How did immunologist Tetyana Obukhanych become antivax?

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.

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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 immunologist. 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.

My thoughts:

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.

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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!

 

Kathy

 

 

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Vaxxed bus in my state, Washington: Dr Suzanne speaks to the “vaccine religious.”

Update June 30, 2017: Amusingly enough, Suzanne Humphries actually took the time to rebut my blog post.  You can read that here.  I find it interesting that she really just repeats a lot of the same things I wrote, but from her point of view these are not a big deal. Most people will survive vaccine-preventable diseases fine, after a week or so of suffering. We vaccine to prevent that suffering and also prevent the cases that will cause permanent damage or death. She also claims most people bring mumps to schools instead of catching mumps in school.  So what? We know diseases are more highly contagious when people are in close quarters.   I also find it interesting that she confirms that she is a licensed doctor but never links to her practice. Because, as I stated, she is not a practicing physician right now. She begins her rebuttal to me claiming I am stalking her. I would like to point out that when I was the administrator/founder of Informed Parents of Vaccinated Children, Suzanne, you came to my page more than once and engaged me in debates. This was during the time you were studying homeopathy and learning a lot from Hilary Butler. I vividly remember you writing about how you were studying homeopathy. Why you have removed this part of your life from public view is beyond me.  But, I am certainly not stalking you.  I only wrote about you because you came to my town.

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This week, the Vaxxed rv (or, as they call it, the bus) is in Washington state, where I live. They are being hosted by Informed Choice of WA, a local antivax group. They were in Tacoma yesterday and are heading to Seattle, Redmond, Bellingham, and then Spokane where they will interview people who don’t vaccinate as well as “vaccine injured” persons or families.  Headed up by known antivaxer and autism antagonist (opposite of advocate), Polly Tommey, the Vaxxed tour also includes Suzanne Humphries, a former kidney doctor who is no longer practicing medicine. They are both convinced all stories of vaccine injury are absolutely true. They will interview anyone who claims a vaccine injury and put the names of “victims” on or in the bus, to memorialize them. Supposedly, there are about 5000 names on and in the bus and many of them are babies who died of SIDS or children or adults with autism. Of course, science advocates will know that SIDS is not a vaccine injury and neither is autism. There is also a name on the bus of a baby who died of Krabbe Disease, a 100% genetic, 100% fatal disease. Her parents refused to believe doctors and, instead, blamed vaccines. Their story has been spread far and wide, by antivaxers, without regard to medical facts.

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I do not doubt the suffering of these families but I fail to see how irrationally blaming vaccines helps anyone? In fact, all it does is harm. Blaming vaccines for autism harms children who are denied vaccine protection. It also causes grave harm to the autism community. Think about it. When a child is deemed “damaged” and exposed to unproven, dangerous, even illegal treatments to “undo” this “damage,” the very humanity of that child is being denied. This rhetoric damages families.

“This “deficit model” of thinking about autism, “which focuses almost exclusively on impairments and limitations, ultimately leads us to see autistic individuals as broken people who are ill and, as my child’s first psychologist explained, need to be fixed.”

“I look at autism like a bus accident, and you don’t become cured from a bus accident, but you can recover.”

Jenny McCarthy

Hopefully, no one looks at their autistic child and thinks about a child in a bus accident, or a child who has lost their soul, been kidnapped by autism, or that they have a damaged child.  That kind of thinking is offensive to many, and hopefully more and more people.”

source: Vincent Ianelli, MD

Update: There are many parents of children with autism who do not think of their children as damaged. They do not expose them to unregulated, potentially dangerous treatments like chelation or lupron or bleach.  Calling children with autism “damaged” is extremely negative, particularly when all valid science points to autism being mostly caused by genetics. One would be appalled to hear the mother of a child with cerebral palsy or microcephaly call her child “damaged” but, somehow, this crew thinks it is perfectly fine to call children with autism damaged. I find that vile. Thankfully, the majority of the autism community is on my side in that debate. I feel very sorry for the children who are exposed to these dangerous treatments.  There is no valid excuse for using them on your child.   Autism symptoms can be treated with valid treatments.  The editor of The Thinking Person’s Guide to AutismShannon Des Roches Rosa  agrees that children do not need these dangerous and unregulated.

So, I am rightfully upset that this group is now in my state, spreading this message, and I am going to follow their activities online and counter them, as best I can with, actual facts.

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First up, Suzanne Humphries was on periscope this morning talking to us “vaccine religious” about how it is utter nonsense, in her opinion, that the unvaccinated spread disease. If this link does not work for you, try going to this Facebook link.

This video is so full of lies and mistruths, it’s astounding. Let’s go through them.

  1. Suzanne claims to have done 9 years of immunization research. She means reading. She has published no studies of any kind. Search pubmed. Nothing. Update: I should have clarified she has published nothing to do with immunizations. Also, since I don’t use my own qualifications as proof of my authority on the topic of immunizations, then my own resume is not applicable to this discussion.  I link to the valid science (not cherry picked) to back my claims. That should suffice.
  2. She claims we vaccinated persons “almost don’t have a prayer” against diseases because of our poor, unnourished status.  I challenge her to find any research backing up that claim. Update: Suzanne did not address this in her rebuttal.
  3. She claims “96.8% of children in WA are fully vaccinated for MMR.” I know see where she got that number. She went to the spreadsheet for K-12 immunization data and saw there isa 3.1% exemption rate for MMR for k-12 students.  But, there are other places to find immunization data at the state Department of Health website. There is school data and state immunization registry data.  According to the most recent state data, 90.5% of kindergartners enrolled in school for the most recent school year are fully vaccinated for MMR and 81% of 19-35 month olds in WA state have had more than one MMR while 66% of 4-6 year olds have had more than two MMR.  Update: According to the state, there are 1,088,959 in public and private schools. According to the census, there are 1,632,512 children under 18 in WA state. So, there are almost 600,000 children NOT in school. That is why I prefer the statistic that only 66% of 4-6 year olds and only 90.5% of kindergartners more telling than the exemption rate of all K-12 students in public schools.  Not all children in Washington state are in school.  Many are homeschooled. Some are too young for school.  Preschools are terrible at collecting immunization data.  Therefore, no, you cannot say that 96.8% of WA children are fully vaccinated. NOT TRUE. 
  4. She claims mumps outbreak in WA state has been 100% in vaccinated populations.  But, for Spokane county, here is the data: 334 cases, 197 vaccinated, 15 unvaccinated, 122 status unknown.  For King County, 311 cases, 64.6% vaccinated. In Arkansas, the rate of fully vaccinated who got mumps is about 35-46%.  Definitely not 100%.  Update: In the rebuttal, she posted a lot of statistics about how mumps outbreaks still affect the vaccinated and how the vaccine is not 100% effective. Moot point.  She claimed mumps outbreaks are in 100% vaccinated and she was wrong.  Suzanne spent about 10 minutes going on and on about all the classification statuses. I do not care about that.  My point was the outbreaks are not in 100% vaccinated. Period.  So, yes, that 100% was still a lie. Or a mistake. On her part.
  5. She claims mumps vaccine is “impotent” because of claims it may only be 69% effective by virologists who used to work at Merck. (see this article from my friend Dorit for explanation) The claim is that the CDC and Merck say the mumps portion of MMR is about 88% effective but that may not be accurate. It may only be 69% effective. Since 69 is still a great deal larger than the zero you get from not vaccinating, I find this claim highly misleading. It is not an outright lie, but 69% is still highly effective. It just means 31% might still be susceptible. Yes, the vaccine could be better. Doesn’t mean it is “impotent.” Update: She tried to defend this choice of wording, in her rebuttal, but 69% is not impotent. Impotent means helpless or powerless.  69% is not powerless. 69% is far better than nothing, which is what all the literature concludes. I am 100% confident Dr Stanley Plotkin would agree with me.
  6. She says “Vaccinated people have an inferior ability to fight off wild strains” and the best immunity is when children should get these diseases “at the appropriate age” so they get lifelong immunity. This is a fallacy.  To gain natural immunity, you have to suffer disease. Suffer. Yes, suffer because all vaccine-preventable diseases cause suffering, even in mild cases. Why should we allow our children to suffer, particularly when a high percent may suffer horribly and some may die? “Cases of such “mild” childhood diseases as pertussis dropped from more than 147,000 per year to less than 7,000. Annual measles cases dropped from more than 503,000 to less than 100. Diphtheria, polio and congenital rubella nearly disappeared. And if you don’t get the diseases, you can’t die from the diseases, can’t be rendered paralyzed, blind or deaf by the diseases. The difference between vaccine immunity is the difference between prevention and treatment … and prevention is always superior.” Source: Skeptical OB   Update: Here, again, Suzanne missed the point. The point is that wild disease causes suffering and natural immunity is not worth going through that suffering.
  7. From there, Suzanne goes on to mention several conspiracy theories. I call them conspiracy theories because there is no evidence to support them and they are based on paranoia, in my opinion. For example, she says MMR is a failure because a lot of people get measles but stay home and are not counted. This is ridiculous. They probably had Hand Foot Mouth disease or some other mild rash. And, “vaccines create a very loose net of pseudoprotection in the population” and “that is leaving those of us who are older susceptible to measles should it come back in.”  I am not at all sure what she means by the “pseudoprotection” statement. I had an MMR 26 years ago, had my titers done two years ago, and still have actual protection.  Update: In the Disney California outbreak, 88% of patients were unvaxed or no history of vaccine (likely unvaxed).  So, I feel pretty good about MMR’s protective abilities.
  8. She claims babies never got measles, pre-vaccine, because they got protection from their mother’s milk, which had measles antibodies in it.  She doesn’t seem to realize that not all babies, before 1963, were breastfed.  My own mother, born in 1941, was not breastfed. And, I have a friend who had measles encephalitis at four months of age, before the vaccine started. Also, I went to the vital statistics data for USA for 1955 and found a measles death rate of 2.2/100,000 for American infants under age 1 year. So, clearly infants were getting measles, pre-vaccine, if 2.2 per 100,000 cases were dying. Update: Suzanne did not actually state, in the first video, that breastmilk protects infants. I assumed that was implied because I am so familiar with her stance on breastmilk protecting infants.  You can read about that on her website. Furthermore, she never addressed the fact that babies did die of measles before 1955.
  9. She claims a properly nourished child will survive diseases just fine. This puts the blame for disease suffering squarely on the shoulders of the mother. A good mother, according to Dr Suzanne, does not work but stays at home to breastfeed her baby and feed her child “nourishing” food, according some mysterious standard. I find this point of view highly offensive. First of all, it is sexist to imply that mothers who do not breastfeed and do not stay home and prepare “nourishing” meals are bad mothers. But, that is exactly what she is implying. Secondly, there is no research whatsoever supporting her claims. I am sure we can all agree that a steady diet of soda pop and Cheetohs would not be healthy but there is no data supporting what she is implying. What exactly is nourishing, to Suzanne, and what is not? It’s a mystery.

 

As you can see, there is a great deal of misinformation both INSIDE and outside this bus. I honestly question their motives and, also, I would love to know who is funding them.

 

Remember to always think for yourself.

 

And Suzanne?  Vaccines do not cause autism. Autism has always been here.

 

Kathy

 

 

10 Things I Want Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Their Kids To Know

I read a blog post today, entitled “10-things-want-parents-vaccinate-kids-know” and I felt the need to respond.

1.Most of the time the diseases we vaccinate for are very mild and unlike vaccine injury, they last only a short time. This is not true. Back when vaccine-preventable diseases were common, disease injury was common. 30% of measles patients suffer complications and many require hospitalization. Some of those will be permanently injured. Back when nearly all children got measles, this mean thousands suffered injury every year.  Polio was also very bad in the 1950s.  “In 1952 alone, nearly 60,000 children were infected with the virus; thousands were paralyzed, and more than 3,000 died. Hospitals set up special units with iron lung machines to keep polio victims alive. Rich kids as well as poor were left paralyzed.”  source  Before the hepatitis V vaccine was recommended for all children in 1994,  30% of infected adults had no risk factors and 10,000, of children under age 10 were found to have Hepatitis B yearly. source

I could go on but, no, these diseases were not mild for everyone and yes they did cause permanent injury.

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2. Even if you choose to vaccinate, please please make yourselves aware of the adverse events that can occur.  Yes, by all means,  check the vaccine information sheets. If you read the vaccine inserts, be sure to be aware that they do not list side effects. Inserts list adverse events reported during the clinical trials without regard to causation. There is always more to read than inserts. Vaccine information sheets list actual, proven side effects.

3. If you are really are worried about viruses and bacteria, you might want to also read about vaccine ingredients.  Sure, by all means ask questions about vaccine ingredients.  But, know that the dose makes the poison and nothing in vaccines is toxic. MSDS are not helpful, as they refer to pure mercury and pure aluminun, neither of which are in vaccines. Antivaxers will refer to the limit for aluminum in IV feeding  but that is not a helpful thing to read because vaccines are not TPN feeding. The Children’s Hospital of Philadephia has great resources on vaccine ingredients. Remember, the dose makes the poison.

4. Your children will be shedding their live virus vaccines (this includes the measles and chickenpox vaccine) after their shots. Just big fat no. Here is a great article for you to read about why vaccine shedding is theoretically, but not actually, possible. Measles and chicken pox rates are down. Because shedding is myth.

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5. The Mawson study of vaccinated vs unvaccinated children, found significantly higher rates of autism, allergies, ear infections, learning disabilities and chronic diseases in those vaccinated to the schedule.  The Mawson study is completely invalid.  Don’t just read my take. Read all the links.

6. Vaccines are far from perfect… but there is not a huge failure rate. Many vaccines have 95% or greater efficacy.  Measles vaccine, for example, is 99% effective for life after two shots. Rubella vax is 95% effective for life. Tetanus vaccine is nearly 100% effective but only for ten years.   You can find all the efficacy rates here.

 

7. If you are worried about where to get good and unbiased information from. Look at vaccine inserts, VAERs reports, studies that aren’t funded by pharma companies, and most importantly, parents of vaccine injured children. By all means, look at VAERS reports but understand that nothing about them is valid. They are not valid because no medical information has been analyzed to confirm those reports. Also, most vaccine studies are NOT pharma funded, so using pubmed, you should be easily able to find many studies to read. International scientific consensus will show to you that vaccines have far greater benefits than risks.  Finally, parents are not great resources. We are not medical experts.  For example, if you read the Brian Hooker vaccine injury claim, you will see how one parent, even one with a PHd in a science-field, can make mistakes and miss early warning signs.

8. The people trying to convince you not to vaccinate have only one motivation, and that is to prevent more suffering, because they have either witnessed it first hand in their own family or know someone who has.  Okay, moving past the bad grammar in that sentence, which pains me, the reality is that there are people who have been duped by others into believing everything under the sun is a vaccine injury. And, those doing the duping are shysters and snake oil salesmen and women. They call themselves “experts” but they are really selling you products in lieu of modern medicine.   Be wary. Science should verify the validity and reliability of data. Shysters do not.

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9. In the time you have spent reading this, more children have been damaged by vaccines, because they believed what Doctors and the government told them. In reality, 5482 vaccine injury claims have been compensated in the last 30 years.  2,845,946,816 doses of vaccines have  been given out in that 30 years. That means that vaccine injury rate is 0.00000195%. That is incredibly rare.

10. It’s not too late to change your mind. I agree. It is never too late to vaccinate.

 

Remember to always think of yourself and verify your claims using valid science.

 

Kathy

 

 

All vaccine infographics come from here