By Richard Moskowitz, M. D.
Before the current measles hysteria gets even further out of hand, a little common sense could help us think more carefully before rushing to take action that won't work and will actually do harm. Refusing unwanted medical treatment is a basic human right that all civilized nations have sworn to uphold, with the sole possible exception of a dire and imminent threat to the public health, which a few localized measles outbreaks, numbering no more than a few dozens or hundreds of cases, decidedly are not.
All of these outbreaks are typical of those that have occurred ever since the vaccine was introduced, and others just like them will undoubtedly continue to occur even if the drug industry's well-funded campaign succeeds in vaccinating everybody. Yet the Washington State Health Department has declared a public health emergency on the basis of them; several other states are considering doing the same; and the news media have enthusiastically joined in, with editorials and Op-Eds in the New York Times,1 the Boston Globe,2 and other major outlets, as well as talk shows on NPR and other radio stations, all well-meaning but repeating the same alarmist fears and exaggerations as if they were settled truths, and citing these modest outbreaks as ample justification for eliminating personal-belief exemptions from the states that still honor them. A clear violation of the First Amendment, the latest and most ominous example is Congressional pressure on Facebook and other social media to censor postings that dare raise doubts or questions about vaccines or their mandates.
On the other hand, these politicians and journalists have done nothing more than simply taking on faith the information that prominent doctors and public health authorities are telling them. Unfortunately, what they're being told is not only bad ethics, but also bad science, based on assumptions that are flatly contradicted by current research, and violate basic human rights and moral values that we still profess to hold dear.
1) already rapidly declining, thanks to improvements in sanitation, water quality, and other aspects of public health (pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus);11
2) ordinary diseases of childhood that most people contracted and recovered from without complications or sequelae (measles, mumps, rubella, flu, rotavirus, chickenpox);12
3) or caused by mutant strains of organisms that are part of our normal flora and only occasionally cause invasive disease (HiB, pneumococcus).13
Measles is indeed a perfect test case of the vaccination concept, as the most highly contagious of them all, with an attack rate approaching 100% in susceptible individuals; and the measles vaccine has in fact reduced the annual incidence of the disease in the United States from about 400,000 cases to less than 10,000, surely a historic achievement, no matter how it was done or why it was thought necessary. But inasmuch as these small, localized outbreaks are still occurring, and will undoubtedly continue do so in the future, no matter what we do, the CDC surely owes us a more convincing explanation than the impossible dream of "herd immunity" for why they don't simply declare victory and let it go at that.
So for all of these reasons, contrary to what we're being told, the science is far from being settled when it comes to vaccine effectiveness. Even that much would be enough to deflate the myth that vaccine mandates are necessary. But it's not the only reason, or even the most important one. Vaccine safety is even further from being settled, to put it mildly, and for very good reasons. In the first place, many studies have shown that children who come down with and recover from acute febrile infections like measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and influenza are much less likely to develop chronic autoimmune diseases and cancer later in life than those merely vaccinated against them.14
Still other studies link the risk of death, hospitalization, and other serious adverse reactions not so much to any particular vaccine or vaccines, but rather to the total number of vaccines given, both simultaneously at the same visit,19 and cumulatively over the patient's lifetime.20 In other words, these worst outcomes cannot be simply written off as idiosyncratic aberrations of certain hypersensitive individuals, but rather appear to be built into something about the nature of the vaccination process itself.
These findings are already more than sufficient to question if not discredit the almost universal reverence accorded to the concept of vaccination, not to mention the blank check that allows and even incentivizes the drug industry to develop, market, and ultimately mandate more and more vaccines, based on the assumption that vaccines are safe and effective across the board, that they save vast sums of money from not having to care for patients suffering with these diseases, and that it is therefore OK and even desirable to pile on as many doses of as many different vaccines as the traffic will bear, often for no better reason than that we have the technical capacity to make them.
It is the same assumption that allows and even blesses the drug industry to conduct its own safety studies without genuine placebo controls of unvaccinated individuals;15 that limits adverse effects to those appearing within a few hours or days of the shot,16 thus automatically excluding the chronic diseases from consideration; that gives the lead investigator unlimited authority to determine whether a reported adverse reaction is or is not vaccine-related, according to criteria that are never specified;17 and that allows the CDC to insist that vaccines are uniformly safe and effective without conducting independent studies of its own, even though Congress has legislated and the Supreme Court has upheld that they are "unavoidably unsafe," in order to shield the manufacturers from liability for the deaths and injuries they cause,18 a free ride granted to no other industry.
In short, these assumptions are not science, but merely scientism, a reverent, quasi-religious faith characterized by dogmatism in the name of science, which stifles the critical thinking, questioning, and doubting of allegedly settled truths that real science requires, and helps explain why the news media refrain from reporting deaths or injuries from vaccines without having to be told, and why most physicians offer up their own children for the same vaccinations they administer to their patients. The late Richard Feynman, Nobel Laureate in Physics, sums it up admirably:
[In science] we must leave room for doubt, or there is no progress and no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question, and a question requires doubt.
Before you begin an experiment, you must not know the answer, [or] there is no need to gather any evidence; and to judge the evidence, you must take all of it, not just the parts you like. That's a responsibility that scientists feel toward each other, a kind of morality.21
Which brings me to my final point, that if vaccination and vaccines were indeed safe and effective across the board, then the thousands upon thousands of parents who sincerely believe that their children were maimed or killed by them and must live with that existential reality every day of their lives must be either lying, ignorant, or stupid, and thus perhaps even deserve to have their stories ignored and dismissed out of hand by the medical community, the news media, and the public at large. Yet their suffering, whatever may have caused it, surely cries out at the very least for caution, restraint, and simple compassion for the viewpoint of those whose lived experience is so tragically different from that of everyone else privileged enough to be ignorant of or somehow unmoved by their loss.
As a family physician who has cared for many of these children over the years, I can say with complete assurance that the vast majority of their parents are by no means ignorant or credulous "anti-vaxxers" or hostile to science. Quite the contrary, in fact: they are often well-educated, have devoted their lives to unraveling the mystery about what really happened to their kids, and ask no more than that vaccines be made as safe as possible, based on careful investigation by independent scientists unaffiliated with the drug industry. After more than fifty years in the trenches, I can also attest that the instinctive, practical sense of caring parents is often a far more accurate and trustworthy guide to the truth about what caused the specific tragedies that they have had to endure than any preformed, generic pronouncement that pre-empts any need to consider the details of their actual, lived experience.
Finally, the widespread and indeed almost universal reverence accorded to vaccination, based on the catechism that vaccines are not only safe and effective, but also among the supreme achievements of modern medicine, has impelled me to write with a sense of urgency and foreboding at this critical moment in our history, when the time-honored rights of patients to refuse unwanted medical treatment and to make such decisions on behalf of their children are being challenged as never before. I will feel well rewarded if my words, my reasoning, and the commingled sadness, fear, and outrage I have long felt about this subject will promote a healthy debate and elicit more of the rigorous scientific work that still remains to be done.
Given the legitimate doubts and fears surrounding their use, the simplest and wisest solution would be to make the vaccines optional, that is, available to all those who want them, once fully apprised of their risks, so that exemptions will no longer be required. For if vaccines and vaccination are truly as safe and effective as the CDC and the industry have been insisting, it shouldn't be that difficult for them to convince the public to the extent of wanting to give them to their children, without needing mandates to impose them by force.
Until that happens, the most pressing issue before us is to preserve the frail remnant of personal liberty embodied in the few remaining exemptions that most citizens in our democracy have long been rightly proud of, and that the influential and well-funded drug industry has always been eager to take away. My fervent hope and heartfelt plea is that good common sense will prevail and the American people will be sufficiently aroused to not let that happen.