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Recently, I’ve seen a presentation by a pediatrician named Dr. Liz Mumper being promoted by antivaxxer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and his antivaccine organization Children’s Health Defense entitled “How will we know that a COVID vaccine is safe?” It’s a great example of antivaccine propaganda disguised as “concerns” that are portrayed as seemingly reasonable but fall apart upon closer inspection. Before I get to that closer inspection of the video itself, however, let me explain how Dr. Mumper’s video is a perfect teaching tool to help identify antivaccine propaganda, particularly in the way that it basically answers the question with antivaccine talking points and an impossible standard.

“Antivax”: I know it when I see it

Whenever I’m asked what I mean when I refer to someone as “antivaccine”, “antivax”, or an “antivaxxer”, I tend to use two responses. The first is that I’ll often joke that being antivaccine is a lot like pornography. I know it when I see it. Basically, I’m channeling US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous quip about hard-core pornography in Jacobellis v. Ohio. And it’s true. I do know antivaccine rhetoric when I see it without mentally having to check off a bunch of boxes in a list of criteria for what constitutes antivaccine conspiracy mongering and pseudoscience. However, that’s often very unsatisfying to those who haven’t followed the antivaccine movement for a long time. That’s where I like to use another test.

When I encounter someone whom I suspect of being antivaccine (especially if they deny being antivax and claim to be promoting vaccine safety), I like to ask a simple question. My line of questioning usually goes something like this: “You say you’re not ‘antivaccine,’ and I’ll accept that for the moment. Presumably, though, your not being ‘antivaccine’ means that you accept that there actually do exist vaccines that are sufficiently safe and effective for you to take yourself or for you to recommend in general to children (in the case of childhood vaccines) or adults. So tell me: Which vaccines do you consider sufficiently safe and effective to recommend in general?”

On rare occasions, the person suspected of being antivaccine will list off a vaccine or two, but only on rare occasions. When that happens, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person is not antivaccine, but it’s a start. Some people, for instance, are afraid of only one or two vaccines (such as the COVID-19 vaccine). They might just be vaccine hesitant, rather than antivaccine, and then just hesitant about a small subset of vaccines at that. They can potentially be reasoned with, unless their fear of that one vaccine or handful of vaccines is too rooted in conspiracy theory.

More frequently, the answer to the question will either be crickets or a skillful dance around the question, in which conspiracies about big pharma will be referenced or a vaccine or two will be mentioned, but with so many caveats that the “endorsement” of that vaccine is functionally not an endorsement at all. Alternatively, the response will involve placing so many conditions, often impossible conditions, upon the endorsement of a vaccine or vaccines as to make it clear that there’s no way that person would ever recommend any vaccine. Sometimes the response is of the form, “I’m not ‘antivaccine,’ but current vaccines are completely unacceptable and unsafe”. I’ll quote an example from our old pal, scientist-turned-antivaccine-crank James Lyons-Weiler, in which he stated:

Mind you, I am not anti-vaccine. Ask any hard-core anti-vaxxer who has debated the issues with me. They get frustrated at my eternal hope that vaccines might be made safer. Or that biomarkers might be found to screen for those most at risk at serious adverse events. I do have issues with denial of informed consent, and in the bias that exists both in the conduct of “science” on vaccine science, in the interpretation of the “science” on vaccine safety, and the absolute bias in the media against any reasonable discussion of whether any vaccine is responsible for any adverse event.

Notice how Lyons-Weiler tried to distinguish himself from “hard-core antivaxxers” and then launched into unreasonable reasons that he considers vaccines unsafe, including the persecution complex so beloved of antivaxxers that you “can’t discuss” whether a given vaccine causes an adverse event. (Funny, The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization practices, a.k.a. ACIP, would beg to differ, as would the FDA, which routinely asks exactly that question during the approval process of every vaccine and medicine. It’s making claims for adverse events caused by vaccines that are unsupported by the evidence and spreading conspiracy theories that generally garner the unfavorable reactions that Lyons-Weiler is complaining about, not doing science-based analyses about specific adverse events and specific vaccines.)

Then Lyons-Weiler, as antivaxxers nearly always do, gave the game away:

Let me state this as clearly as possible: as currently formulated, vaccines are filthy, nasty vials of toxic sludge that every American citizen and parent should be able to refuse for any reason. Doctors are not qualified to and should not be put in the position to “vet” whether any individuals’ claim to a religious exemption is “valid”; they certainly are not trained on comparative theology in medical school, and they cannot know the hearts and minds of individuals who do not want to collaborate with the past evils of abortion by injecting products made with and containing proteins and DNA from aborted fetal cells and tumor cell lines. I defend religious exemptions, and I am an evolutionary biologist!

So Lyons-Weiler also stated that vaccines are “filthy, nasty vials of toxic sludge”. That sounds rather…antivaccine, doesn’t it? Or is it just me? You get the idea. Simple, innocent probing questions directed at a suspected antivaxxer proclaiming that he’s “not antivaccine” will almost always reveal the truth. Dr. Mumper’s article is much like this, as I will show.

“I’m not antivaccine, but COVID-19 vaccines can never be safe”

Now let’s get into Dr. Mumper’s article, “How Will We Know That a COVID-19 Vaccine is Safe?” The video, sadly, is still on YouTube:

I thought YouTube and Google were cracking down on antivaccine disinformation. How is it that Children’s Health Defense still has a YouTube channel and can still post videos like this? In any case, you don’t have to watch it. Helpfully, there is a transcript, for those of you so inclined, and the PowerPoint presentation is in a PDF file. Also, RFK Jr. gives the game away with this introduction:

Dr. Mumper carefully provides detailed answers to two questions often asked by the public: “What does a safe and effective vaccine look like?” and “How will we know that a COVID-19 vaccine is safe?” She reviews many of the reasons why vaccines, as they are currently produced, are not safe, and explains that every year there are tens of thousands of adverse events, many of them resulting in serious conditions or even death.

Even if Dr. Mumper’s panoply of antivaccine disinformation were actually good science (which, obviously, it isn’t), I can’t help but point out that over a half a million are dead of COVID-19 in just over a year in just the US alone, with millions sickened and untold numbers of survivors suffering complications of the disease. Of course, Dr. Mumper is a longtime antivaccine activist. She’s the President and CEO of The Rimland Center and a Scientific Advisory Committee Member for RFK Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense. Longtimers might remember that Bernard Rimland formed the Autism Research Institute in 1967 and became the inspiration for Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!) doctors, who all advocated “autism biomed” treatments for autism, the vast majority of which were quackery and much of which was based on the false idea that vaccines cause autism. Dr. Mumper has also been featured on SBM before, albeit a long time ago, when she promoted a plan that (she claimed) prevented nearly all autism in children. Unsurprisingly, lack of vaccines was a prominent feature.

As for the presentation itself, Mumper begins by citing how many people are reluctant to accept COVID-19 vaccines, pointing to “lockdowns” (they aren’t really that; they’re barely restrictions in many cases) as overreactions, and then blaming fear for the rush to a COVID-19 vaccine:

But why would we put all of our eggs in one basket? Why would we assume that a vaccine developed at Warp Speed is the only way to save ourselves? A public health crisis that’s unfolding with global implications should bring forth collaborative strategies to pull our collective wisdom. Now, the amygdala is a part of our brain that is ruled by fear and emotion, it’s considered the reptilian part of the brain, this very primitive response. So instant access to bad news 24/7 can have the effect of making us live in fear.

Neuroscience long ago has shown that when we are fearful, our ability to make rational decisions is compromised. We have trouble processing nuanced information. We are more likely to follow others blindly than to assess the data and make decisions for ourselves and our families. So the hijacking of the amygdala by fear, obviously a hand coming out of the grave or the scary clown face are images that would disturb most people. However, now, if we’re living in fear, the other images like the hand being presented for a handshake or the cute guy’s smile might seem threatening to some people because they’re worried about the contagion of COVID.

And here are the slides accompanying this part of the talk:

Got that? The reason we’re rushing ahead with vaccinating as many people as possible can’t possibly be because millions are being sickened by SARS-CoV-2 and hundreds of thousands have died in just a year. It has to be fear. (Heck, Dr. Mumper even included a photo of a zombie hand pushing through the dirt of a grave!) Of course, sometimes, fear is not an entirely irrational response to danger, and COVID-19 represents danger. In any event, one might perceive that we’re “putting all our eggs in one basket”, but if that’s the case it’s more because of a failure to use other methods to stop the spread of the virus.

Next up:
"Vaccines didn't save us"

Yes, this is the ever-popular antivaccine gambit that I like to refer to as “vaccines didn’t save us”. It’s a highly intellectually dishonest antivaccine trope in which antivaxxers point to the declining mortality rate from vaccine-preventable diseases before the vaccines were introduced as evidence that “vaccines didn’t save us”. We’ve done detailed rebuttals before (for example here), and Steve Novella rebutted this very same trope when he debated Dr. Julian Whitaker (with Leslie Manookian as moderator!) at FreedomFest in Las Vegas in 2012. You know, thinking of that incident, I can’t resist posting this photo again:
Whitaker attacks Gorski

Memories. Earning the ire of a quack like Dr. Whitaker always brings back happy memories. But let’s continue. I’m not going to go into the weeds of every antivaccine trope in Dr. Mumper’s presentation because we at SBM have refuted them all before. (I’ll provide links where appropriate.) I’m more interested in what someone like Dr. Mumper thinks would be an acceptably safe vaccine.

An antivaxxer’s vision of what a “perfect” vaccine would look like

So let’s get into the list of Dr. Mumper’s criteria for a vaccine that’s acceptably safe and effective as applied to COVID-19. Before I get into them, I can’t help but point out that not only do the current candidate COVID-19 vaccines meet many of these criteria, but that close to all vaccines do, other than a couple of ringers. For example, here’s the Criterion #1, which does not start her argument well:

The vaccine would be tested against a true placebo, inert saline, which is salt water. So unlike drugs, which have to be tested against a true placebo, vaccines fall under the category of biologics and are not tested against a true saline placebo. As an example, Merck’s HPV vaccine was tested against an aluminum adjuvant that can trigger auto-immunity. This clinical impact of this is actually very significant since aluminum is a known neurotoxin and a known trigger for auto-immunity, having aluminum in the new vaccine and in the placebo would wash out the differences in auto-immune or neurologic disease between the two groups. The one that got the vaccine and the one that got the aluminum placebo.

The “no true placebo” trope is an antivaccine lie that can be very easily refuted by simply searching PubMed for “vaccine clinical trial placebo”, which brings up thousands of references. Dr. Vincent Iannelli has written several articles about vaccines being tested against saline controls and loves to list examples of double-blind saline placebo-controlled clinical trials of vaccines. Personally, I like pointing out how the claim by antivaxxers that the MMR was never tested against a saline placebo is utter hogwash. I also like pointing out that this requirement by antivaxxers is red herring dependent on an utter lack of understanding of clinical trial design, as sometimes the best placebo control is not something completely inert, like saline, nor is the use of solutions that contain everything but the vaccine antigen as a placebo control somehow unethical or scientifically unsound.

I’ll jump to Criterion #4:

Number four, vaccines should be free of mercury, aluminum and nano-metals. At Children’s Health Defense, we have over 240 studies showing that mercury is not safe. Due to safety concerns, the public health service did remove mercury for most vaccines starting in 1999 and most were phased out by 2003, 2004 but mercury is still present in many flu vaccines. Aluminum is a known neurotoxin, which is used as an adjuvant to induce immune responses in lots of vaccines.

Of course, there has been no more than trace mercury in childhood vaccines for nearly 20 years now, and since then aluminum has become the new mercury to antivaxxers, with repeated attempts using bad science by them to demonstrate that aluminum adjuvants are unsafe. They aren’t. Basically, aluminum is the new mercury to antivaxxers, and you know what’s funny? Neither the Pfizer/BioNTech nor the Moderna vaccines currently being used contain either of them.

Now, Criterion #7 (yes, I’m jumping around to the criteria that don’t even apply to COVID-19 vaccines before I get to the ones that might):

Number seven, vaccines should be free of human DNA and aborted human fetal tissue. So there’s a human fetal cell line dating back to the 1960s that’s been used in vaccines for many years. An Italian study identified the presence of a complete abnormal human genome of a male fetus in the MMRV vaccine, which is measles, mumps, rubella combined with chicken pox, a vaccine I have never used because of such concerns. And I invite you to go to the Children’s Health Defense website and check out the paper.

That Italian study is so risibly bad as to evoke nothing but laughter and disgust from me. As for the rest, even that most anti-abortion of religions, the Roman Catholic Church, has stated that vaccines used from cell lines derived from aborted fetuses in the 1960s is acceptable, albeit not ideal, because the “evil” (in its view) is so remote from the cell lines as they exist now that the “extreme good” of vaccination outweighs it. Also, current COVID-19 vaccines are not manufactured using these cell lines, which are used for other vaccines for which virus stock needs to be grown in order to make them, although some research that led to their development did use such cells. Also, the Roman Catholic Church said that it’s acceptable to use these COVID-19 vaccines. I’ll finish by mentioning that vaccines using these cell lines have saved millions of lives and prevented billions of cases of sickness.

Now let’s backtrack and cover the rest. I’m going to save Criterion #2 for last because it’s a claim that antivaxxers have long made for all vaccines. Let’s start by taking on Criterion #3 instead:

Number three, experimental mRNA and DNA gene technologies should undergo years of testing before being used on consumers, mRNA vaccines have actually been used to target specific types of cancer. And if that works well for that patient, that’s fantastic. But the initial studies on COVID mRNA vaccines were done on extremely healthy patients. And since the vaccine is currently being prioritized for the most vulnerable, including the elderly, it’s crucial to assess safety for those in various states of health. And this theoretically is happening as the trials progress to phase three. mRNA vaccines have an intrinsic inflammatory effect, which could lead to auto-immune events.

Both Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech are using mRNA technology in their vaccines. And these techniques have not been used and approved in the context of widespread use as is being contemplated now. In 1990, the first report of a successful use of In Vitro transcribed mRNA in animals was published. At that time, concerns were raised about the inherent instability of mRNA and the high innate immunogenicity of mRNA vaccines which can be a double-edged sword.

There’s been a lot of progress since then but mRNA that comes from outside a person is inherently immunostimulatory because your body recognizes that is foreign. Another concern that I have is that, in order for mRNA vaccines to penetrate into the cell membrane, they have to essentially penetrate by lipid layer, the two layers of fat that surround all our cell membranes. And this can be done through electrical measures or by using carrier proteins. And my question is, do we really wanna poke holes in our cell membrane?

It is true that mRNA can be immunostimulatory, but that’s actually a problem for mRNA-based vaccine design more than a concern about the vaccine because that immune stimulation could result in an mRNA vaccine being less effective. Moreover, naked mRNA is very unstable in aqueous solution and rapidly broken down if it’s left out in the extracellular fluid. Of course, the mRNA is encapsulated in lipid nanoparticles and thus largely shielded from the immune system, but Pfizer and Moderna have also made modifications to the mRNA to make it less unstable and decrease the immunogenicity of the raw mRNA. Moreover, the autoimmune condition stimulated by mRNA was observed only in mice and could be prevented with a simple modification to the mRNA.

As for the development of mRNA vaccines, Dr. Mumper tries to make it sound as though this is some sort of radical new technology, even as she cites an animal study from 1990 using mRNA to make a protein product in animals. The bottom line is that mRNA vaccines have been under development for at least a couple of decades, and it was serendipity that the technology was ready for prime time at around about the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit and got out of control. I’ve seen a number of scientists saying that if the pandemic had hit five years ago, the technology would not have been ready. In any event, this technology is not gene therapy, nor will it reprogram your DNA. It’s actually a highly useful way to be able to make and update a vaccine very rapidly, with many advantages, including high potency, capacity for rapid development, and potential for low-cost manufacture. Indeed, as new SARS-CoV-2 variants that might be less susceptible to the vaccine proliferate, the ability to update COVID-19 vaccines by simply packaging the mRNA for the new variants in the lipid nanoparticles will become paramount.

Let’s move on to Criterion #5:

Number five, vaccines should be free of adjuvants that are proven to be dangerous. This includes, but it’s not limited to squalene, aluminum and polyethylene glycol. So an adjuvant is a substance that’s deliberately added to a vaccine in order to stimulate the immune system to make a strong immune response. So squalene is one of many adjuvants that are used and it was found to be harmful in certain people by inducing, for example, auto-immune conditions or narcolepsy which is falling asleep suddenly literally while you’re on your feet sometimes. Polyethylene glycol is another adjuvant that can trigger serious auto-immune responses and anaphylaxis in certain individuals.

There is indeed PEG in the lipid nanoparticles of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines. PEG is a very commonly used ingredient in a number of applications, including, for example, toothpaste, ice cream, and osmotic laxatives of the type used for colon prep for colonoscopy. It’s also been used in a variety of medications. Since I’m a cancer doctor, I’ll point to liposomal doxorubicin, which has a PEG layer around a doxorubicin-containing liposome and has been used for a quarter of a century with fewer side effects than doxorubicin. It has a long safety record. In fact, serious allergic reactions to PEG are quite rare. Indeed, a recent study found that anaphylactic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines containing PEG are rare, 4.7 cases/million doses for the Pfizer vaccine and 2.5 cases/million doses for the Moderna vaccine, well within the range seen for other vaccines and very uncommon, with no deaths reported. As for squalene, none of the currently used vaccines under emergency use approval (EUA) contains squalene. There are five candidate vaccines that do (GlaxoSmithKline, Clover Biopharmaceuticals, Seqirus/University of Queensland/CSL, Medicago Inc. and Farmacologós veterinarios SAC/Universidad Peruana Cayetana Heredia). Thus far, none of these have received an EUA from the US. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine did just receive an EUA, but the GSK vaccine has not. Indeed, a reformulated version of the GSK vaccine is still in clinical trials and is not expected to be widely deployed until late this year at the earliest. In actuality, the reason not to be excited about squalene-containing COVID-19 vaccines is not because squalene is dangerous, but rather because its main source is still sharks and a massive need for squalene could endanger shark populations.

Next up, Criterion #6:

Number six, the vaccine should be free of avian, bovine, porcine, monkey and mouse viruses. So essentially many vaccines are produced in animal serums and can be contaminated with retrovirus. One such virus is known as simian virus 40 which has been shown to be associated with cancer. So in the new millennia, we have better methods for producing vaccines. And again, we need to keep safety foremost in our minds. It’s notable that SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 is an animal virus that allegedly originated in bats.

Here we go again. This is yet another old antivaccine trope repurposed for COVID-19 vaccines, namely that SV40 contaminating the polio vaccine has resulted in an epidemic of cancer. It hasn’t. More importantly, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are entirely synthetic. The mRNA is synthesized, as are the lipid nanoparticles. There are no viruses and no cells in which there could be viral contamination. That bit about SARS-CoV-2 having originated in bats is, of course, a speculative distraction.

Criterion #8 is straight out of QAnon:

Number eight, vaccine should be free of bio chips and nano-technology agents. So it’s important to know that bio-chips and nano-technology agents can be introduced into the body through vaccines. This would allow communication between a person’s biology physiology or psychology and outside technology. This is a new frontier but you need to know that it is being examined by tech companies as well as by the defense advanced research projects agency. I’m not saying this will be done with COVID vaccines as Yogi Berra said, it’s tough to make predictions especially about the future, but we need to have our eyes wide open so that those of us who have backgrounds in history and sociology and theology and the humanities and medicine can temper the momentum of big tech as these options are explored.

None of the current COVID-19 vaccines in use or nearing use contain biochips or nanotechnology. Here, Dr. Mumper is just delving into the deeper realms of antivaccine conspiracy theories. I will give her credit for not mentioning Bill Gates in her talk, although she did on slide #32, where she mentioned “hydrogel” as well. This nonsense has been discussed before; so I’ll move on, except to chuckle at how Dr. Mumper includes a slide that claims that these chips are unlikely to be listed as ingredients and that “independent” testing would be needed to verify that COVID-19 vaccines don’t have them.

Criterion #9 is not entirely unreasonable but it is also exaggerated:

Number nine, the liability protection provided to vaccine makers actually creates a perverse incentive to rush the vaccine and potentially downplay safety concerns. So at Children’s Health Defense, we argue that vaccine makers need to bear responsibility and financial liability for ensuring that their products are safe. Again, many people are not aware that vaccine injuries and deaths do occur. And again, that the consumers of vaccines paid over $4.4 billion to compensate the vaccine injured.

This is the usual trope about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). When taken in context in the over 30 years that the program has existed, the payouts have not been that particularly large. It is true that vaccines that haven’t been approved by the FDA are not even subject to the NVICP but rather to the Countermeasures Injury Compensation program, which is a lot less generous, and that’s not an unreasonable concern. (Vaccine advocates want COVID-19 vaccines to be covered under NVICP.) It’s funny that Dr. Mumper didn’t even seem to understand this.

Finally, back to #7, showing that everything old about vaccines is new again for COVID-19 vaccines:

A safe vaccine would be tested long enough to track adverse events. And then post approval surveillance would be conducted to measure the long-term effects. So many vaccines are just monitored for side effects for two to five days or maybe a week. And auto-immune neurodevelopmental and chronic conditions would take much longer than that to manifest. As an example, Merck’s hepatitis B vaccine, which was given to one day old infants was only safety tested for five days.

So here’s my question. Newborn babies, mostly eat and sleep. So how effective can we be at assessing if they are experiencing side effects in such a short period of time? As somebody who has studied vaccines for many years and I’ve read every single vaccine insert of every single vaccine, I’m not as worried about the short-term effects, the redness, the swelling, all those signs that show that the body has recognized the shot as foreign and is reacting to it. I’m much more concerned about potential long-term effects on brain inflammation or auto-immunity, for example.

This is an oldie but not goody from antivaxxers, the claim that we don’t monitor vaccines for adverse events. Dr. Mumper even trots out the common antivax claim that less than 1% of adverse reactions ever get reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) database, which is, quite simply, not true and based on a single study. Also, VAERS is not the be-all and end-all of vaccine safety monitoring, as I’ve explained more times than I can remember. Moreover, it is simply not true that there aren’t any long-term term safety studies of vaccines, as Dr. Mumper claims. There are. As for the COVID-19 vaccines, there is an intense safety monitoring program that is unprecedented in its intensity to track potential adverse events.

To back up her claim that vaccines cause chronic health problems, Dr. Mumper even trots out RFK Jr.’s claim that the current generation of children is the “sickest generation” (because of mostly vaccines and a few other things), a claim that is, quite simply, not true and, even if it were, not because of vaccines. Of course, Dr. Mumper believes this and also believes that we can “boost our immune system” to deal with COVID-19 by using vitamins C and D, taking zinc, avoiding “pro-inflammatory foods”, and other things unlikely to make a difference.

As for her solutions:

So the six steps that we advocate; vaccines should be subjective [sic] to scientifically rigorous approval processes. We need to remove conflicts of interest so that those involved in the vaccine approval process are not going to directly or indirectly benefit from approving a vaccine. We need acknowledgement from both medical and public health authorities that vaccine injury exists and that they will take this seriously and take steps to investigate the causes of vaccine injuries.

Actually, we have all these things. Vaccines are subject to scientifically rigorous approval processes, and there is a very strict conflict of interest policy for members of the ACIP. The very existence of the NVICP is an admission that vaccine injury can happen. Antivaxxers just don’t like that it doesn’t “acknowledge” potential “injuries” from vaccines that are not backed up by scientific evidence showing that they occur. The unprecedented vaccine safety monitoring effort with the rollout of the new COVID-19 vaccines tells us that the government takes vaccine safety very seriously indeed.

Then:

We need systems that can actually measure the safety of vaccines and their adverse events after the vaccine is deployed. So the existing systems that we have, VAERS which is the vaccine adverse event reporting system and VSD, which is the vaccine safety data link, these need to be automated and updated. Government needs to support fully-informed consent. And this does involve potentially the individual right to refuse vaccination, obviously, a topic for much debate. We at Children’s Health Defense welcome civil debate among people who disagree. Number six, government-granted immunity for vaccine makers needs to be rescinded. We need to restore some liability for people who are profiting from vaccines. At Children’s Health Defense, we are working with like-minded organizations around the globe to push for these safety changes and for vaccine safety reform.

She forgot the other vaccine safety monitoring systems, and, I note, has failed to cite anything wrong with the VSD. As for “fully informed consent,” what antivaxxers mean by that is, in actuality, what I like to refer to as “misinformed refusal“, in which all the fantasy-inspired fake “adverse reactions” to vaccines are presented to people before they receive them as if they were supported by science. As for “liability”, vaccine manufacturers can be sued if Vaccine Court rules against the complainant, and they pay a tax on every vaccine to fund the court. These are all common antivaccine myths about the NVICP and the Vaccine Court. Indeed, it’s easier to prevail in Vaccine Court than in civil court, and the Vaccine Court even pays reasonable legal and court costs for the complainant, win or lose.

What have we learned today?

I started out this post by pointing out how people who claim they are “not antivaccine” can be identified as antivaccine. The reason I did that is because RFK Jr. is well known for not only proclaiming himself “not antivaccine” but “fiercely pro-vaccine” and stating that Children’s Health Defense is “not antivaccine”. Dr. Mumper herself uses a variant of the claim that she’s “not antivaccine” but rather a “vaccine safety advocate” when she says late in the presentation:

Many of us want a safer vaccination program for all vaccines and for all people. This is common to us, whether you identify as pro-vaccine or have concerns about safety of vaccines, which by the way does not make one an anti-vaxxer. We need to know that we’re developing the health of our children as best we can. So we could work together and make us safer vaccine program. Children’s Health Defense has been looking at this for years, and we have a lot of resources.

This is exactly the phenomenon I described at the beginning. An antivaxxer denies being “antivaccine” and proclaims herself as being “for safer vaccines”. Then, when I look at her requirements for a safe COVID-19 vaccine, I quickly find that she has constructed them such that they either (1) do not apply to COVID-19 vaccines; (2) have been met by COVID-19 vaccines (and, by the way, other vaccines); or (3) are either deceptive or impossible standards. Worse, while justifying her standards, Dr. Mumper regurgitates a number of common antivaccine tropes and lies. So what do we call a person and organization that proclaim themselves “not antivaccine” but basically creates impossible standards that have to be met before they will agree that a vaccine is safe and effective?

I think you know the word. Certainly, I know it when I see it.

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Posted by David Gorski

Dr. Gorski's full information can be found here, along with information for patients. David H. Gorski, MD, PhD, FACS is a surgical oncologist at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute specializing in breast cancer surgery, where he also serves as the American College of Surgeons Committee on Cancer Liaison Physician as well as an Associate Professor of Surgery and member of the faculty of the Graduate Program in Cancer Biology at Wayne State University. If you are a potential patient and found this page through a Google search, please check out Dr. Gorski's biographical information, disclaimers regarding his writings, and notice to patients here.