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The Great Vaccine Debate

The Great Vaccine Debate

Part 2

by Dr. Brownstein M.D.
Dr. Peter Lipson, an internal medicine physician in Southfield, MI wrote a commentary on my latest blog about mandatory vaccinations and summer camp.  I am reprinting Dr. Lipson’s comments in italics, my original blog post in regular font, and my comments to Dr. Lipson in bold.

No Vaccination, No Camp. Finally.  – Forbes by Peter Lipson



Dr. David Brownstein is a family doctor whose “goal is to inform the world about the power of holistic health solutions,” whatever that might mean. Yesterday he posted a dangerous and poorly-informed piece on his website. First a bit of cultural background.

Dr. Brownstein practices in the heart of Michigan’s Jewish community. Among American Jews, summer camping has been an important part of childhood for nearly a century. In the early part of the 20th century, it was felt that city children would benefit greatly from exposure to nature. Jews were not allowed to attend most camps and started their own. The tradition has remained strong.

I spend a week every summer helping to keep an eye on the kids at one such camp. During the flu epidemic of 2008–09, I watched as dozens of kids came down with a new flu strain, one for which a shot had not yet been developed. It was a frightening lesson in what can happen in unvaccinated populations. Thankfully, the strain wasn’t deadly in this population. Among the hardest hit were pregnant women.

Still, it did put a damper on the summer for many kids. Last winter, another in which we had a flu strain not well-covered by the vaccine, I lost nearly half-a-dozen patients. All were elderly, and really didn’t stand much of a chance. But if the people around them had been immune they might have lived through the winter never knowing what might have happened.

Dr. Lipson must be poorly informed here as there has not been a single flu vaccine—and the flu vaccine has been around for over 70 years–that has been shown to work for the elderly.  In the best of the flu studies (which are hard to find), the efficacy for younger people is around 7-10%.  That means the vaccine fails nearly all the elderly and fails around 90% of younger subjects.  Dr. Lipson might want to review the research on the flu vaccine for the elderly.  A 2005 study of a 33-season national data set found the “…national influenza mortality rate among seniors increased in the 1980s and 1990s as the senior vaccination coverage quadrupled.” (Arch. Int. Med.  2005;165:265-272).   A 2012 systemic review found the original recommendation to vaccinate the elderly was made without data for vaccine efficacy or effectiveness. (Lancet Infect. Dis.  2012;12:36-44).  Nothing much has changed since then.  And, injecting the elderly with mercury?  Nonsense. More about that later.

My daughter, who attends the same camp as I did, has had every shot, always on schedule. Thankfully so have her friends. I’d be very hesitant to let her play with kids who weren’t vaccinated, both because of the small but real risk she could catch something, and because I would not want her to give an illness to someone else.


One of our largest summer camps here reportedly sent out a letter this week informing the community that all staff and campers must be fully immunized to attend camp next summer. This is great news for our kids.

But Dr. Brownstein doesn’t think so. His blog lists the usual arguments against requiring vaccination, all of which are, to be blunt, total bullshit. It’s not even good bullshit, but bullshit that has long been known to be, well, bullshit.

That is unprofessional and uncalled for.  We can argue the science if you would like.  We should talk to each other like professionals.

For those of you who want the detail, read on. If you don’t, feel free to skip to the final paragraph for a summary. So let’s go through Brownstein’s arguments point-by-point:

You might assume that Tamarack Camps, which has been around for over 100 years, must have had an outbreak of a communicable disease. However, if that is true, I missed it. In fact, I would be interested in any data from Tamarack Camps of any outbreak of a communicable disease in its’ 100-year history.

I call this the “seat belt” argument. I’ve never been in a serious crash, but studies clearly show that if I were, wearing a seat belt could make the difference between life and death. The same is true for vaccination. While we may not see a lot of tetanus in this country, we still need to protect ourselves. Tetanus is a particularly hideous death, and we see so little precisely because of our vaccination efforts.

As far as I know, tetanus is not a communicable disease.  Therefore, I am not sure why Dr. Lipson is arguing this point.  How much tetanus do we see?  According to the CDC, from 2001-2008, there were 233 cases of tetanus out of 322 million people.  The annual incidence is 0.1 per 1,000,000 population.  During this time period, among 92 subjects, out of the 233 reported cases where the vaccination status was available, 60% were vaccinated.  In other words, the majority who got tetanus were vaccinated.  Do we need to give routine tetanus shots to 322 million people to prevent about 30 cases of tetanus per year?  Will that work?  Those are questions that need to be answered.  Moreover, the Td vaccine (Tetanus vaccine in multi dose vials) still contains mercury.  Dr. Lipson is fine injecting mercury into people, but I am not.   

Perhaps Camp Tamarack is unaware that over $3 billion has been awarded by the Federal Government to children and adults injured by vaccines. Maybe Camp Tamarack can assure all who will have to be fully vaccinated to attend camp that it is safe to inject numerous doses of neurotoxins like mercury, aluminum and formaldehyde into any living being. As far as I am aware, there are zero — ZERO — safety studies on injecting a neurotoxin into a living being. I would like to see where Jewish law says it is safe to inject a neurotoxin into a baby or any living being.

This is completely wrong in every conceivable way. First, the “$3 billion” thing: vaccines are not very profitable, and people who listen to Brownstein might be tempted to sue a drug company after getting a vaccine and having something bad happen. Serious vaccination reactions are vanishingly rare, but in order to protect the public and to protect the companies that make vaccines, the government has set up a “vaccine court”. While you may sue a drug company for causing injury through a poorly manufactured vaccine, you cannot sue them simply because you think you had a reaction. This court liberally awards money to people who feel they have been injured by a vaccine. The level of evidence needed is minimal. It is meant as a safety net both for those who are truly injured and for those who think they are, even if they might not be able to prove it in a normal court.

Vaccines are not very profitable?  GIVE ME A BREAK! I don’t think I need to comment any further about that.  I am amazed that Dr. Lipson even brought that up.  In fact, the World Health Organization has estimated that the U.S. vaccine market is projected to rise to $100 billion dollars by 2025.  (http://www.who.int/immunization/programmes_systems/procurement/market/world_vaccine_market_trends.pdf)

Basically, Dr. Lipson says to trust Big Pharma without question.  Since when does Big Pharma deserve our trust?  What is wrong with questioning Big Pharma’s reasons for demanding no liability for their vaccines? 

Serious vaccination reactions are rare.  That is correct.  However, the vaccine court has never “liberally” awarded funds.  That is a fact.  I have spoken to patients who have gone through the vaccine court.  The vaccine court is a miserable experience for those who suffer vaccine injuries. 

The “toxin” gambit uses scary words out of their scientific context. Aluminum is used in some vaccines in order to help create a stronger immune reaction. This allows us to use less of the actual antigens derived from the germ. It is not present in amounts that cause harm. Formaldehyde is sometimes present in tiny amounts left over from the preservation process. Your own body manufactures more formaldehyde in a day during its normal chemical processes than you would get from a lifetime of vaccines. The tiny amount that might be left in your shots is trivial for your body to deal with.

Oy vey!  A neurotoxin, is a neurotoxin, is a neurotoxin.  Injectable aluminum is a neurotoxin.  That is a fact.  If Dr. Lipson would simply search Pub Med for aluminum and neurotoxicity he could find 393 papers.  

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.  Yes, it is produced in tiny amounts in the body.  As with injecting anything, there is 100% absorption of formaldehyde via injection.  There are reports of inflammatory diseases developing after injection of formaldehyde in vaccines.  (Cutan. Med Surg. 2015 Sep-Oct;19(5):504-6)

Formaldehyde is a direct acting genotoxic compound that affects multiple gene expression pathways including those involved in DNA synthesis and repair.

There have been no safety studies finding that is safe to inject formaldehyde into a living being (at least none that I am aware of). 

Mercury is not present in most vaccines. It is present in a few in the form of thimerosal, a preservative that keeps vaccinations from becoming contaminated. Thimerosal in vaccines has been found in study after study to be harmless. No “neurotoxins” are injected into our children as part of the vaccination process. That is either a lie or profound ignorance of biology. Tetanus, on the other hand, produces a potent neurotoxin that kills people in a uniquely painful way.

Mercury is still present in vaccines.  Mercury is one of the most toxic substances known to mankind.  There are ZERO studies showing that it is safe to inject mercury into a living being.  Injectable mercury has not been found to be harmless.  Dr. Lipson, please present the safety studies with injectable thimerosal.

Animal studies have shown that injectable mercury easily crosses the blood brain barrier in both the animal and the fetus. Further studies looking at the cells form the brains of mice injected with Thimerosal indicate that Thimerosal causes cell damage and death.  (Appl. Microbiol.  1967;15:590-3.  Toxicology.  2004;Jan 15;195(1): 77-84)

In 1982, the FDA proposed to ban Thimerosal from over-the-counter topical drug products because it was found to be deadly to human cells in vitro.  (U.S. Mercury in medicine report.  Congressional Record.  May 21, 2003;1011-1030).  Perhaps it is too toxic for topical use, but ok for injectable use?  Common sense should answer this question.

Thimerosal has also been found to be associated with cellular toxicity in studies of both human nerve and skin cells.  (Toxicol. Sci.  2003. Aut;74(2):361-8).  This study found Thimerosal induced DNA breaks, membrane damage and cell death in doses the most American children received before it was removed from many childhood vaccines.

And, I have a question for Dr. Lipson:  Would you expose any living being to a known neurotoxin if there were safer alternatives?    Common sense should also answer this question, though I am not sure of his answer.  This reminds me of a famous quote:  “Common sense is not so common.”  Voltaire. 

Maybe Camp Tamarack should take notice that there is a whistle blower at the CDC — a senior scientist who authored research papers on childhood vaccinations — who has stated that the CDC has hidden and altered data that confirmed a link with the MMR vaccine to autism. Or, perhaps they could provide an explanation of why another whistleblower scientist who worked at Merck (who manufactures the MMR vaccine) has filed a federal lawsuit saying the mumps data used to justify the MMR vaccine was falsified by Merck.

This bears repeating: There is no link between MMR vaccines and autism. None. The “link” was from a fraudulent paper published in a British medical journal by Dr. Andrew Wakefield. The paper has been retracted and his license has been revoked due to his fraud.

I did not write about Dr. Wakefield’s paper.  I wrote about the senior scientist at the CDC, who co-authored a 2004 paper that found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.  Ten years later, the same scientist came forward and said he and his colleagues altered the data to report no link when such a link did, in fact, exist.  Furthermore, he made claims that his superiors ordered him to throw out incriminating data.  Get your facts straight, Dr. Lipson.

Dr. Brownstein goes on to make an argument that would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous. He argues that as vaccination rates have risen, so have childhood disabilities. Any 7th grade forensics student could tell you what the problem is here: just because two things occur at the same time does not mean one is the cause of the other.

There is nothing funny about any childhood illness or any child with a disability.  An association does not equal causation.  However, this association calls for more research and more debate—at least that is what I was taught in medical school. 

For example, in the same time period cited by Brownstein, lead exposure in kids decreased dramatically, mostly due to the elimination of leaded gasoline. So was lead exposure protecting our kids from learning disabilities and autism? (For the definitive, ground-breaking book on the “rise” of autism, see Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes.)

No, Dr. Lipson.  Lead causes problems, it does not prevent them.  I am glad lead was taken out of gasoline.  I would like the same done with mercury and aluminum in vaccines. 

Maybe you skipped the details above and have arrived down here to the bottom of the page. Here’s the short version.

Vaccination, along with water sanitation, has saved billions of lives. Most of us are too young to remember life before vaccines, but before the fifties, being a parent was terrifying. Vaccination has been shown over and over to be safe and effective, so much so that there is nothing that unites the medical community more strongly. Failing to vaccinate your child puts them at risk, and puts others’ kids at risk.

Just because you make these statements does not make them true.  Deaths due to communicable diseases were dramatically declining before mandatary vaccines were used and that includes every childhood illness that is presently being vaccinated for. 

Water sanitation and better living conditions have been true public health miracles. 

Many vaccines do work.  They lower the incidence of illness.  But, are we healthier for injecting more and more vaccines in our kids?  And, should we continue to inject more and more vaccines in our population? 

Dr. Lipson, you may not want to ask the appropriate questions, but I do.  I have seen both the good and bad with vaccinations.  We need better vaccination studies and safer vaccines.  Unfortunately, due to rhetoric like yours, there is no need to do further research—just keep giving more and more vaccinations and hope that we are doing a good thing.

Summer camps are intimate environments, with kids sharing space, clothes, water bottles. I’ve seen what an outbreak of a mild disease can do. Can you imagine what would happen if, say, meningitis broke out at a camp? You don’t have to imagine it, all you have to do is read history.

So, I get accused  of fear mongering, but you can make a ridiculous statement like that?  If the CDC whistleblower is telling the truth, then we will all have to deal with one in forty five children suffering on the autistic spectrum from mandatory (or coerced) vaccination. 

Camp Tamarack should be lauded for their policy of full vaccination. If there is a kid who for some medical reason can’t get all their vaccines, this policy will protect them from unvaccinated cabin-mates. And there is no downside to the policy.

Dr. Brownstein is wrong on the facts. That’s not my opinion. What is my opinion is that doctors like him are a threat to public health. Doctors who spread incorrect information about health and disease are endangering my child and yours. They are a threat to public health. It is my personal belief that doctors who practice so strongly against the standard of care should lose their license to practice.

To the reader:  You judge who is right or wrong on the facts. 

Perhaps you are right, Dr. Lipson; We should practice the standard of care without questioning or thinking.  Then, we can go back to prescribing Vioxx—which caused 50,000 deaths and 100,000 heart attacks and strokes.  By the way, Big Pharma Merck knew Vioxx would do this before it was released.   In case you did not know, Merck is the same Big Pharma company who manufactures the MMR vaccine.  

And, don’t forget the standard of care in medicine in promoting smoking. Both the AMA and most physicians promoted the use of cigarettes even though data showed their negative effects. 

Perhaps we need more critical analyses of the standard of care instead of less.  I teach the medical students who rotate through my office to question everything and do their own research.  Only then, can they make rational medical decisions for their patients.  Dr. Lipson, you might want to try that.

Finally, if, as Dr. Lipson states, all doctors who dissent from the standard-of-care should have their licenses taken away, medicine will be in a very sorry state.  How will we ever improve if we don’t ask tough questions? 

Let me finish with a quote from Galileo.

“Facts which at first sight seem improbable will, even on scant explanation, drop the cloak which had hidden them and stand forth in naked and simple beauty.” 

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