Category: Vaccine Misinformation

Vaccines and the HAZMAT Team Myth

Do unused vaccines need to be disposed of as hazardous waste?

If you drop a vaccine vial and it breaks, do you need to call in a HAZMAT team to clean it up?

If a HAZMAT team shows up a pediatricians office, it is probably because someone got sick from fumes - from burned popcorn...
If a HAZMAT team shows up a pediatricians office, it is probably because someone got sick from fumes – from burned popcorn… Photo by Kathy Nellis Chastney

Have you heard any of these anti-vaccine myths?

Would you be scared to vaccinate your kids if you had?

Vaccines and the HAZMAT Team Myth

While spilling elemental or metallic mercury, like by breaking a mercury filled glass thermometer (about 500mg of mercury), could release dangerous mercury vapors that need to be cleaned up carefully, vaccines never contained this type of elemental mercury that could vaporize like that.

And the amount of thimerosal or ethylmercury that used to be contained in vaccines, before it was removed beginning in 2000, was very small, even in multi-dose vial of vaccines.

Believe it or not, kids used to play with metallic mercury...
Believe it or not, kids used to play with metallic mercury… Photo by Bionerd (CC BY 3.0)

While you should be concerned if you drop a fluorescent light bulb in front of your kids, you don’t have to be if someone drops a vaccine vial.

And that being said, you don’t have to call a HAZMAT team if you break a CFL or other mercury containing light bulb, even though they might contain about 4,000mcg of mercury. As a precaution, you just let the room air out for out 10 minutes and then you carefully clean it up.

You don’t even have to call a HAZMAT team if you break a mercury thermometer, which can contain up to about 500,000mcg of mercury! Just let the area air out and then follow instructions to carefully clean it up.

How much mercury is in a typical multi-dose vaccine vial?

None.

But those that still contain thimerosal can contain up to 250mcg of ethylmercury per 10 dose vial. That’s about 6% of the amount of mercury that is in the light bulb (and 0.05% of the amount in the thermometer) and it is mixed with other ingredients, so you don’t have to worry about it being released as a mercury vapor.

And since you don’t have to call a HAZMAT team for the much larger quantities of metallic mercury in light bulbs and thermometers, why would you ever think you would have to for vaccine vials, which don’t even contain metallic mercury that can become a vapor that you can inhale?!?

Vaccines as Hazardous Waste

But if you don’t need a HAZMAT team, then how do you get rid of unused vaccines?

“In general, most empty vaccine vials are not considered hazardous or pharmaceutical waste and do not require disposal in a biomedical waste container. However, requirements for medical waste disposal are regulated by state environmental agencies so you should contact your immunization program or state environmental agency to ensure that your disposal procedures are in compliance with state and federal regulations.”

CDC on Vaccine Storage and Handling

It depends.

Still, most can be thrown away as medical waste.

Those that contain a preservative, like thimerosal, usually need to be thrown away in a hazardous waste container and disposed of through a hazardous waste disposal company.

Hazardous waste? Wait, doesn’t that mean HAZMAT?

No, but that’s where the myth likely comes from. Remember, you’re not supposed to throw out old CFLs in the trash either.

In the real world, most unused vaccines that are expired are simply returned to the manufacturer.

While having to deal with a hazardous waste disposal company sounds like a big deal, it is important to remember that almost all vaccines are now preservative free. The flu shot may still contain thimerosal, but the great majority,  at least 130 million doses, were preservative free this year.

So, few pediatricians likely have to deal with vaccines with preservatives or hazardous waste disposal companies. And hopefully they don’t have any old mercury thermometers lying around either.

That just leaves these myths about vaccines which never seem to go away…

What to Know About Vaccines and the HAZMAT Team Myth

Having to call a HAZMAT team to clean up after a broken vaccine vial is another myth about vaccines that is simply meant to scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

More on Vaccines and the HAZMAT Team Myth

Vaccines and Autism Redux

Is it true that only one ingredient (thimerosal) and one vaccine (MMR) has ever been looked at for its relationship to autism?

No, as you can probably guess, it is not.

“This meta-analysis of five case-control and five cohort studies has found no evidence for the link between vaccination and the subsequent risk of developing autism or autistic spectrum disorder. Subgroup analyses looking specifically at MMR vaccinations, cumulative mercury dosage, and thimerosal exposure individually were similarly negative, as were subgroup analyses looking specifically at development of autistic disorder versus other autistic spectrum disorder.”

Taylor et al on Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies

Since much of the original focus about vaccines and autism was on the MMR vaccine and thimerosal, that’s where a lot of the research to reassure parents went first.

Other research has been done though too, so it really is safe to say that vaccines are not associated with autism, even though some may continue to see a correlation.

“To try to isolate the effects of thimerosal from other vaccine constituents, we performed a subanalysis comparing risks associated with diphtheria-tetanus-whole cell pertussis vaccine or diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis vaccine and Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine given separately or combined.”

Verstraeten et al on Safety of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines: A Two-Phased Study of Computerized Health Maintenance Organization Databases

The great majority of parents know that:

  • it is not the MMR vaccine
  • it is not thimerosal or thimerosal containing vaccines
  • it is not the overall number of vaccines that are given to a child
  • it is not the timing of when the vaccines are given to children

And it hasn’t been just one or two studies that have shown that there is no association between vaccines and autism. There are dozens. There is also a comprehensive review by the Institute of Medicine and a very large meta-analysis that have come to the same conclusion.

Vaccines are not associated with autism.

Vaccines and Autism Redux

Could it be aluminum though?

Why aluminum? Because anti-vaccine experts cite some poorly done studies that try to say it is.

Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment "Vaccines: A Bad Combination?"
Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment “Vaccines: A Bad Combination?”

Aluminum has become the new formaldehyde, which used to be the new thimerosal. It is apparently where the goalposts have shifted when some folks talk about vaccines and autism now that every knows it is not the MMR vaccine, thimerosal, vaccine overload, or the timing of vaccines.

But if studies have shown that it is neither the number of vaccines nor the timing of vaccines, then how could it be aluminum, an adjuvant in many vaccines?

It isn’t.

Aluminum is not the smoking gun or the missing puzzle piece that anti-vaccine folks will continue to look for.

What other myths about vaccines and autism have been coming up lately?

Have you heard the one about the court ruling confirming a vaccine autism link? It didn’t.

Did you know that the FDA officially announced that vaccines are causing autism? They didn’t, but do you know why some folks are now saying they did? Because of the old package insert for the Tripedia vaccine, which lists autism as a possible adverse event (without evidence of causation). The vaccine was discontinued years ago, but it continues to pop up as ‘new’ evidence for some as an association between vaccines and autism.

Or maybe you have heard these other new theories from the anti-vaccine movement as they desperately try to prove an association between vaccines and autism:

  • vaccines block folate uptake
  • MTHFR gene mutations
  • maternal immune activation
  • cytokine storms
  • glutathione depletion
  • glyphosate
  • DNA fragments
  • microbiota alterations
  • GI barrier defects
  • blood brain barrier permeability problems

You don’t even have to pick just one theory anymore (the fact that the MMR vaccine doesn’t contain thimerosal or aluminum kind of puts these theories into opposition with each other, doesn’t it?). You can choose for any or all of them to be true if you want. Using synergistic toxicity, you pick a few of your favorite theories and make them 100 times more likely to damage your child! Not really, but that’s how some anti-vaccine folks think.

“Autism is not an immune-mediated disease. Unlike autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, there is no evidence of immune activation or inflammatory lesions in the CNS of people with autism. In fact, current data suggest that genetic variation in neuronal circuitry that affects synaptic development might in part account for autistic behavior. Thus, speculation that an exaggerated or inappropriate immune response to vaccination precipitates autism is at variance with current scientific data that address the pathogenesis of autism.”

Gerber et al on Vaccines and Autism: A Tale of Shifting Hypotheses

Of course, none of them are true.

Vaccines are still not associated with autism.

What to Know About Vaccines and Autism

Vaccines are still not associated with autism, even though anti-vaccine folks continue to come up with new ideas for how it might be, from glyphosate and DNA fragments in vaccines to MTHFR mutations and maternal immune activation.

More on Vaccines and Autism

Alternatives to Getting Vaccinated

Are there any alternatives to getting vaccinated?

Sure. You can read about them all day long from holistic “experts” and on anti-vaccine websites.

Are there any good alternatives to getting vaccinated?

No. At least not if you want to be truly protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Alternatives to Getting Vaccinated

Kids who are born with immune disorders don't have to live in isolation bubbles any more, but they still need protection.
Kids who are born with immune disorders don’t have to live in isolation bubbles any more, but they still need protection. Photo by Baylor College of Medicine

Unfortunately, some folks don’t have other options and they need to look at an alternative for protection from vaccine-preventable diseases that doesn’t include vaccines.

These are the folks with contraindications or true medical exemptions for vaccines.

What do they do?

It depends on the specific circumstances, but in most cases, except for live vaccines or any other specific vaccine that is contraindicated, they usually get vaccinated.

Extremely few people can’t get at least some, if not most, of their vaccines, even if they do have contraindications to some others. And many exemptions are temporary.

“Parents need to balance the need of the immunoreconstituted child (post-transplant SCID) to be protected from exposure to infection from live vaccines and close contact–transmitted vaccine-derived infection with the need of the child to integrate into society and develop social and learning skills in group environments.”

Medical Advisory Committee of the Immune Deficiency Foundation

They also try to avoid people who are sick and  try to make sure that everyone around them is vaccinated to help maintain herd immunity levels of protection.

Neither is always possible though.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

Post-exposure prophylaxis is another option that is available to help prevent some vaccine-preventable diseases. For example, if your unvaccinated child is exposed to measles, they can often receive immune globulin to help them avoid getting measles.

Regimens for post-exposure prophylaxis are also available for:

  • chicken pox – varicella zoster immune globulin or immune globulin
  • diphtheria – antibiotics
  • hepatitis A – immune globulin
  • hepatitis B – hepatitis B immune globulin
  • influenza – oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir
  • meningococcal disease – antibiotics
  • pertussis – antibiotics
  • rabies – rabies immune globulin
  • tetanus – tetanus immune globulin

When possible, immunization typically accompanies these post-exposure prophylaxis regimens.

There is one big problem with these types of post-exposure prophylaxis regimens though. You are not always going to know when your child is exposed to someone else with a vaccine-preventable disease. While some exposures might be obvious, like if your child steps on a rusty nail or is bitten by an unvaccinated dog who has rabies, you might miss some others.

Bogus Alternatives to Getting Vaccinated

What other alternatives to getting vaccinated are out there?

Unfortunately, there are none that work.

Many bogus alternatives to getting vaccinated are pushed by those opposed to vaccines as ways to boost your immunity, and they can include:

  • breastfeeding – while breastfeeding is great and always encouraged, the passive immunity it provides will not protect your baby from most vaccine-preventable diseases, as it contains IgA antibodies, not the IgG antibodies you would need to prevent diseases like measles, tetanus, chicken pox, and Hib, etc.
  • homeopathic vaccines – nosodes are homeopathic vaccines that have been diluted so much that they are supposed to retain a memory of the original substance. Even if they did – that’s not how immunology works.
  • herbs – neither echinacea, goldenseal root, nor elderberry syrup is going to boost your child’s immunity
  • vitamins – unless your child is severely vitamin deficient, taking vitamins isn’t going to boost their immunity, whether they are taking extra vitamin C or extra vitamin D
  • foods – Japanese mushrooms, kale, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, avocados, ginger, black currants, graviola, green veggies, onion seeds, and berries might all be great to eat, but they aren’t going to boost your immunity
  • probiotics – they may help prevent antibiotic associated diarrhea, but there is not much evidence that taking them regularly does anything else
  • essential oils – they sometimes smell nice, but they aren’t going to boost your child’s immune system
  • chiropractic adjustments – not going to work
  • sun exposure – in addition to the worries about skin cancer, not only does extra sun exposure not boost your immune system, the WHO reports that “Several studies have demonstrated that exposure to environmental levels of UV radiation alters the activity and distribution of some of the cells responsible for triggering immune responses in humans. Consequently, sun exposure may enhance the risk of infection with viral, bacterial, parasitic or fungal infections, which has been demonstrated in a variety of animal models.”
  • fermented cod liver oil – this is not going to boost your child’s immune system, but folks should also know that there have been reports that the products that people have been buying and using for years were rancid and actually making them sick! There are much better ways to get vitamin D and vitamin A in your diet than taking fermented cod liver oil each day.

What about natural immunity?

While natural immunity can in some ways be more effective than vaccine induced immunity, it often comes at a price. You have to recover from the disease, hopefully without any long term consequences, to develop natural immunity.

What to Know About Alternatives to Getting Vaccinated

People who truly can’t be vaccinated rely on herd immunity, because in most cases, there are no effective alternatives for vaccines.

More On Alternatives to Getting Vaccinated

How Many People Die in the USA Every Year from Being Vaccinated?

We know that vaccines work to save lives from vaccine-preventable disease.

If you are at all hesitant about vaccines and are doing your research, you have likely come across the myth that vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they protect us against though.

This is only because most people don’t remember the pre-vaccine era when measles, polio, small pox, and diphtheria, etc., were big killers. So even though vaccine side effects are about the same as they always have been, they can become a much bigger focus for some people because they don’t see any of the mortality or morbidity from the diseases that the vaccines have gotten so good at preventing.

immunization-program-stages
As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks. Photo by WHO

It is at this crossover point that anti-vaccine folks are able to get away with pushing myths, such as like more people die from the MMR vaccine than from measles.

They don’t.

How Many People Die in the USA Every Year from Being Vaccinated?

Although vaccines are not perfectly safe, it is extremely rare for a vaccine reaction to be deadly.

“As for vaccines causing death, again so few deaths can plausibly be attributed to vaccines that it is hard to assess the risk statistically.”

WHO on Six common misconceptions about immunization

So why do anti-vaccine folks think that they are more common than they really are?

That’s an easy question to answer.

“Differentiation between coincidence and causality is of utmost importance in this respect. This is not always easy, especially when an event is rare and background rates are not available.”

Heininger on A risk-benefit analysis of vaccination

They often believe than anything and everything that happens after someone is vaccinated, even if it is weeks or months later, must have been caused by the vaccine. This discounts that fact that most people have a basic risk, often called the background rate, for developing these conditions that can coincide with getting vaccinated. It also explains why they believe in so many so-called vaccine induced diseases.

Another reason is that they also misuse VAERS reports when talking about vaccine deaths.

“In a review of reports of death following vaccination submitted to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) from the early 1990s, the Institute of Medicine concluded that most were coincidental, not causally associated.”

Moro et al on Deaths Reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, United States, 1997–2013

Not surprisingly though, studies have shown that most of the deaths in VAERS are not actually related to vaccines.

In fact, most of the things that anti-vaccine folks blame on vaccines, including things you see in many of their vaccine-injury stories, are not related to vaccines.

How Many People Die in the USA Every Year from Vaccine-Preventable Diseases?

Fortunately, most people are vaccinated, and deaths from  vaccine preventable diseases are tremendously below what they were in the pre-vaccine era.

Most people will be surprised to know that they aren’t zero though.

People do still get vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States.

And tragically, people do still die of vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States.

For example, in 2015:

  • there were at least 37 cases of perinatal hepatitis B infections
  • five infants and children less than age 5 years died of rotavirus disease
  • a 14-month-old died of Hib meningitis
  • an infant died of pneumococcal meningitis
  • a 3-year-old with congenital rubella syndrome died
  • at least two teens died of meningococcal meningitis
  • a woman in Washington died of measles – the immunosuppressed women was exposed to an outbreak in Clallam County that mostly included intentionally unvaccinated kids
  • 85 kids died of the flu

Of course, worldwide, especially in developing countries, the number of deaths are much higher, which is a good reminder of what would happen if more of us stopped vaccinating!

And it is an even better reminder that you have to look at the number of deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases today in the context that most people are vaccinated and protected.

If you are truly looking at a risk vs benefit analysis of whether or not to get vaccinated, it is still the great benefit of avoiding vaccine preventable diseases vs the very small risks of getting vaccinated that you should think about.

“I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.”

Dr. Bob Sears in The Vaccine Book

It is also the small risks of getting vaccinated vs the much greater risk of going back to the pre-vaccine era if you decided to skip or delay any vaccines.

It is not that you have been scared into thinking that the risks of  vaccines outweigh their benefits.

“Millions of vaccinations are given to children and adults in the United States each year. Serious adverse reactions are rare. However, because of the high volume of use, coincidental adverse events including deaths, that are temporally associated with vaccination, do occur. When death occurs shortly following vaccination, loved ones and others might naturally question whether it was related to vaccination. A large body of evidence supports the safety of vaccines, and multiple studies and scientific reviews have found no association between vaccination and deaths except in rare cases.”

Miller et al on Deaths following vaccination: What does the evidence show?

It is not that the risk of getting a vaccine preventable disease is low because you might be able to get away with hiding in the herd.

It is not that the risk of getting a vaccine preventable disease is low because you are counting on everyone else in the world to get vaccinated and eliminate or eradicate the disease and your risk.

If too many parents who are on the fence start believing that their kids have zero risk of getting polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases and continue to skip or delay vaccines, then boom, we are back to the days when outbreaks would close schools and kids would suffer from the devastating effects of these diseases.

Even the schools were closed in San Antonio when polio came to Texas in 1946.
Even the schools were closed in San Antonio when polio came to Texas in 1946.

While anti-vaccine folks won’t have such an easy time convincing people that these diseases are mild anymore, none of us want to wait for more outbreaks to occur before folks get the message that vaccines are safe and necessary.

What to Know About Vaccine Deaths

Despite what anti-vaccine folks would have you believe as they try to scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids, vaccines are safe and necessary and vaccine deaths are very rare.

More on Vaccine Deaths

Who Is Kelly Brogan?

Kelly Brogan is a holistic psychiatrist.

Why am I writing about a holistic psychiatrist?

More specifically, Kelly Brogan is a women’s health holistic psychiatrist who doesn’t seem to believe that vaccines are safe, that vaccines work, or that vaccines are necessary.

They are.

“…we have been recently convinced through the promise of technology and corporate prowess that processed food is more reliable, nutritious, and beneficial. We’ve been convinced that Hamburger Helper is better for our families than a homemade Bolognese.”

Kelly Brogan

For some reason, she does not seem to be vegan, as one might expect. Not even vegetarian…

She does seem to believe that people with mental health conditions not should be treated with medication. In fact, she thinks the medications that are routinely used to treat common mental health conditions are behind some of the biggest tragedies happening today.

“The records also listed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as one of his medical conditions” the proverbial smoking gun of every mass shooting in this country.”

Kelly Brogan on the Sutherland Church Shooting

And she was mentored, not by a psychiatrist, but by a doctor who pushed “a largely dietary treatment for cancer including an individualized organic diet, large amounts of supplements, and pancreatic enzymes,” a regimen that was actually studied and found to be harmful and reduced the quality of life for people with a deadly form of cancer.

Who Is Kelly Brogan?

Kelly Brogan is a holistic psychiatrist.

“Eastern wisdom tells us that when we think we know, we don’t. But when we admit ignorance, we achieve enlightenment. The most profound part of my departure from conventional medicine has been the depths of my surrender to all that we do not, cannot, and must not understand about the body and its experience. Humble awe and wonder are truly the only appropriate states for approaching the complexity of the human condition.”

Kelly Brogan

Do holistic psychiatrists use a different definition for the word humble?

“All suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their own happiness or satisfaction.”

Dalai Lama XIV

Kelly Brogan, a holistic psychiatrist, also pushes a lot of anti-vaccine talking points about epigenetics, germ theory denialism, MTHFR, and the need for detoxing from vaccines.

These beliefs can cause suffering if she can get others to believe them too, as can pushing the idea that babies shouldn’t get their hepatitis B vaccine or a vitamin K shot.

I’m actually surprised that she hasn’t written about RhoGAM. Maybe she hasn’t gotten around to it. But she doesn’t disappoint. She has shared an article on her Facebook page that claims that the RhoGham shot is just a “Big Pharma Profit Ploy.”

Kelly Brogan is a holistic psychiatrist that wants you to live a medication free life. I guess that could have made her some kind of psychoanalysist, but that doesn’t seem to be the route she went.

“In fact, ‘treatment’ with chemotherapy and radiation not only disrupts a complex process that needs to actually be supported, but also it induces secondary harm, both psychically and physiologically. When we interfere and war with the body, we keep the fight alive – you can’t win the battle against yourself.”

Kelly Brogan

Is she telling people to stop their cancer treatments?

Do folks get a lot of training in treating cancer in their psychiatry residency these days?

And she advises that you “think long and hard about vaccination.”

“As we discover more about the near infinite sophistication of your interconnected bodily systems, and the hyper-individuality of any cause and effect process resulting from a healthcare decision, the one-size-fits-all, indemnified vaccine program may begin to make less and less sense to you. Educate yourself before you make a choice that could change everything for you and your family. Trust your body. Invest in your immunity. And explore a mindset shift that offers you a fear-free way to understand health and wellness.”

Kelly Brogan

Shortly after talking about informed consent, she lets you know how she really feels about vaccines.

“Don’t buy into the lore, don’t make assumptions, and understand that the philosophical underpinnings of the vaccination program are predicated on an antiquated perspective: warring against and attempting to eradicate bad germs. Science has left that childlike notion in the dust, and so should we.”

Kelly Brogan

I think Dr. Brogan misspelled pseudoscience

Why don’t you need to get your kids vaccinated and protected? Because Kelly Brogan has a “tremendous faith in the potential for the body to heal when naturally supported.”

Do you?

Will you during a measles outbreak?

“One of my favorite medical terms, anosognosia, means lack of awareness of a deficit. I have come to find this useful in description of so many of my colleagues who practice the medicine they were trained to practice without conscious acknowledgement of its gross limitations and even hazards.”

Kelly Brogan

Kelly Brogan didn't make history in getting a case report published in a low impact journal who's editorial board includes a Reiki Master, chiropractors, and naturopaths.
Kelly Brogan didn’t make history in getting a case report published in a low impact journal who’s editorial board includes a Reiki Master, chiropractors, and naturopaths.

Does anyone else think that it is wildly ironic that anosognosia is Kelly Brogan’s favorite medical term?

Psychiatry explains Kelly Brogan well.

Actually, it might be cognitive psychology that explains her actions.

Can a psychiatrist be suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect?

I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that a holistic psychiatrist can.

A history-making case report? Considering that case reports are the weakest type of scientific evidence, just above YouTube videos and articles on her website, that’s not likely.

Kelly Brogan is a holistic psychiatrist who has flirted with HIV denialism.

You can get educated about vaccines if you are on the fence, but it won’t be from Kelly Brogan, a women’s health holistic psychiatrist.

What to Know About Kelly Brogan

Kelly Brogan is a holistic psychiatrist who seems to charge folks a lot of money in private consultations to help them know that she has faith in their potential to heal themselves naturally – with her help.

More About Kelly Brogan

Updated December 2, 2017

Vaccines Are Made in China!

It shouldn’t be a secret that vaccines are made in China.

There are over 1.3 billion people in China, and no, they don’t import all of their vaccines from the United States.

Neither does India, for all of their 1.2 billion people.

For example, the Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd. makes many vaccines, including:

  • GeneVac-B – hepatitis B
  • Quadrovax – DTP-Hib combo
  • Pentavac – DTP-HepB-Hib combo
  • Tresivac – MMR
  • Poliovac – polio
  • Triple Antigen – DTP
  • MenAfriVac – meningococcal group A
At least 34 manufacturers make vaccines for use in China, like this Hib vaccine.
At least 34 manufacturers make vaccines for use in China, like this Hib vaccine.

And there are over 34 vaccine manufacturers in China, including:

  • Chengdu Institute of Biological Products Co., Ltd
  • Hualan Biolgical Bacterin Co., Ltd
  • Jilin Brother Biotech Co., Ltd
  • Wuhan Institute of Biological Products
  • Lanzhouz Institute of Biological Products

These vaccine manufacturers in China, a mix of state run, private, and international joint ventures, help produce the vaccines used in China’s immunization program.

Some US vaccine companies even have vaccine manufacturing plants in China and other countries, but they make vaccines that are used in nearby parts of the world.

For example, Merck recently opened a new vaccine plant in Hangzhou, China to make vaccines to be used in the Asia Pacific region.

Should We Be Concerned About Vaccines Made in China?

If you are getting vaccinated in China, then you likely want to know more about where and how your vaccines are made. Everyone else should probably be wondering why anti-vaccine folks make such a fuss about this.

In addition to implying that vaccines are made under unsafe conditions, much of this anti-vaccine propaganda includes racist themes.

Parents who are concerned should understand that the United States doesn’t get any vaccines from China or India, or from Brazil, Cuba, Indonesia, or Russia for that matter.

The concern, of course, would be that it might be hard to test and verify these vaccines if they were.

“Following approval, FDA also carefully monitors the quality of vaccines—all manufactured lots must pass tests before they can be used. And as with all manufacturers of medical products, vaccine manufacturers must follow strict manufacturing standards. In addition, FDA conducts routine inspections of manufacturing sites.”

FDA on How does FDA assess the safety of vaccines?

Instead, vaccines that are used in the United States are made by:

  • Emergent Biosolutions – USA – Anthrax vaccine
  • ID Biomedical Corp – Canada – Fluvaval
  • GSK Vaccines – based in Belgium, but vaccines are made in Belgium (Boostrix, Cervarix, Energix-B, Havrix, Hiberix, Infanrix, MenHibrix, Kinrix, Pediarix, Rotarix), Germany (Boostrix, Fluarix, Infanrix, Kinrix, Pediarix, Rabavert), and Italy (Bexsero, Menveo)
  • MedImmune – USA – FluMist
  • Merck – USA – BCG, Gardasil9, MMRII, PedvaxHIB, PneumoVax23, ProQuad, RecombivaxHB, RotaTeq, Vaqta, Varivax, Zostavax are made at Merck’s vaccine manufacturing plants in West Point, Pennsylvania, Elkton, Virginia, and Durham, North Carolina
  • PaxVax – USA – their Vivotif typhoid vaccine is made in Thörishaus, Switzerland
  • Pfizer – USA – (Prevnar, Trumenba)
  • Protein Sciences Corporation – USA – Flublok
  • Sanofi Pasteur – Canada (Adacel, Daptacel, Pentacel), France (IPOL, Pentacel), USA (Menactra, YF-Vax, ),
  • Seqirus – USA – Afluria, Flucelvax, Fluvirin
  • Valneva (Intercell USA) -their  Japanese encephalitis vaccine (IXIARO) is made in Livingston, Scotland, UK
  • Valneva Sweden AB – their Dukoral cholera vaccine is made in Solna, Sweden

A little competition in the vaccine industry wouldn’t be a horrible thing though.

Vaccines are expensive

They are safe, but expensive. Necessary too.

What to Know About Vaccines Made in China

Although plenty of vaccines are made in China, the vaccines that are used in the United States are not, although anti-vaccine folks use this as a talking point to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

For More Information on Vaccine Manufacturer Sites:

The Vaccine-Friendly Plan Book Review

The Vaccine-Friendly Plan is the latest book about vaccines that claims to offer a “safe and effective approach to immunity and health.”

What’s the problem with it?

In addition to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any evidence in the book to support that any of its ideas are indeed safe or effective, the book pushes just about every anti-vaccine talking point out there today.

Misinformation in The Vaccine-Friendly Plan

If you want to skip or delay some of your child’s vaccines and are looking for something to help you feel better about your decision, then this is the book for you.

While Dr. Thomas and Jennifer Margulis talk about providing balanced information, it was right after he stated that “I realized we had poisoned a generation of children with a mercury-derived preservative called thimerosal” and then goes on to talk about how kids are overvaccinated.

So much for balanced information…

But Dr. Thomas isn’t just worried about vaccines. He is also worried about Tylenol, that the chemicals in plastics are endocrine disruptors, GMOs, flame retardants, pesticides, fluoride, artificial sweeteners, chemical dyes, and all of the other toxins that other doctors and the CDC supposedly ignore.

What about the “science” that supports his ideas?

Sure, he is quick to cherry pick studies that support the ideas he likes and label them as “important studies” among “a growing body of evidence,” but if the studies don’t, then they are “a handful of poorly designed, anecdotal studies.”

We see a lot of other anti-vaccine propaganda techniques in the book too.

“Giving a quadruple live-virus vaccine to a toddler is a mistake. When a toddler catches an illness naturally, he does not catch all four at once. I have serious concerns about hitting the immune system of a twelve-month-old baby with four live viruses, even though they are weakened.”

Does Dr. Thomas understand how the immune system works or how many different things our immune systems get “hit” with each and every day? Children are exposed to a lot of live, unweakened viruses and other germs every day and fight them off just fine.

Dr. Thomas also routinely downplays the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases (they all seem to be easily treatable in his world), overstates the risks of vaccines (they all seem to be full of horrible poisons in his world), makes heavy use of anecdotes, repeatedly makes it sound like every other pediatrician is doing something wrong, and again, makes full use of anti-vaccine talking points to scare parents:

To see how silly his arguments are, consider that when talking about giving any amount of formula to a baby, he is quick to say that “Cow’s milk is for calves, human milk is for human babies.”

“I also know several strapping young people who drank bottles of raw goat’s milk (instead of store-bought formula) when their breastfeeding mothers needed to be away from them for several hours…”

Raw goat milk is for kids = baby goats. Don't give it to your baby!
Raw goat milk is for kids = baby goats. Don’t give it to your baby! Photo by Shannon McGee (CC BY-SA 2.0)
But what about goat milk?

Is it just for baby goats?

You won’t hear this from Dr. Thomas, but unless your ‘kid’ is a baby goat, don’t give him raw goat milk!

So what’s the take home message about Dr. Thomas and his book?

Despite his frequently using the word science in the book, the only “science” in The Vaccine-Friendly Plan is that it is full of pseudoscience.

You can even see this in his ideas about gluten sensitivity. Why do so many of his patients show a sensitivity to gluten? He uses an IgG food sensitivity test that most experts say is basically worthless.

Making a Case for Getting Vaccinated

Perhaps the only good thing about Dr. Paul Thomas’ book is that he makes some very good cases for why you should vaccinate your kids.

Wait, what?

His introduction starts off with the story of the death of his three-year-old playmate in Africa. Tragically, the child died of measles.

Like many other pediatricians, he also talks about “the miracle that the Hib vaccine was when it was introduced in 1985.”

“Then in 2012 I had about twenty children in my practice with pertussis: eighteen were school age kids, and two were infants. Interestingly, fifteen of the twenty were fully immunized for pertussis, and the other five were from the small group of families in my practice who refuse all vaccines.”

His story about pertussis in his practice is also very interesting, but not for the reason that Dr. Thomas believes.

Consider that most kids are vaccinated, even in Dr. Thomas’ practice, so the fact that 25% of the kids who got pertussis are unvaccinated means a very high attack rate among unvaccinated children. So even with the problems of waning immunity with the pertussis vaccine, you are still much better off to be vaccinated and protected, even if that protection isn’t perfect.

“Since I opened my practice in 2008, not a single child has received the rotavirus vaccine. I refuse to stock it. Yet only one child in seven years has been hospitalized for severe dehydration. The unvaccinated children in my practice either are not getting rotavirus, or the illness is so mild that it requires no intervention.”

And so much for vaccine choice. How can his patients make a decision to get vaccinated if he doesn’t even have the vaccine?!?

But why don’t they get rotavirus? It is not because the vaccine doesn’t work or isn’t necessary. It is actually called being a free-rider or hiding in the herd.

Like most vaccines, the rotavirus vaccine works and helps create community immunity.

The Most Dangerous Advice in The Vaccine-Friendly Plan

Unfortunately, the dangerous advice in this book extends well beyond repeatedly telling parents to “say no thank you” to multiple vaccines and to delay others.

The advice to “decline vaccines” during pregnancy has to be right up there with the most dangerous advice in his book, but you be the judge…

“It depends on the medication, but the short answer is that it’s best to avoid all over the counter and prescription medications during pregnancy.”

Unbelievably, Dr. Thomas really seems to say that pregnant mothers should try to stop their antidepressants because “women respond differently to pregnancy hormones and some who struggle with mental health issues find the high estrogen and progesterone of pregnancy actually improve mood and mental health.”

He also thinks that it is “reasonable” to skip your baby’s vitamin K shot because of “worrisome ingredients,” like polysorbate 80 and aluminum.

“If bilirubin levels remain extremely high – above 20 – for over a week or two, some of the bilirubin can enter the brain, where it can cause permanent brain damage called kernicterus.”

Hopefully most parents are aware that you don’t want to wait “a week or two” to seek treatment if you baby’s jaundice level is above 20.

And hopefully most parents also understand that:

  • the cutoff for fever in newborns is 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, not 100.6°F (38.4°C)
  • co-sleeping and letting your baby sleep on your chest are not safe things to do
  • skipping an evaluation and antibiotics when mom is GBS positive after delivery and she develops a fever (possible chorioamnionitis) is not a safe thing for baby, especially if mom already skipped getting antibiotics during her delivery  – it’s called gambling that the baby won’t develop early-onset invasive group B streptococcal disease. Several studies have found very high numbers of newborns in this situation with positive blood cultures, even though they had no symptoms.
  • if your pediatrician recommends that your child needs treatment for congenital hip dysplasia (which is actually now called Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip), then you should probably listen, instead of hoping it goes away on its own by wearing “your baby on your front or back with his legs splayed.”
  • you shouldn’t put your baby in direct sunlight without sunscreen for ten to fifteen minutes every day
  • there is no need to routinely check your baby’s vitamin D level – just give a supplement if you are exclusively breastfeeding
  • until polio is eradicated, the risk of getting polio is higher than zero and that all of his unvaccinated kids are at risk even if they don’t travel outside the US, like the outbreak among the Amish in 2005
  • children die from meningococcal disease because it is a severe and terrible disease that progresses very quickly, not because “we pediatricians – so quick to intervene in other, unnecessary ways – fail to listen to a worried mother, dismiss her concerns as “hysterical,” and send a sick child home…” In one study, “Most children had only non-specific symptoms in the first 4-6 h, but were close to death by 24 h.”
  • preschoolers do not need to routinely take 2,000IU of vitamin D each day – the current recommendation is 600IU if they are not getting enough from the foods they are eating and drinking and 2,000IU only if they have been diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency
  • about 4,200 women die of cervical cancer in the United States each year, something Dr. Thomas fails to mention when he says that “some strains of HPV can lead to slow-growing, highly treatable cancers.”

Although the whole book is dangerous, these are serious errors that can harm kids, and it is unbelievable that Penguin Random House would publish this book as a Medical/Parenting book. After all, this is the same company that published NeuroTribes!

Conspiracy Theories in The Vaccine-Friendly Plan

No good anti-vaccine book would be complete without some good old conspiracy theories.

Dr. Thomas doesn’t disappoint!

“It took me years to realize something I still wish were not true but which you cannot ignore if you want to have a healthy baby in America today: Our government officials and a handful of well-positioned M.D.’s who advise them have ignored some of the most important peer-reviewed studies and most relevant scientific information about immunity and health, both during pregnancy and throughout infancy.”

Dr. Paul Thomas

What else has he got?

  • the polio vaccines didn’t eliminate polio in the US, instead, it could have been “chlorinating water in public swimming pools” – it wasn’t
  • “severe reactions to the HPV vaccine are actually much more common than parents are being told” – they aren’t, even Diane Harper says the HPV vaccines are safe
  • rotavirus deaths in the pre-vaccine era are “inaccurate and misleading” because they are estimated numbers “based on a retrospective study that looked at morbidity associated with diarrheal disease between 1968 and 1991,” – except that Dr. Thomas looked at the wrong study. The estimates for hospitalizations and deaths in the pre-vaccine era come from a different study that looked at “Hospitalizations and Deaths from Diarrhea and Rotavirus among Children <5 Years of Age in the United States, 1993–2003.” Oops.
  • most flu-like illnesses are not really the flu, which “makes it impossible to distinguish influenza infections from other viruses,” unless you go to his office, where he tests kids for the flu – except that using the influenza-like illness (ILI) case definition has a high positive predictive value during flu season and many doctors and hospitals also do rapid flu testing

Do you really believe that it was the chlorine in swimming pools that eliminated polio in the United States? Or that he has found a magic way to avoid autism by drinking filtered water, avoiding GMOs, eating organic, whole foods, and following a non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedule?

What to Know About The Vaccine-Friendly Plan

The Vaccine-Friendly Plan is a dangerous book that not only panders to parent’s fears about vaccines, it goes out of its way to increase those fears by pushing misinformation, telling parents to skip and delay vaccines, and giving other unsafe pediatric and parenting advice.

The only reason to pick it up is because you are looking for some confirmation bias to make you feel better about a decision to not vaccinate your child. If you read it because you were on the fence about vaccines, please consider doing a little more research.

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