reports of adverse reactions and form a database which could be used to find clues to the problem of adverse events. It also established the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), an agency to pay money to people who were evidently injured by vaccines, as decided by a special vaccine court. It did this, because the claims of safety made by pre-licensure studies were evidently invalid, if reports were to be believed. To begin to understand causal mechanisms behind vaccine adverse events, scientists are forced to rely on VAERS, an ineffective reporting system. Its wealth of data today has been all but dismissed by many as the result of mere “allergic reactions,”  as the student posit, and as governmental agencies and lobbyists and press agents all claim constantly in the media.

            The already complex history of vaccine adverse reactions is intertwined with undoubtedly unethical human experimentation perpetrated by the US government against those in its employ and even common citizens. In 1990 the FDA granted the US military a waiver to test New Investigational Drugs on soldiers, but the soldiers were to be informed of the dangers and granted consent. A committee was held by the FDA which concluded that waiving informed consent was unethical. The military promptly held another committee and decided otherwise. Though the safety and effectiveness of the anthrax vaccine was treated with skepticism by medical and military organizations, it was used, and the military kept little to no documents, nor did they monitor adverse reactions(4).

            In 1994 John Rockefeller informed Americans of the dangers, of the NID’s tested on the Persian Gulf soldiers, which may be the cause of what became known as Gulf War Syndrome(5). Since then, the Veteran’s Administration has accepted claims related to Gulf War Syndrome. Many debate whether GWS is caused by environmental exposures, psychological disorder or drugs given by the military. Studies have shown that health issues suffered by Gulf War veterans are exposure related. One in particular attributes the illness to chemical exposures including nerve agents, pesticides and biowarfare countermeasures like pyridostigmine bromide(6). Another concludes that, “(o)ne candidate cause of Gulf War illness is vaccination against infectious diseases including medical countermeasures against biological weapons…which it was suggested was accompanied by a chronic fatigue syndrome-like illness.” (7)

            Scientists work tediously to disprove the claim of vaccine safety, and their work does not pose a danger to the public, but actually represents the checks and balances of safety and certainty. Science reports and reviews on the safety of vaccines have identified data that represents evidence that vaccines cause harm. Some studies search the VAERS database to find reports that seem disproportionate to others. They study adverse reactions after they happen because pre-licensure studies are insufficient to determine vaccine safety(8). Many in the public mistakenly believe the precise opposite, which again is fueled by PR experts and paid liars who are experienced at the art of persuasion yet know little to nothing about science apparently.

            The Yellow Fever vaccine has been one which has caused adverse events. The ways in which vaccine policy has been altered over time for it, and the ways which the vaccine was changed, to fix for issues that resulted in adverse events, illustrates the imperfect nature of man’s endeavors, in the difficulty in ensuring the safety of vaccines. The scientists admit that more study is needed, and that causal factors related to various adverse events are not well understood, though some are. They report that efforts are being made to develop a new, safer yellow fever vaccine, and suggest a possible candidate- using inactivated YF 17D virus. All of the authors of this study work for Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz, which is a non-profit, government producer of vaccines, including the yellow fever vaccine that uses inactivated YF 17D virus. In spite of the obvious conflict of interest, the scientists in this study do admit the harms caused by another vaccine. It is too bad they only do this, when it prompts sales for their own vaccine, and so it is evident that companies only do what monetarily benefits them.(9)

            Adverse events are not mere allergic reactions that are impossible to predict or plan for. They appear to be the result of imperfections, mistakes as well as outright unethical human testing, which  has been alleged to be the cause of a host of disorders silently plaguing American soldiers. Therefor it is amazing that common people do not suspect publicly approved vaccines as well, as that cause of any number of vague ailments observed in the population. To equate questioning the safety of a vaccine to a danger to society, is in fact a danger to individuals within society. The fact that the government of our modern times is responsible for brainwashing liberal society with this baseless rhetoric straight from the mouth of vaccine manufacturers’ marketing and lobbying, is itself a threat to the safety of the American public. Liberty is not to blame.

            The student is not at fault for their lack of time to research properly or lack of access to quality information, in what must appear to be an open and shut case on vaccines. However, they should stay away from logical fallacies, such as where they effectively Strawman their intellectual opponents in stating, that, “a common false claim that surrounds vaccines is that the vaccine will cause deleterious effects and can lead to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). People can develop allergic reactions to medication, this risk isn’t a new concept but the notion that ASD is correlated with vaccines is forthrightly false.(1)” The student makes two claims here. First, they claim the opponents of their own argument believe wildly untrue things such as the one listed. Yet in only stating what is untrue, they are doing nothing to state what is true about vaccine safety. Secondly, they are arguing that anybody who thinks vaccines cause harm are just referring to times when allergic reactions have occurred. These words are identical to the claims of government health officials and lobbyists, but they are evidently baseless. Furthermore, in hastily generalizing all cases of harm reportedly caused by vaccines as allergic reactions, they are denying that any greater truth exists and closing the case before it can be opened. They also are denying the injured persons right to a redress of their grievance as per the first amendment of the US Constitution. As I have demonstrated, real science plainly shows evidence of harm has occurred many times, and people injured by vaccines deserve fair compensation. Furthermore, the public deserves the truth about vaccine safety, so they do not mistakenly entertain a Just World fallacy, rhetorically criminalizing the very act of informed consent.

            This student doubles down without evidence in proclaiming that, “vaccines are proven to be safe, efficient, and vital to public health.(1)” The word efficient is mistaken for the word efficacy. Another mistake the student makes in their rhetoric is to say science has any part in proving things. Science disproves claims, and does not actually call theories “proven.” Scientific Laws are the only things proven to be true not just for earth, but for all the universe (universal truths). Everything else is at best true for a limited scenario. The point of science is to be skeptical and to test hypotheses, and not to just believe in the words of actors and journalists and politicians, many of which are paid to lie with no shame. The record shows that vaccines plainly are not safe. The laws of our country have sought to protect us from that harm because harm did occur.

            It is so unfortunate that the laws have not been effective at safeguarding the general public, which has been complacent to consume every lie- every extra-large soda, quadruple cheeseburger, and dinner buffet- and every pharmaceutical drug, despite the commercials constantly advertising for lawyers that win compensation for their clients’ injuries from many drug companies. Clearly this is a public that is not properly informed of the dangers in its environment. For that I blame the parents, but very much the governments, schools and the media, whose only paycheck seems to come at the cost of American lives without shame. I reject that the efficacy of a vaccine take priority over its safety. While I concede that vaccines often seem to be generally effective, the existence of data suggesting a lack of safety should concern anyone, as it does evidently concern peer-reviewed science. Safety is paramount, especially since the aim of a vaccine program is to ensure the safety of human beings.

            Since many causal mechanisms of adverse events are not understood, and little-to-no study is done on adverse reactions to vaccines, mandatory vaccination programs pose a danger to public health. No person or organization has any right to the claim of moral or legal authority to dictate the health of other people, in an uncertain world. Every person has a right to decide for their own health and their own body. It is astounding that the same people who would die on a hill for a woman’s right to abortion or a transgendered person’s right to be called by their chosen identity, would advocate that a person should have no choice to vaccinate, characterizing them as a danger to others instead of realizing the danger of others to that individual.

Works Cited

  1. 2021. The Importance of Vaccines: Effectiveness and Safety. MTU Humanities Dept. Student Paper.  From inaccessible link.
  2. N.d. Cutter Laboratories. Wikepedia. From link, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cutter_Laboratories#The_Cutter_incident
  3. N.d. 42 U.S. Code 300aa-1. Legal Information Institute. From link, https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/pdf/uscode42/lii_usc_TI_42_CH_6A_SC_XIX_PA_sq1_SE_300aa-1.pdf
  4. Cummings ML. Informed consent and investigational new drug abuses in the U.S. military. Account Res. 2002 Apr-Jun;9(2):93-103. From link, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12625353
  5. 2019. Miller, N. Immunization Theory Vs. Reality. NZM. From link, http://thinktwice.com/gulfwar.htm
  6. White, R., Steele, L., O’Callaghan, J., Sullivan, K., Binns, J., …Grashow, R. (2016). Recent research on Gulf War illness and other health problems in veterans of the 1991 Gulf War: Effects of toxicant exposures during deployment. Elsevier, Cortex, 74, pp.449-475. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010945215003329?via%3Dihub
  7. Peakman, Mark et al. “Immunological dysfunction, vaccination and Gulf War illness.” Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences vol. 361,1468 (2006): 681-7. From link, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1569620/
  8. Leite, A., Andrews, N., Thomas, S. Jan 2016. Near real-time vaccine safety surveillance using electronic health records – a systematic review of the application of the statistical methods. Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety Vol.25, Issue 3, pp.225-237. From link, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/pds.3966
  9. Li-Kim-Moy J, Yin J K, Rashid H, Khandaker G, King C, Wood N, Macartney K K, Jones C, Booy R. Systematic review of fever, febrile convulsions and serious adverse events following administration of inactivated trivalent influenza vaccines in children. Euro Surveill. 2015;20(24):pii=21159. https://doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES2015.20.24.21159

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