Skepticism about science and medicine

In search of disinterested science

All vaccines are not the same; some are worse than useless

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2015/07/02

I am not among those who question the value of all vaccines on principle. I don’t doubt the value of vaccines in controlling smallpox, measles, polio. I do question the use of adjuvants and preservatives in vaccines, and I do think it makes sense to vaccinate babies against measles and the rest in single shots administered over a period of time instead of all at once in multiple vaccines.

But it gets difficult not to over-react as Big Pharma concentrates on generating vaccines that do more harm than any good that has ever been proven.

It seems that Big Pharma has been running out of new diseases to invent (see Moynihan & Cassels, Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients and other works listed in “What’s Wrong with Present-Day Medicine”) and has been turning increasingly to inventing vaccines supposed to guard against old or new infections.

The expected but not forthcoming “swine flu” epidemic led to rapid invention and marketing of a vaccine that turned out to have nasty “side” effects, for example, “How a swine flu shot led to narcolepsy”.

Gardasil and Cervarix, anti-HPV vaccines claimed to prevent cervical cancer, are a scandalous illustration; see for example “Merck Dr. Exposes Gardasil as Ineffective, Deadly, Very Profitable”  and related links. The only suggestion that HPV causes cervical cancer — or rather, that 4 out of four or five times that number of strains of HPV cause cervical cancer — comes from a correlation: those strains have often been found in women who have cervical cancer.

But correlations never, never, never prove causation, no matter that too many medical “experts” ignore this well established, long established fact.

I’ve become all too cynical about Big Pharma, lack of regulation, conflicts of interest, and the like. Yet I was taken aback to find that the National Institutes of Health profit from royalties from sales of Gardasil, and that there are exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act that enable them to hide that fact and the amounts involved.


7 Responses to “All vaccines are not the same; some are worse than useless”

  1. Vortex said

    Many (if not actually most) people appear to have a sad – and sometimes dangerous – tendency to perceive the world as pairs of black-and-white, mutually exclusive dichotomies. This is especially obvious in the area of medical controversies, where one can watch an ongoing warfare between two social movements, the adherents of pro-corporate scientism (such as CSICOP or Quackwatch) and the followers of anti-corporate “natural health-ism” (Natural News is the prime example). Despite the diametrically opposite views of these communities, there is some traits they have in common – the sense of complete self-righteousness, demonstrative intolerance to other stances, tendency to demonize and dehumanize opposition, habit of vocalizing categorical and simplistic proclamations.

    The vaccine debate is an easy example of the extreme polarisation of views in medical debate. Pro-corporate “skeptics” automatically interpret anything produced by mainstream science and technology as benign and uncritically believe mainstream pronouncements. So, they always praise all vaccines and denounce each and every critic of them for “promoting anti-science”. Oppositely, anti-corporate “natural health practitioners” are automatically suspicious of mainstream medical products and uncritically mistrustful of mainstream positions. Because of it, some of them accept the literal “anti-vaxxer” position – they reject all vaccines as “unnatural” and dangerous.

    Such polarisation is a highly unfortunate state of affairs, since it precludes a constructive dialogue between different groups. As for now, we rather have two parallel monologues of two antagonistic movements, with each movement evaluating itself as a saviour of the world and the opposite one as a destroyer of it.

    I, personally, honestly try to base my positions on the evidence I have learned by the moment – and I always trying to learn more, and from the different sides of any conflict. Concerning vaccines, my position is that, in general, they are a very useful and important medical invention that helped many people and provided many communities with a safeguard against epidemics. But some vaccines, including some Merck vaccines, are dangerous; some are probably deadly dangerous. Providing people with safe vaccines should coexist with critical testing and rejecting unsafe ones – and with allowing people, be they academicians, medical practitioners (both “traditional” and “alternative”) or just laypersons, present evidence and argumentation for or against particular vaccines.

    And, I think, everyone, from professionals to ordinary people, should be allowed to make their own mind concerning vaccines and – most importantly – make their own decisions whether to use this or that vaccine or not, without coercion. This position of mine, to be precise, is not scientific, but ethical – I may call myself a libertarian. Ethics are not science, for sure, but I maintain that it is also critically important in a debate which directly affect both well-being and freedom of many people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Henry Bauer said


      I agree entirely, very well put. And it also ties in with my previous post, so few people go by actual evidence.
      I was shocked that NIH gets royalties from Gardasil. I was further shocked to learn that the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) say they receive no money from commercial sources, and yet they do.
      Some time ago I saw at my pharmacy a leaflet from Merck about shingles vaccine, saying that 1 in 3 people will get shingles during their lifetime. I have known very few people who did, so that seemed exaggerated. I asked Merck where the number comes from. After a week or two, they replied: It’s on the CDC website.


  2. Ted said

    The CDC has a conflict of interests in that it both encourages vaccination and is in charge of monitoring vaccine safety. The fox is in charge of the chicken coop:


  3. anonymous said

    Most people believe that the whole gardasil issue is all made up by tinfoil-hatters on the internet. Normal people who believe in Government supervision do not want to beleive that somebody may screw up, even under saintly politicians watch.
    It may be evil intention, or just incompetence, but most living humans are so fearful that there may be something wrong about “public health” that they choose to become hysterical. And journalists often act as a catalyst for that hysteria, as they become crusaders of the faith of “scientific perfection”.
    It is a very sad state of affairs.


  4. I was referred to this rather interesting claim: Gardasil reduces cases of genital warts, apparently:

    Good if true, but I’m suspicious.


    • Henry Bauer said

      Karim D. Ghantous:
      It’s ALWAYS appropriate to treat new claims with suspicion: recall the Ioannidis paper about most research results being wrong (PLoS August 2005, e124; open access); and other Ioannidis papers.
      As to Gardasil, it has very serious “side” efefcts. There is ZERO evidence that it prevents cervical cancer; there is only a correlation between 2 (out of ~18!) strains of HPV, which at the usual criterion of p < 5% makes the correlation quite likely spurious.
      Genital warts are not proven precursors of cancer.


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