Idaho vaccine debate

Tonight, I was able to watch a debate between a provaccine pediatrician from Idaho, Dr. Alicia Lachiondo, and a woman with a bachelor’s degree in toxicology, Ashley Everly Cates. I have embedded the 45-minute show for you here, should you wish to watch.  It was an interesting and well-done debate. The two hosts, CBS Boise News staff members Brent Hunsaker and Natalie Hurst, did a fine job asking meaningful questions and soliciting answers from both ladies.

Click on the link below to watch the debate yourself.

First of all, who are the participants?


Dr. Alicia Lachiondo is a pediatrician at St. Lukes Treasure Valley Pediatricians in Boise, Idaho. She is a Boise Native who went to Notre Dame for undergraduate studies and the University of Washington School of Medicine for medical school. She is a member of Get Immunized Idaho.


Ashley Everly Cates graduated from UC Davis with a degree in environmental toxicology. She currently runs Health Freedom Idaho. She does not have any advanced degrees. According to her LinkedIn, she has not had actual employment in the field of toxicology.

Sidebar: not sure why Ashley is called a “blood toxicologist” in the title.

Alicia is the doctor.

Ashley is the “toxicologist”

Here are my notes on the debate:

Host: Where do you stand? Ashley says parents are not given adverse reaction information about vaccines. Dr. Alicia says every parent is given a vaccine information sheet and she warns them all about common side effects and is open to discussing risks and benefits. 

Host: Are vaccine info sheets enough?  Ashley says no, they don’t reflect independent research or latent effects, especially about aluminum and autoimmunity. She says children are sicker than ever, more cancer than ever. She cites the 300% increase in the number of vaccine doses given since the 1980s and how vaccines are not tested for cancer or mutagenicity, nor are ingredients tested.  She is, apparently, not familiar with the EPA IRIS database, which is very strange for a “toxicologist”

Dr. Alicia explains how she looks at research and how the CDC makes recommendations. She explains about good research and Ashley nods and says mm, hm, in the background. Dr. Alicia talks about HIB meningitis and other serious side effects of infectious diseases. Alicia explains risk analysis.

Note: My readers will know that American children are healthier than ever. 
Host: Is herd immunity real? Ashley says it only applies to natural infections and vaccines cannot provide herd immunity as they do not trigger the immune system the same way real disease does. Antibodies will wane. She claims we can have high vaccination rates and outbreaks, such as the outbreak in NYC in 2011 where patient zero was a 22-year-old vaccinated woman.
She is, of course, speaking of a study we have discussed where a twice vaccinated person got measles and spread it. It was written up as a medical marvel, her being the first time on record this has occurred.  Ashley does not mention this fact. Instead, she acts as if this is normal and all measles outbreaks are in vaccinated persons. 
Alicia explains how herd immunity is like viruses in computers. If you have malware, she explains, the virus cannot enter your computer. I like this analogy except she got it a bit backward. What she means is a vaccine is like an anti-virus software program in that it prevents the invasion from a computer virus.  She explains waning immunity in pertussis, how influenza virus changes, but measles is different and we can run titer studies. Titer studies have been done on many vaccines and we know which vaccines need boosters and which do not. We know that some vaccines don’t last a lifetime but we vaccinate infants for those diseases because they are most vulnerable and need that temporary immunity.
Ashley brings up how those vaccinated for pertussis could be asymptomatic carriers. She claims the vaccines leave infants more vulnerable. She is speaking about something many antivaxers are concerned about but which our favorite reptilian blogger has oft-debunked. 
Alicia counters that infants who are immunized are much less likely to contract pertussis. She says population studies show babies who get pertussis and end up in PICU are unimmunized and have unimmunized parents. She mentions TDaP in pregnancy as efficacious at preventing pertussis in infants. Ashley brings up aluminum toxicity from vaccines and the “research” about it. I put that in quotations because Ashley seems to be very fond of studies funded by anti-vax groups, most of which have been retracted and/or proven shoddy methodology. 
Host: What would happen if we eliminate vaccines? Alicia says her practice would go from mostly preventing fires and educating to mostly putting out fires. (fires as an analogy for disease). Her job would be about triage instead of prevention. Alicia explains how she does not have to worry about nearly as much illness now as her older colleagues did when they were new doctors. She gets to spend more time talking about education and prevention now. She is also asked if aluminum is toxic and explains how exposure in the industry, metal smelting, for example, can cause aluminum toxicity but vaccines do not and there is no evidence aluminum is increasing in blood serum.
Ashley says aluminum is not trapped in the blood so blood serum levels are not accurate. She says it goes to the brain. Alicia asks how those studies are done. Ashley mentions rabbit studies. Alicia brings up dose dependency. Alicia points out how nutritional supplements are not studied but these ingredients are well studied and continue to be studied.  The implication from Alicia is clear: aluminum in vaccines is not a health concern and no valid science says otherwise. It should be noted that Ashley is referring to Exley studies
Host: Asks Ashley if people should never take vaccines. She says she does not feel comfortable taking a stance but that good nutrition is the most important factor in recovery from illness. The host clarifies that this means you won’t avoid illness but you could recover. Ashley says yes. And she says most vaccine-preventable diseases train your immune system to avoid cancer. She says people only die of measles if they are malnourished. She mentions Vitamin A as reducing the risk of complications and death; thus, she claims, these diseases are not harmful to those who are well nourished. Alicia points out that nutrition is important but we know, based on outbreaks in Europe, that measles still can cause harm and death. Ashley claims half of Americans are deficient in Vitamin A.
Sidebar: Here are a few readings on topics related to what Ashley is discussing, from our favorite Texas Pediatrician, Dr. Vince Ianelli.
The host and Alicia agree that nutrition is a component of disease management but the quality of care is another component. Alicia explains how secondary infections are an issue as well as the fact that measles wipes the immune memory, making one susceptible to all the other diseases you may have already had. Alicia clarifies how she is not just trying to prevent death but also prevent suffering in the child and the family members.
Ashley talks about measles and immune amnesia. She, again, brings up Vitamin A, as if that would prevent immune amnesia. She did not provide any research to back her claims. She claims doctors are not looking at Vitamin A and secondary infections. Alicia begs to differ on all of Ashley’s claims.
Alicia brings up cystic fibrosis patients who cannot absorb fat and cannot absorb vitamins like A and K. We would expect them to have higher rates of measles if extra vitamins alone were the answer, and yet they do not have higher rates of measles.
The host asks Alicia about how AAP recommends repeal exemptions other than medical exemptions. She answers that she would vote for that, as a voter. She talks about how non-medical exemptions put people at risk, particularly those who are immune compromised. When you don’t vaccinate, you make decisions for others who cannot vaccinate. Your choice affects them. Ashley, of course, says the opposite. She talks about those who have vaccinated their child and have seen them suffer an adverse event. She claims VAERS reports are underreported and, thus, we should not force anyone to vaccinate when we do not fully understand vaccine risks.
Ashley says her son has a genetic defect that makes him more susceptible to vaccine injury as he cannot detoxify easily. She says that taking away these exemptions is, in effect, mandating harm. She is, of course, thinking of the MTHFR gene, which is much ado in anti-vaccine circles. 
My favorite Seattle Naturopaths have addressed both the MTHFR gene mutation claim as well as the immune system issues with measles.
Ashley is asked if there is even one vaccine she would say is important. She likes that Idaho is for parent’s rights and that people are not aware of how much harm vaccines can cause. So, she will not pick a vaccine to recommend.
They are each asked to summarize.
Ashley says we are not given enough information on how dangerous vaccines can be. She infers we cannot trust the CDC. She infers vaccine manufacturers are not trustworthy. She says people need to consider all the variables and keep an open mind.
Alicia says her bottom line is that over 90% of us choose to vaccinate. She agrees there is a lot of information and some cans of worms. She wants people to think about who they trust and she hopes they trust their doctor. She says every piece of advice she gives is based on science and risks and benefits and that vaccines have the most benefits and the lowest risks and the most research behind them.
My take:
I think Ashley and Alicia both presented themselves as calm, reasonable, and dedicated to the topic.  Ashley, however, presents herself as an expert when she actually has little to no experience in toxicology. Her knowledge comes only from a classroom and not from actual field experience. She has never worked for a public health agency or environmental agency.  My own brother has degrees in environmental studies and horticulture and he has worked for years as a California state environmental scientist. He would never call himself an expert because he has not published anything nor led any actual research.  My children’s father has multiple degrees in scientific fields, including an MS in biology, and works in aquatic toxicology but still does not call himself an expert.  When I think of someone being able to call themselves a toxicologist I think of a person with a Ph.D. in toxicology or a related field, someone who has conducted a great deal of research and published many papers. A woman with a bachelor’s degree is not an expert.
That Ashley espouses so many anti-vax tropes and tries to qualify herself as a toxicologist is deeply troublesome. It is a false balance.
Dr. Alicia, on the other hand, is an actual doctor. She has expertise in the field of medicine. There is literally no comparison between these two ladies.
As always, think for yourself and verify claims!!  And be sure to join us at Vaccinate Washington if you live in or near Washington state and want to help our community be healthier.
[click on pic to go to the vaxwa website]



8 thoughts on “Idaho vaccine debate

  1. Thank you for going through this so thoroughly. It’s very concerning to think that people not familiar with the facts would be misled by a non-expert making incorrect claims.
    This is one problem with such a debate, when only one side is bound by facts.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you for this!

    By the way, I just finished reading Dr. Peter Hotez’s book Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism. It really showed how if you met one autistic person, you have met exactly one autistic person. Rachel is nothing like my son who is at least five years older and also on the spectrum.


  3. You don’t need advanced degrees to understand vaccines are poison. It was obvious this doctor knew nothing except what she had been told by the CDC, and Ashley had ACTUALLY researched the topic.


    • “You don’t need advanced degrees to understand vaccines are poison.”

      Oh, really? Perhaps you can tell us what in vaccines is more poisonous than tetanospasmin. Or the other toxins produced by bacterial infections like diphtheria and pertussis.

      In reality you need to compare the relative risks of the vaccines versus the actual diseases, not just repeating old stale and false anti-vaccine tropes. Good nutrition is not helping the over sixty with measles in Clark County, especially those who have been hospitalized.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t see any evidence Ashley has researched anything. She has never published anything. The rhetoric she uses strongly indicates she is not familiar with the EPA IRIS database and LD50 for the ingredients. The pediatrician, on the other hand, understands how the dose makes the poison and how nothing in vaccines is toxic or poisonous.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: What is the vaccine guide? | vaccinesworkblog

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