The Vaxxed bus is in Washington state and they took some time to interview the world’s only antivax immunologist, Tetyana Obukhanych. She is interviewed by Polly Tommy.
Skeptical Raptor has already published a nice post about Tetyana, so you can read it to learn about her background.
First, she discusses her qualifications and how she has a PhD. She only worked in research labs and has no experience in medical clinics. She claims to have done some research at Harvard but I am only aware of a post-doctoral lab assignment at Stanford University. She explains how she is a not a clinical immunologist, but is a research immunologist and used mice models to study the human immune system. She says vaccines were not mentioned in her studies except to talk briefly about Edward Jenner.
She claims that, at one point, she started seeing “things” that did not quite fit into theory. For example, she noticed mice could be immune activated but they would not develop immunity to a pathogen, which told her that immune response does not necessarily equal immunity. At that point, she started paying attention to vaccine research, comparing immune response to efficacy. She believes some vaccines are only studied for immunogenicity and not efficacy. When she went to get her green card, she looked closely at her own medical records. She recalls having measles as a child. She found out she had a MMR at age 1 and another one at age 5 but still got measles at age 12. This didn’t make sense to her. How could a person get measles after vaccination, she thought? She then realized she had been “indoctrinated” into believing vaccines work but they clearly do not. She started also looking into safety and efficacy studies for flu vaccine and research showing that flu vaccines do not work. She says she occasionally tried to bring this up with the senior research scientists but would routinely be told vaccines work and be quiet. She also told a strange story about a department at Stanford where psychologists are charged with talking to parents of children with autism about vaccines. Tetyana found this odd because psychologist don’t know much about vaccines, except Marcella Piper-Terry. (Tetyana claims Marcella is a psychologist). Tetyana then decided she should be the one to talk to parents about vaccines, as an immunologists. So, she started meeting with parenting groups and it grew into her writing her self-published book. Note: To my knowledge, Marcella, founder of vaxtruth dot org, an antivax website, is not a PhD in psychology. She currently travels the country with the Vaxxed bus and is listed, on her Linkedin page, as a “biomedical consultant.”
Next, Polly asked Tetyana what she thinks about inserts and ingredients. Her answer is that pharmacology is not the focus but the vaccine reactions and immune reactions. She believes vaccines cause long term health issues. She is also concerned with why we need to eradicate diseases, that we should look at childhood infections as have positive benefits. She claims that the life long immunity one gains from having childhood diseases is beneficial in many ways as certain viruses are associated with lower risk of certain cancers.
Her latest project is lecturing about how to keep children healthy without vaccines. She discusses a new website, called bbch dot community, that will be launching soon. Building Bridges in Children’s Health will help parents learn about vaccines and develop communication resources. The goal of the community is to educate about vaccine dangers, the benefits of childhood diseases, and how to manage if you are being bullied by a pediatrician or reported to CPS for your healthcare choices.
She also helps “educate doctors” so they can overcome their “indoctrination.” She does this at Physicians for Informed Consent. She and Polly fervently believe autism, allergies, epilepsy, asthma, SIDS and other issues are all caused by vaccines and doctors need to be “awake” to see this reality. She wants to see legislation passed at the state level so doctors will be free to practice medicine the way they see fit.
Polly asks Tetyana about the criticism that she, Tetyana, is not a vaccine expert. Her answer is that no one is a vaccine expert because no one is trained in vaccines. (I guess she has not met Dr Paul Offit or any other immunologist or epidemiologist who works with vaccines. Or a person with a public health degree who specializes in vaccines.) Tetyana’s theory is that people just don’t want to listen to her expertise. She also explains that she left academia because the focus was too much on sick people, not on the healthy immune system. She claims research grants all come from drug companies wanting to expand their markets.
Tetyana seems sincere, in this interview. She seems like she believes what she has read. What confounds me is why she has chosen to cherry pick studies that back her point of view (vaccines cause autism, etc) rather than look at the whole body of science. She also makes some outrageous and false claims, such as pharmaceutical companies stopped paying attention to vaccine safety in 1986, after the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (NCVIA )was passed. She says that because pharmaceutical companies have no liability any more, for injuries, they don’t need to make safe vaccines. Apparently, she is completely unaware that you can sue vaccine makers, after you first go through the “vaccine court” system. That is outlined in section 300-21aa in NCVIA. Skeptical Raptor blog explains more about the legalities in this blog post. She also seems unaware of all the ways vaccine safety is assured, through legislation and testing standards.
I also wonder why she does not understand that vaccines do not confer 100% immunity so it is not unheard of for a child, like herself, to get measles in a big outbreak. If she did, indeed, have two MMRs as a child, she would theoretically have been 99% likely to be immune. If she did get measles, she was in the 1%. According to numerous records I read on the WHO website, measles is a problem in Ukraine and has been for years. So, it is not surprising that a vaccinated child could still get sick. Natural immunity also does not necessarily confer 100% immunity for life. As I often say, I had chicken pox twice in my childhood. It is well known you can get pertussis and tetanus more than once. Natural immunity lasting a lifetime is a myth.
Tetyana ends the interview with the idea that humans have survived for millennia without vaccines. Diseases only became a problem, she says, due to crowded conditions and unhealthy food and water. Now that we know how to eat well and clean our water, our bodies will handle infection just fine. The healthy body will “sail right through” without complications. This is a very naive manner of thinking that puts the blame for disease complications squarely on the shoulders of the parents, mostly the mother since most children have their mother in the primary caregiver role. If as many as 90% of pediatric flu deaths are unvaccinated, then this line of thinking says the deaths are the fault of the parents for not nourishing the children properly. I find this way of thinking abhorrent. Survivorship bias downplays real risk and real efforts to minimize or prevent them and distorts reality. It is also a form of deception, in my opinion, because parents are led to believe they can control the course of illness. It is like telling a veteran soldier that war is not bad because, hey, you survived.
In conclusion, Tetyana buys into all the usual antivax tropes and has not used her formal education to her best advantage. She has cherry picked the science to show what she wants it to show, that vaccines are not perfect. This is a real shame. No, Tetyana, we are not ignoring you. We just know better than to believe your version of science.
Remember to always think for yourself. And don’t cherry pick!