By Anne Dachel
On August 4th the New York Times published an opinion piece entitled, Anti-Vaccine Activists Have Taken Vaccine Science Hostage.
In that article, science and health writer Melinda Wenner Moyer sounded worried about the increasing number of parents who don’t vaccinate their kids. Moyer is sure these parents have nothing to worry about, but “what drives these wrongheaded decisions is fear — fear that vaccines are somehow dangerous, even though research shows the opposite.”
Despite her belief that no one needs to question the ever-expanding vaccine schedule, Moyer did talk about “hitting a wall” when she tried to discuss vaccine efficacy and safety with researchers. “When I did get them on the phone, a worrying theme emerged: Scientists are so terrified of the public’s vaccine hesitancy that they are censoring themselves, playing down undesirable findings and perhaps even avoiding undertaking studies that could show unwanted effects.”
“The goal is to protect vaccines”
Moyer made it sound as though pressure from “anti-vaccine activists” makes it impossible for scientists to openly talk about possible problems with a vaccine. She cited vaccine developer Dr. Paul Offit who feels that “worrying studies” shouldn’t be published.
It seems that public faith in vaccines is so precarious that EVEN TALKING about side effects scares people away from vaccinating. AND the anti-vaccine community is to blame for this situation. They will go after anything that raises questions about vaccine safety.
There’s no question that bad vaccine science does not deserve a forum — and much of the research cited by anti-vaccine activists is very bad indeed. But good science needs to be heard even if some people will twist its meaning. One thing vaccine scientists and vaccine-wary parents have in common is a desire for the safest and most effective vaccines possible — but vaccines can’t be refined if researchers ignore inconvenient data. Moreover, vaccine scientists will earn a lot more public trust, and overcome a lot more unfounded fear, if they choose transparency over censorship.
So is vaccine research really open and honest? Can any legitimate concerns be raised?
I contacted Dr. Chris Shaw, Canadian neuroscientist and professor of ophthalmology at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Shaw’s research on the use of aluminum vaccine adjuvants had been retracted from the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry in 2017.
(In 2012 I interviewed him about his research.)
Here’s what Dr. Shaw had to say about the NY Times story.
Dr. Shaw, what is your opinion of the Times piece? Are “anti-vaccine activists” to blame for shutting down legitimate debate on vaccines?
I think religion adds a lot to human affairs, in many cases, but also goes to extremism.
I was in Mosul as a medic in 2017. We were there to support the civilians coming out of Mosul, and support the military forces that were taking the city back from ISIS.
ISIS is an example of taking religion to an extreme. If you were not one hundred percent what they believe, you were an apostate and you had to be killed….
WHAT YOU SEE IN THIS ARTICLE—you can see the author is struggling really hard to make it come out a certain way—everything in this article points to the fact that the scientists who are honestly trying to do their jobs and find whatever there is to find, whether it’s good or whether it’s bad, or ambiguous, they are being penalized for being honest scientists—even by their own.
In some people’s eyes, they have crossed a path, they’re going against the creed of the religion. And Paul Offit typifies it perfectly.
Everything has to be one hundred percent pro. It cannot be ninety-nine percent pro, that’s not good enough. Papers should never be published if they’re critical, …they might scare the people, the ignorant unwashed masses who won’t get their vaccines.
Offit, as you know, he typifies what I think you’d call MEDICAL FASCISM.
It’s a very totalitarian mindset that basically says, science is settled. Which is nonsense. Science is never settled, except in very few exceptions.
The idea that everyone has to kowtow to these people who declare themselves the prophets, or the priests of this science, is also nonsense.
That’s not where scientific breakthroughs come from. That’s not where scientific discoveries come from. It’s not how science advances and evolves. In my graduate school career, I learned several things that we now know are not true. …
The idea that science is settled or that we know everything there is to know—we barely know how adjuvants work—so how could we know what they’re doing to the various organ systems, let alone the brain?
So the idea that Offit promotes, that somehow one dare not say these things, I think speaks to the religious aspect that he’s promoting.
I think the companies know this. I think they do, but they’re dealing with a very different motive, and that’s profit. They’re looking at the bottom line, and the bottom line is threatened by this sort of stuff.
It’s threatened even by their own supporters, the people normally, they would love.
There’s a book that came out in 2002, by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, and if you’ve never seen it, you should get it. It’s called Trust Us, We’re Experts.
It’s an amazing book. It doesn’t talk about vaccines, but you can put the word VACCINE in any of the cases they talk about … So substitute the area that a company wants to protect. They’re looking at the corporate bottom line. You are peeing in their cornflakes by questioning the safety of those products, and they will get you.
They have a system that is now fairly refined and ready to use. They pull it off the shelves when they need it.
It basically says, first demonize the people who are making these statements—WAKEFIELD THEM. Get their papers retracted.
Get “thought leaders” to talk about them being conspiracy theorists or tinfoil hat wearers, or pseudo scientists or rogue scientists.
It always happens the exact same way.
I read this book, and I could barely believe it because it was like they were talking to us, but they weren’t. …It’s just the same story.
It’s the same sort of corporate agenda that the vaccine folks have seized onto. …
The problem is, they can’t suppress all the science.
They’re trying. They’re trying to get all the people I’ve worked with—in a very systematic attack.
That’s not enough, though. They have to police their own too. They have to go after the people who just deviate from the holy scripture by this much.
In 2011 your research showed harmful side effects from the use of aluminum (a known neurotoxin) in vaccines. What happened to that study?
In 2011, Lucija Tomljenovic and I wrote a paper on aluminum in vaccines. It was our first theoretical paper, an epidemiological study.
And we’re not epidemiologists, we know that, but we actually had people who were [to] advise us.
The reason we did this is because we had a little bit of time on our hands, because we were waiting for animal care permits to be issued. And that takes a long time at UBC. …
Lucija had just joined the lab. She had written an amazing paper on aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. That’s how I got to know her. …
We said let’s just look and see if there’s any correlation between how many times people get vaccinated with aluminum adjuvants and the changing rate of autism.
The changing rate of autism is something you and I think is happening, other people disagree, whether it’s changing or not, but the CDC seems to accept it.
There seems to be more to suggest that [it’s] actually changing and it’s not just better diagnosis. Certainly not a genetic drift.
So we simply looked at two different data sets. One from the CDC, which was their vaccine schedule over the years, and how many of those vaccines were aluminum adjuvanted.
And then we looked at the changing rates of ASD…
And there is a tight correlation. …Correlation is not causation. We get that.
Then we took something called the Bradford Hill Criteria.
The Bradford Hill Criteria are meant to help you decide if the observation you have, and the apparent correlation you have, are actually plausible, or if it’s just random. …
We basically hit on eight out of nine [criteria], so we felt pretty confident, not to claim that aluminum adjuvants cause autism, but to say that there’s now a basis for more scientific study. …
Based on that, the idea that it wasn’t a completely crazy idea, that there was something that had been satisfied by the Bradford Hill Criteria, there seemed to be the possibility that could be … a link to some sort of causal process.
So we started to do experiments.
We did the experiments with mice. We injected them with aluminum adjuvants, and we saw various things. We kept doing that. We were following that thread, trying to understand if in fact, at an experimental level, we could duplicate some of the feature of autism …in animals, with all caveats and all the problems of animal models, …
We got to that point. We started with behavioral stuff. We were working our way through cellular changes. And the next logical step was to look at possible changes in genetic expression.
And that’s where that paper went off the rails because someone manipulated data in it. Not all the data, but some of it.
And that led to the paper being retracted. By the way, it was retracted by me in collaboration with the journal.
That work is being done again. We’re doing another very, very large study, not using just the aluminum; we’re using the whole vaccines. …
We actually have a statistician at UBC working with us closely to make sure we’re doing everything in a way that should be beyond critique. At least he’s going to stand by it.
We are going to be putting that out in due course.
We presented some of these data in Lisbon at the Auto Immunity Congress, and we’ll be putting out a paper on this soon.
It’ll be a very long paper because it will be ridiculously detailed about stats. …
The aluminum group and the vaccine group seem to show some behavioral changes. We’re going to document those. …
And then we have a short term study. We’re going to be looking at more biochemical markers to see what else is going on. …
That’s kind of a normal process. You start off with an hypothesis, you check it against the existing literature—which is really all the 2011 paper was—which is still out there, and then you go do the experiments to test the various aspects of the hypothesis.
That’s been the whole process. People thought we just jumped in the middle. We didn’t.
We were following a very clear and established means of getting to a scientific answer.
And that’s what we continue to do.
Nothing is different from the way most laboratories go about dissecting scientific problems. You look at the big picture and then you zero in on experiments you’re going to do. Do the experiments, and you try and tie it back to the big picture.
So we’re in that process.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve been compiling stories from around the world on the decline in the health, learning and behavior of children.
Do you see a connection between this and the aggressive worldwide vaccination program?
What do your behavioral studies in mice show? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akpQpMFI8B4
The answer is yes, we do see behavioral changes in the mice.
There’s always a question whether in the behavioral changes you see, how much they relate to what you see in humans, but in many cases, the outlooks look very similar.
It’s always important to recognize that people are not mice and mice are not people. But again, this is as close as you’re going to be able to get. …
That’s what the pharmaceutical industry uses too. They don’t usually use monkeys….
We’re not doing anything different than [the way] the [pharmaceutical industry] is doing their very minimal safety studies.
The interesting thing, going back to that book, Trust Us, We’re Experts, first they deny that there is anything happening.
Then they ridicule the people saying there’s something happening.
Then they say, oh maybe it is, but it’s actually a good thing. …
You look at all the discussion in recent years about neuro-diversity and indigo children.
It’s like it’s something to celebrate. We should be happy. The human species is branching out into new domains. We should welcome this. …
You find the happy face to put on all of these things.
So what if it costs us another couple of billion dollars a year in school funds that we don’t have anyway? Go back to the book, it just lays it out in detail.
Yes, we see a lot of abnormal features. For example, one of the things we recently saw in our mice—do you know what barbering is? Mice sometime over groom themselves, and they over groom each other. They can be very aggressive about it. They basically trim each other’s whiskers off, and sometimes their fur.
In our last study, the one that is ongoing, there is a ridiculously high level of barbering going on the vaccinated animals.
We don’t know what that means.
They would basically go up and bite each other’s wool off. …
There are some very, very interesting things going on that’re very, very striking. Not all the mice do it, but the controls don’t do it, or hardly at all. …Only the vaccinated animals do it.
Eventually it kind of dies down, but it’s really intense for a while.
So something is happening in the early stages right after get the treatment.
Your research continues. Describe what you’re involved in currently.
We’re expanding our set of behavioral tests. This is probably the most intensive series of behavioral tests that we’ve done.
Not only looking at anxiety, and measures of anxiety, evidences of aggression and how they move in open fields and things like that, which we’ve done before.
We’re also looking at learning and memory. We have a series of tests that are now ongoing—very, very labor intensive. We don’t know the outcome yet.
I don’t know if there are going to be ambiguous results, or if the results are going to be positive or negative. We don’t know. Whatever we find, we’re going to report.
And the guy who’s doing it in our lab is blinded to the identity of the treatment groups. He has no idea which animals are which.
We decode it afterwards, but he never sees what the decoding is.
So we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re expanding this. We expanding this also when we do the histological analyses, we’ll be looking at a whole series of biochemical markers and a whole series of cellular markers.
We’re going to go back and do the genetics test again. If we were wrong, we were wrong. When we’re finished with this study, we’ll be able to say definitively if there are gene expression changes or not.
And this time, no one is going to mess with the data, and this time no one is going to be able to say we falsified it.
We will have it so well locked down and so statistically checked and rechecked and validated by people that we pay from outside the laboratory. They’re part of UBC staff people to make sure this happens correctly.
So I’m confident that what we come up with will be a clear answer to the question, what happens when you do this vaccine schedule in young animals.
We’re being very cautious. You’ll never hear me say it’s identical to what happens in kids because we don’t know that. …
What are your concerns about where all this is headed? Will there ever be an honest and thorough examination of vaccine safety?
To be able to do the studies that we do and that others do, takes money. If they are not funding your research from the national granting agencies because of some perceived need to protect vaccine uptake or because of a paper being retracted, …then you can’t get money from the public agencies. \
Private entities don’t have that much money, and the reality is, this stuff costs money to do. None of this is free…. These things are labor intensive, they are costly, and without money, you don’t do them.
So the idea behind these attacks, the idea behind the calls for not letting this research be done is first to dry up the money.
And secondly to make sure that animal care committees will not approve anything that might draw the ire of the pharmaceutical companies. …With those two things, you’re done.
And if the science doesn’t get done, then the only narrative that is out there is going to be the pharmaceutical’s narrative, brought to you by Paul Offit and others like Paul Offit, and repeated endlessly by the media that depends for their profits on the pharmaceutical industry.
SO THE ANSWER IS NO, IT’S NEVER GOING TO GET DONE— [unless governments change, unless . shouldn’t do it, and you’re wasting animals. Animal care committees should never approve this research.][this seems pretty garbled. So it should read: unless governments change how willing they are to fund controversial research into scary topics like vaccines. And it will only get done if universities and animal care committees care more about exploring a range of issues and don’t get frightened into blocking experiments because of complaints that too many animals are wasted on science that’s “already solved.”
So it’s a two pronged approach: cut off the money, cut off permission to do the studies. Science doesn’t get done. Then the only science done, if you want to call it science, that will be done is done by [the pharmaceutical industry].
And the media will report it, once again, as the “science is solved.”
And everything you’re seeing [with the adverse effects in some children]must be a figment of your imagination because of that tinfoil hat you’re wearing. It can’t possibly be happening, and even if it were, it would be a good thing because neuro-diversity is wonderful.
Really just shut up and go away. Stop bothering people with this stuff. You’re wasting everybody’s time….
No, the sad, short answer is, the science won’t be done.
Finally, I asked Dr. Shaw about the possibility of a comparison study of completely unvaccinated and fully vaccinated children. What are the chances that this could be done?
There hasn’t been a vaxxed/unvaxxed study, as far as I know apart from the one by Mawson last year. …If [the pharmaceutical industry] is looking at the safety of a new vaccine, they’ll compare it to another vaccine. …They seem to have some problems understanding what a placebo control is.
They will often compare their vaccine to aluminum alone. And if you wanted to design a way to make sure you didn’t find anything that would be a good way to do it. Of course, they don’t want to find anything, so one has to suspect that maybe that’s part of the plan.
No, that kind of study hasn’t been done.
We have tried to do that. That’s our most recent study. We’ve taken the vaccine schedule of the United States, taken the same vaccines and given them to the mice, at the—and this is always a point of contention—equivalent ages that our children would receive them.
So with all those caveats in mind, we are actually doing that study.
And I think it will show some interesting stuff. But, at the end of the day, it might not. Statistically, we may discover there’s nothing there. But that’s okay.
That’s what NIH should be doing. NIH should be doing those sorts of things, and if it shows there’s nothing there, then there’s nothing there and you can move on.
You can look at ground water. You can look at other things in the environment, of which there are plenty. You would then eliminate vaccines alone as a single source.
I don’t think it’s going to be that simple because I believe there are multiple contributors to any of the diseases children suffer…
So when you’re talking about neurological diseases, I don’t think there is one factor. …
That kind of study would actually have to be deliberately done. One of those grant agencies would have to say, okay, we’re going to put aside fifty million dollars. We’re just going to nail this one down finally. We’re tired of hearing about it. We’re just going to get it done. …
We’re just going to get people that we’ve never heard of before, and we’re going to offer them a grant to go do this. And whatever they get, they get. …
THAT’S NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.