Tag: Robert F Kennedy

Fact Checking Brian Hooker’s Statement to WA Legislators

Anti-vaccine folks brought out a lot of their big guns to a Washington State House Health Committee meeting about personal belief exemptions.

Brian Hooker makes a lot of statements about measles that mirror anti-vaccine talking points.

What was the meeting about?

A bill was introduced in the Washington Legislature that would limit non-medical vaccine exemptions by removing a philosophical or personal objection for the MMR vaccine.

Fact Checking Brian Hooker’s Statement to WA Legislators

Showing up to oppose the bill were Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Toni Bark, and Brian Hooker, none of which helped their side.

Why not?

Let’s see what Hooker said?

“There is a problem with measles in Washington State, but it’s not low vaccination rates, it’s actually high vaccination rates with a vaccine product unable to provide lifetime immunity or vigorous passive maternal protection to infants during the first year of life.”

Brian Hooker

Of course!

Unvaccinated kids are getting measles because we are vaccinating too many people. Why haven’t we noticed this before?

“When the measles vaccine was first introduced, most people over the age of 15 who had wild measles had lifetime immunity. In developed nations, like other communicable infections, measles was no longer dangerous except in rare circumstances because of inadequate nutrition, poor sanitation, and / or lack of healthcare.”

Brian Hooker

It is scary that Hooker makes statements like this, considering that he is an Associate Professor of Biology at Simpson University in Redding, California, where he specializes in chemistry and biology coursework.

When measles was killing kids in the 1950s in the United States, we had good nutrition, sanitation, and access to healthcare.

What was missing?

A measles vaccine!

“Because having the measles was a routine part of childhood, teens, adults, parents, and grandparents were immune. And because of maternal passive immunity, infants were protected.”

Brian Hooker

Yes, measles was once considered a rite of passage, but only because it had to be endured, as there was no way to avoid it. And you had to get sick and survive having measles to earn your lifetime immunity.

Tragically, not everyone did.

“But in fact, if the mothers of the children had wild measles when they were children and they are nursing, the babies may be protected. If the mothers were vaccinated, even if they are nursing, they may not be. Additionally, maternal antibodies transported across the placenta can provide vital immunity against measles for infants.”

Brian Hooker

While it is true that passive immunity from a mother who had a natural infection likely lasts longer than one who had vaccine induced immunity, it isn’t that much longer. At 6 months, few infants still have antibodies against measles, whether their mothers were vaccinated or had naturally acquired immunity. And it has nothing to do with nursing.

“As the editor of the journal Vaccine Dr. Gregory Poland of The Mayo Clinic stated in 1994, “…as measles immunization rates rise to high levels in a population, measles becomes a disease of immunized persons.”

Brian Hooker

Quoting Gregory Poland didn’t go so well for Toni Bark when she tried it at a Minnesota Senate hearing.

“But he also said that sometimes people who oppose the vaccines will pick out one sentence in the scientific study and extrapolate it to mean things that it does not mean… He said that measles is the most contagious disease that we know, and yet we found that fear and ignorance is more so.”

Senator Carla Nelson on The Anti-vaxxers Might Wish that What was Lost had not been Found

It makes you wonder why these folks are still quoting Poland.

“It was reported in the news and provided to legislators that in Clark County, WA there is a 22% exemption rate, but this is based on the voluntary Immunization Information Survey (IIS) which does not accurately reflect the vaccination status of all children enrolled in Washington schools. When compared to the more accurate CDC statistics for the state of Washington for MMR coverage among 19 to 35 month olds, it is 95.3% +/- 2.6%. The IIS erroneously reports this number at 81.8% and cannot be relied upon.”

Brian Hooker

These folks realize that the outbreaks aren’t occurring in the entire state of Washington, right? They are in very specific schools and communities where we do find very high levels of non-medical vaccine exemptions. These are the clusters of intentionally unvaccinated children experts have been warning about, the pockets of susceptibles.

“As I have already remarked, vaccination does not guarantee immunization and infectious diseases routinely break out in highly vaccinated communities. An example of this is pertussis outbreaks, which occur due to problems with the acellular pertussis portion of the DTaP and Tdap vaccine, creating asymptomatic carriers.”

Brian Hooker

Vaccination does not guarantee immunization?

I guess that is a way to say that vaccines aren’t 100% effective, but that is hardly an effective argument against getting vaccinated. Being intentionally unvaccinated often guarantees that you will get sick in an outbreak. Remember, even in outbreaks of pertussis and mumps, when waning immunity can be a concern, that attack rate is much higher in those who are unvaccinated.

“Over the past ten years in the U.S., there has been one reported death from the measles, and it is unclear based on the medical history of the patient whether and how measles played a role in their death. During the same time period (based on Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) reports), there have been 105 reported deaths associated with the MMR or MMRV vaccinations.”

Brian Hooker

There have actually been seven measles deaths in the United States in the past 10 years, although only one was verified by the CDC.

Still, if Hooker is going to push unverified vaccine deaths in VAERS, why wouldn’t he also look at the reports of deaths from measles in the CDC Wonder database? And the 9 additional SSPE deaths?

And to doubt that measles actually killed a woman who got caught up in the 2015 measles outbreaks in Washington? What’s wrong with the modern anti-vaccine movement?!?

“You must not only protect those who are susceptible to poor infection outcome, but protect those who are susceptible to poor vaccination outcome, and to consider the unintended consequences of a fully vaccinated population that does not have lifetime immunity.”

Brian Hooker

It is becoming ever more clear that we must protect ourselves from these folks who push anti-vaccine propaganda and scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

What does Hooker intend to do to “protect those who are susceptible to poor infection outcome?” How does he propose that everyone get lifetime immunity if they don’t get vaccinated?

“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

Anti-vaccine folks have already done such a good job scaring parents that too many of them are abusing vaccine exemptions. That’s why we are having more outbreaks, especially with the global rise in measles, and why states are having to tighten their vaccine laws.

More on Fact Checking Brian Hooker’s Statement to WA Legislators

Why Is RFK, Jr Pimping out the Kennedy Compound to Anti-Vaxxers?

Folks who know the history of the Kennedy family and vaccines are likely surprised that RFK, Jr is holding a contest for his own organization using a visit to the Kennedy compound as a prize.

The Children’s Health Defense is ironically named, as all it seems to do is scare folks away from vaccinating and protecting their kids, something the Kennedy family once championed.

Can someone ask his mom?

Does she plan to go and does she support his work?

Do other members of the Kennedy family?

Why Is RFK, Jr Pimping out the Kennedy Compound to Anti-Vaxxers?

Before we look at the work of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, let’s review what the Kennedy family has done to help get vaccine-preventable diseases under control.

“Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is also the anniversary of the announcement that a vaccine has been discovered to prevent paralytic polio. Today over 90 million Americans have been vaccinated with the Salk vaccine. Over 80 million remain unvaccinated. Almost 4,800,000 children have not been vaccinated, and the majority of these are under five years of age. I hope that the renewed drive this spring and summer to provide vaccination for all Americans, and particularly those who are young, will have the wholehearted support of every parent in America. I hope that they, knowing some of the long range suffering which comes from an attack of polio — with this miraculous drug I hope that everyone takes advantage of it.”

President John F. Kennedy News Conference 9, April 12, 1961

In 1962, John F. Kennedy signed the Vaccination Assistance Act (Section 317 of the Public Health Service Act). It started as a three year program to help get kids vaccinated against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, and has been continuously reauthorized ever since.

What else do we know about the Kennedy family and vaccines?

“Rose and maternal health and the health of her children were paramount for her as those children were growing up. She took great pride in getting them out into the countryside, getting them outside and walking through Brookline when they lived there, and getting them fresh air and getting them whatever medical needs they had. But she would say how fearful she was in the days before vaccines of how a child could pass away so quickly.”

Barbara Perry on The Life of Rose Kennedy

Why was she afraid if measles was so mild, as some folks still claim?

“Or take German Measles. We know German Measles during the first three months of pregnancy almost surely will deform the unborn child. Within the last few weeks, a new vaccine has been tested and preliminary results show it is 100% effective. It should be available within a year. Within our proposed clinics this new vaccine can be administered to children, immunizing them forever against a disease which can cause retardation in future generations. “

Eunice Kennedy Shriver speech before the Citizen’s Committee on Mental Retardation

Concerns about congenital rubella syndrome and German Measles (rubella) led many people to get vaccinated as soon as a vaccine was available.

Remember the rubella epidemic of 1964-65, when there were 12.5 million rubella virus infections, which “resulted in 11,250 therapeutic or spontaneous abortions, 2,100 neonatal deaths, and 20,000 infants born with congenital rubella syndrome?”

“It is most encouraging to learn that 28 million children have been vaccinated. This is a wonderful record. But in the great enthusiasm over the rubella program, attention has been removed from the effort to eradicate the common measles. As a result, the 22,231 reported common measles cases in 1968 have risen to 72,000 reported cases for 1971. All children between the ages of 1 and 12 should be immunized. You can help. Keep interest alive in both the common measles and German measles program.”

Speech by Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy March 1972

Maybe we simply need more folks like this advocating for vaccines today.

“Many of you perhaps may or may not know that old-fashioned measles can cause brain damage in children. Here in California as well as in other states, there are thousands of children who have not been vaccinated against this common childhood disease.”

Speech by Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy March 1972

How many people have Sargent Shriver’s Peace Corp volunteers help get vaccinated and protected around the world?

“We already have the ability to eradicate red measles, responsible for brain inflammation and mental retardation in one in a thousand cases affected by the disease. The measles vaccine and other vaccines are being administered in increasing numbers today, but we are still far from the kind of universal vaccination program that is necessary. Measles vaccines ought to be administered to every infant from nine months of age on.”

Sargent Shriver at the Special Convocation of George Peabody College (1965)

How many people are vaccinated and protected because of the work of the Kennedy family?

Senator Edward Kennedy’s bill would have helped get more adults vaccinated and protected if it had passed.

How many kids aren’t getting vaccinated because Robert F Kennedy, Jr is scaring their parents?

“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.”

Robert F. Kennedy

An environmental lawyer, you really have to wonder why he hasn’t championed climate change, instead of going after vaccines, which have been found to be safe, with few risks, and necessary.

More on Why Is RFK, Jr Pimping out the Kennedy Compound to Anti-Vaxxers?

Did the FDA Admit That the Government Is Recommending Untested, Unlicensed Vaccines for Pregnant Women?

Have you heard?

There is a new bombshell from anti-vaccine folks!

It turns out, they say, that the FDA has admitted that the government is recommending untested, unlicensed vaccines for pregnant women.

Is that true?

Did the FDA Admit That the Government Is Recommending Untested, Unlicensed Vaccines for Pregnant Women?

Of course not!

Their evidence?

A response to a Freedom of Information Act request for vaccines that don’t exist. That’s right, neither Tdap nor flu vaccines are currently FDA approved for use by pregnant women.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Tdap and flu vaccines aren’t recommended for use by pregnant women.

Wait, why the difference?

Why are pregnant women being given a vaccine that isn’t formally FDA approved for their use?

Well, vaccine manufacturers have to seek FDA approval for their products. The FDA doesn’t just up and approve new products or give them new indications. And none have ever sought approval in pregnancy.

But that doesn’t keep health experts from making off-label recommendations, such as getting a flu vaccine when you are pregnant.

“In prelicensure evaluations, the safety of administering a booster dose of Tdap to pregnant women was not studied. Because information on use of Tdap in pregnant women was lacking, both manufacturers of Tdap established pregnancy registries to collect information and pregnancy outcomes from pregnant women vaccinated with Tdap. Data on the safety of administering Tdap to pregnant women are now available.”

Updated Recommendations for Use of Tetanus Toxoid, Reduced Diphtheria Toxoid and Acellular Pertussis Vaccine (Tdap) in Pregnant Women and Persons Who Have or Anticipate Having Close Contact with an Infant Aged <12 Months — Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2011

As important as FDA approval is a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). In fact, even after a vaccine gets approved by the FDA, it still has to get a recommendation from the ACIP before it gets on the immunization schedule and is used routinely!

“Flu shots have been given to millions of pregnant women over many years with a good safety record. There is a large body of scientific studies that supports the safety of flu vaccine in pregnant women and their babies.”

Flu Vaccine Safety and Pregnancy

Getting a flu vaccine during pregnancy is a recommendation that has been evolving since 1983. It was known to be safe then, and we are even more confident that it is safe now.

A Tdap shot has been recommended since 2011, although it was first suggested in 2008 that pregnancy was not a contraindication for receiving Tdap.

How do we know these vaccines are safe during pregnancy?

The Vaccine Safety Datalink has published more than 14 studies “related to pregnancy and vaccination during pregnancy” and has used “data to study the health of children born to women who were vaccinated during pregnancy.”

Despite what Robert F. Kennedy, Jr and his ironically named Children’s Health Defense organization might think, Tdap and flu shots in pregnancy have been well studied and have been found to be safe.

Ignoring all of the above studies, Kennedy highlights a few that he thinks found problems with flu shots in pregnancy, including one that showed “a suggestion of increased ASD risk among children whose mothers received an influenza vaccination in their first trimester,” a suggestion that was not statistically significant and which was not found in the other trimesters. And another that found an increased risk of spontaneous abortion in women who had also received a flu shot in the previous season, a safety signal that has never been seen before and which continues to be investigated.

Not surprisingly, his latest bombshell is landing with as big of a thud as his HHS lawsuit, as have most of his statements these days…

“CHD’s Chairman Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. notes that most flu shots given to pregnant women still contain a mercury-based preservative thimerosal.”

FDA Admits That Government Is Recommending Untested, Unlicensed Vaccines for Pregnant Women

Has Kennedy missed the fact that 80% of flu vaccines are now thimerosal free? It makes you wonder how he defines the word “most?”

“Thimerosal is acknowledged by Proposition 65 in California as a reproductive toxicant and exposure during pregnancy can cause learning and behavioral problems. Tdap contains aluminum, which FDA regulates as a toxin in parenteral nutrition but not in vaccines.”

FDA Admits That Government Is Recommending Untested, Unlicensed Vaccines for Pregnant Women

And what is he concerned about in thimerosal-free flu shots which also don’t contain aluminum? Are those okay in his book?

Mostly, after several flu seasons in which so many people have died, you have to wonder what his goal is here. Does Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. expect folks to skip getting a flu shot when they are pregnant and instead risk getting the flu? Should they skip their Tdap shot and risk their baby dying of whooping cough?

Or should they just stop listening to this type of anti-vaccine propaganda?

More on Did The FDA Admit That The Government Is Recommending Untested, Unlicensed Vaccines For Pregnant Women?

Why Would Vaccines Be Designed to Kill People?

If you are playing devil’s advocate with anti-vaccine folks, trying to figure out how they think, it isn’t a terrible question.

Remember, many anti-vaccine folks think that vaccines never work and that they always cause injuries – to everyone that gets them.

Why Would Vaccines Be Designed to Kill People?

We can start with Larry Cook‘s “answer,” which was in the form of another question:

“Why do doctors and medical examiners deny vaccine injury and death?”

Larry Cook

Wait, do doctors and medical examiners deny vaccine injury and death?

Uh, no they don’t.

They are often skeptical that each and everything that happens after someone gets a vaccine, even if it is months or years later, is a vaccine injury though. But we do know that although rare, vaccine injuries are real and can sometimes be life-threatening.

But why would vaccines actually be designed to kill people?

Makes sense, right?

  1. Make vaccines that kill people.
  2. ?
  3. Profit.

Actually, it doesn’t make any sense, does it?

Vaccine-preventable diseases kill people. In the pre-vaccine era, they killed a lot more people.

If you want to control the population or make life-long customers, why not just let them get smallpox, measles, chicken pox, hepatitis B, and HPV?

“Results revealed a significant negative relationship between anti-vaccine conspiracy beliefs and vaccination intentions. This effect was mediated by the perceived dangers of vaccines, and feelings of powerlessness, disillusionment and mistrust in authorities.”

Jolley et al on The Effects of Anti-Vaccine Conspiracy Theories on Vaccination Intentions

And if you wanted to do that, you could just push a lot of conspiracy theories about vaccines to scare folks away from getting vaccinated…

So, could bacteria and viruses be controlling the minds of these disease-friendly, influential anti-vaccine folks, helping to make sure people are intentionally unvaccinated, so that they can spread among us more easily?

Since I’m too skeptical to go down that rabbit hole, it is probably a safer bet to think that most are just doing it to sell supplements in their stores, get commissions from pushing online seminars, and ads from folks visiting their sites.

“Conspiracy beliefs are therefore associated with common motivations that drive intergroup conflict. Two social motivations in particular are relevant for conspiracy thinking. The first motivation is to uphold a strong ingroup identity, which increases perceivers’ sense‐making motivation when they believe their group is under threat by outside forces. That is, people worry about possible conspiracies only when they feel strongly connected with, and hence care about, the prospective victims of these conspiracies. The second social motivation is to protect against a coalition or outgroup suspected to be hostile”

van Prooijen et al on Belief in conspiracy theories: Basic principles of an emerging research domain

Will any of this help anti-vaccine folks see that these anti-vaccine conspiracy theories aren’t true?

Unfortunately, it probably won’t.

Like vaccine-injury stories, conspiracy theories are one of the things that hold up, and hold together, the modern anti-vaccine movement.

More on Why Would Vaccines Be Designed to Kill People?