The Insanity that is Swedish Anti-Vaccine Crankery

Sweden has largely been spared of the creeping vaccine rejectionist propaganda that has plagued the United States and Great Brittan for decades. However, the anti-vaccine forces are stirring under the surface and have acquired a larger internet presence than ever before, especially after the vaccination program against the pandemic H1N1/09 virus. The growing movement is centered around conspiracy-mongering websites like vaken.se that has bought into almost every conspiracy theory imaginable about 9/11, water fluoridation, vaccines, global warming and genetically modified foods. Another important hub of the Swedish anti-vaccine movement is Annika Dahlqvist, who is a medical doctor promoting diet as protection against infectious diseases. For her pseudoscientific claims, she was awarded denialist of the year (“Årets förvillare”) by a Swedish skeptic society (called “Föreningen för vetenskap och folkbildning”) in 2009. A third central figure is blogger Linda Karlström (an economist), who has recently started a new anti-vaccine group blog under the domain vaccin.me. She has teamed up with others and they spend most of their time shamelessly parroting the anti-vaccine falsehoods put forward people like Mike Adams, Lawrence B. Palevsky and Jackie Swartz, a anthroposophist doctor at a Swedish CAM clinic called Vidarekliniken. Karlström’s group is collecting anecdotal stories from anti-vaccine parents who believe their children have gotten hurt by vaccines. According to their website, they intend to gather 1000 reports before they attempt at class-action lawsuit.

Luckily, they do not have free reign. Responsible science journalists, scientists, public health professionals as well as the skeptic society of Sweden are combating their falsehoods, both online and offline.

Let us take a detailed look at what passes for evidential arguments at Karlström’s blog. The blog post that I am refuting is written in Swedish, but I will translate the claims being made to the best of my ability. Feel free to use online translation services to check the translation. The user Marina Ahlm (a nurse currently trying to become a “medicinal foot therapist” according to the website bio) posted an entry absurdly entitled Herd immunity cannot be achieved through vaccination: even vaccinated people carry viruses and bacteria that can be found here. As we shall see, it is filled by distortions, scientific falsehoods, half-truths and plain old nonsense.

Measles vaccination has been a scientific success!

—> According to the WHO (2011), the measles mortality has been reduced by as much as 78% between 2000 and 2008 mostly due to the benefits of large-scale immunization program. In the vast majority of regions, this figure is at 90% (between 2000 and 2010).

—> After the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963, the incidence of measles fell dramatically, from almost 500000 cases per year to almost none in comparison. Even though small and sporadic peaks and valleys due to natural fluctuations, the huge reduction is real (CDC, 2011). To be sure, the fact that B follows A does not mean that A causes B, but when you have a strong correlation plus a mechanism that is supported by many different lines of evidence, the reasonable position is to tentatively accept the efficacy of the measles vaccine.

—> Ahlm makes the flawed argument that since, apparently, it is practically difficult to evaluate the efficacy of a second dose of measles vaccine, this means that the measles vaccine has been a failure and that WHO only offers excuses. However, practical problems evaluating the efficacy of a second dose of measles vaccines compared to getting one cannot undermine the enormous mountain for the efficacy of the measles vaccine. As far as we know, a single dose may potentially offer the bulk of the protection.

—> In fact, the WHO does not offer excuses, but points out the real reasons why we have seen some resurgence of measles in certain areas of the world: vaccine efforts are sometimes not sustained partly because of the actions of vaccine rejectionists (like Ahlm): “However, global immunization experts warn of a resurgence in measles deaths if vaccination efforts are not sustained. Experts fear the combined effect of decreased political and financial commitment could result in an estimated 1.7 million measles-related deaths between 2010-13, with more than half a million deaths in 2013 alone” (WHO, 2011a).

The pertussis vaccine and the illusion of perfect solutions

—> Previously, the pertussis vaccine that was used was made from inactivated, whole cell bacteria. This worked reasonably well, with an efficacy of 70-90%. However, it had some extremely rare adverse effects with 0-10.5 people in 1000000 developed acute encephalopathy (CDC, 1997), although scientists where not sure that it caused permanent brain damage, they made scientists produce a better and safer acellular vaccine just in case.

—> To carry out a rational analysis of risk, the side effects of the current DTaP vaccine has to be compared to the effects of pertussis. According to the CDC (2011), pertussis causes pneumonia for 1 in 8, encephalitis for 1 in 20 and death for 1 in 1500 individuals. Clearly, the risks of the disease outweigh the risk of the vaccine.

—> The anti-vaccine blogger Marina Ahlm, citing Kretzschmar (2010), makes the claim that pertussis probably will not be eradicated with the current vaccine because the protection afforded by the pertussis vaccine vanes after many years and that smaller outbreaks will still occur. This is a clear example of the so called perfect solution fallacy. The current pertussis vaccine is rejected because it does not offer a perfect solution. This is a flawed argument, since hardly any form of medical product offers a perfect solution and an effective and safe vaccine, although imperfect, is much better than no vaccine at all. Before the vaccine, pertussis would kill about 8000 children per year (Offit, 2005), not to mention causing many more cases of pneumonia and encephalopathy.

—> An additional irony is that the editor’s summary of the article (Kretzschmar, 2010) clearly states that “Widespread pertussis vaccination since the 1950s has greatly reduced the incidence (the number of new cases in a population) of whooping cough”. Clearly, Ahlm did not even bother to read the article she is using as a source.

—> The same fallacious argument is made with regards to the most common vaccine against tuberculosis (BCG). Scientists are trying to develop new and better vaccines that can protect against pulmonary TB.

The vaccine against tuberculosis is generally safe and effective for the types it was developed for

—> Studying the efficacy of the BCG has some practical difficulties associated with it. Petrini (2000) writes that it depends on which strain is being used and background incidens of asymptomatic TB infection. Clearly, if the strain has shown to be ineffective in animal tests and if the person being vaccinated is already infected with TB, the protection will be much less. When clinical trails are carried out responsibly, the efficacy is around 80%. Yet again, Ahlm did not care to read the source from which she got her efficacy data, but used it out of context in her attempt to argue that the BCG vaccine is ineffective.

—> Those children that have a very rare genetic immunodeficiency can acquire a disseminated TB infection and it occurs in around 1 in a 100000 according to the Swedish counterpart of the U. S. Institute of Medicine (Statens beredning för medicinsk utvärdering, 2009). In order to prevent this, the vaccine is not given until the child is six months (not newborn), so that this hereditary immunodeficiency will be discovered. Again, Ahlm took this out of context, asserting that the BCG vaccine cause TB generally.

The polio vaccine has reduced global incidence of polio with 99%

—> Between 1988 and 2006, the global incidence of polio has fallen by over 99%. This is a huge victory of vaccination programs (CDC, 2008).

—> However, certain regions, such as India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are still struggling with polio, even though India has not had a single cause of wild polio for about a year (WHO, 2012). These regions presents unique challenges for the goal of eradicating polio, such as special ecological circumstances, political instability, efforts of vaccine rejectionists, lack of political will etc. As for India, the problem exists primarily in the two provinces called Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Fine (2009) points out that these regions “have a long history as entrenched foci of major infectious diseases”.

—> Ahlm continues to use her selective understanding of the literature to artificially inflate the problems in these regions as a way to undermine the efforts for global eradication of polio. It is also important to separate infection and disease, because less than 1% of infected individuals get clinical symptoms, so her assertion that hundreds of children get vaccine-induced polio should be taken with a grain of salt. Her source for the claim is the known conspiracy-mongering radio host Alex Jones, so some skepticism is warranted.

—> Also, vaccine-associated paralytic polio mainly occurs in immunodeficient individuals (Shahmahmoodi, 2010) in areas with few individuals vaccinated against polio (Kew et. al. 2002). When the national incidence of polio is small, countries usually switch from the oral polio vaccine (weakened) to the inactivated Salk vaccine. WHO (2011b) explains that “the spread of a cVDPV shows that too many children remain under-immunized. A fully-immunized population will be protected from all strains of poliovirus, whether wild or vaccine-derived.” and that “Over the past 10 years, more than 10 billion doses of OPV have been administered to more than 2.5 billion children. As a result more than 3.5 million polio cases were prevented. During that time, 18 outbreaks of cVDPVs have occurred in 16 countries, resulting in 510 VDPV cases.” So if you had to chose between 3.5 million children or 510 being infected with polio, which option would you take?

Herd immunity protects those that are not or cannot be vaccinated

—> Herd immunity occurs when a large proportion of the population is vaccinated. This ensures that the number of individuals the average pathogen can infect drops below 1. This is because the individuals around it that it can jump to are immune to it. So it reduces spread of the pathogen and individuals that are not vaccinated are shielded by the herd, because it cripples the spread of the disease and contains it (NIAID, 2010).

—> Some risk groups, such as HIV/AIDS patients, individuals who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy, are on corticosteroids for autoimmune diseases, children who are too young to be vaccinated etc. These poor individuals are protected by having a large percentage of the population vaccinated. Needless to say, this also protects vaccine rejectionists, despite their fervent opposition to all things vaccine. Ironic, isn’t it?

—> You can still have the viruses and bacteria that you have been vaccinated against in your skin or on the epithelial cells of your nose, but the immune system prevents these from infecting you like they would have if you where not protected. This limits the degree to which you can spread it, since it will often not cause symptoms like sneezing or coughing. Who do you think you are most likely to be infected by: a person who has the virus on his body or the one who sneezes it on your face?

—> Ahlm seriously misunderstands the concept of herd immunity. It is not based on the idea that a certain part of the population needs to develop and active disease and the vaccine is not required to trigger the disease. Both produce memory B cells.

—> Ahlm continues to fail basic science when she claims that herd immunity denies viruses have their own life cycles and that viruses can “die out naturally” even if there is no vaccine. She confuses life cycle with the duration of an epidemic, which shows that her ignorance of basic biology is vast. Her example is SARS, but virus behind SARS was not exterminated; the emerging epidemic was curved with stringent quarantines. It is very hard to understand exactly what her point is, but presumably it is that we have to take into account spontaneous decrease in number of cases. The answer to this objection is clear: we do. It is called “control group”.

—> Ahlm claims that outbreaks can occur despite a vaccine coverage high than 90%. This is true, but only because vaccine rejectionists tend to cluster geographically. The models for herd immunity generally assume that vaccine rejectionists or people who are non-vaccinated are distributed randomly. This is generally the case. For instance, while the national converge in the United States may be above 90%, local coverage in certain areas may fall as low as 70% in Ashland, Oreagon (PBS, 2010) or even as low as 40% in certain schools near Marina del Rey (Novella, 2009). This explains why outbreaks can happen locally, despite national high vaccine coverage. Basic math.

—> Ahlm saves the most absurdly false claim to the end when she says that “you cannot vaccinate and think that your children are protected and then feel that your children are not protected because, somehow, there are certain non-vaccinated children who carry a secret organism that no one else carries. It just does not add up.” On the contrary, it does add up, because vaccines are not 100% effective, so even if you are fully vaccinated and live in a population filled with non-vaccinated individuals, you are at risk. Furthermore, remember those individuals that cannot be vaccinated such as HIV/AIDS patients, individuals who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy, are on corticosteroids for autoimmune diseases, children who are too young to be vaccinated etc.

Conclusion

The anti-vaccine hysteric Marina Ahlm tries to inflate minor practical problems and scientific uncertainties while ignoring the broad knowledge that exists on the efficacy of vaccines. She routinely misunderstand basic scientific concepts like herd immunity and life cycle. She performs many fallacies, such as the perfect solution fallacy and quoting out of context. Her claims are highly selective and scientifically flawed in multiple respects.

References and Further Reading

CDC. (1997). Pertussis vaccination: use of acellular pertussis vaccines among infants and young children. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR Recomm Rep. 1997 Mar 28; 46(RR-7):1-25.

CDC. (2008). Progress Toward Interruption of Wild Poliovirus Transmission — Worldwide, January 2007–April 2008. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 58(18), 489-494.

CDC. (2011). Basics and Common Questions: Some Common Misconceptions about vaccination and how to respond to them. Accessed: 2012-01-29.

Fine, P. E. M. (2009). Polio: Measuring the Protection That Matters Most. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 200(5), 673-675.

Kew, O., Morris-Glasgow, V., Landaverde, M., Burns, C., Shaw, J., Garib, Z. a., . . . de Quadros, C. (2002). Outbreak of Poliomyelitis in Hispaniola Associated with Circulating Type 1 Vaccine-Derived Poliovirus. Science, 296(5566), 356-359.

Kretzschmar, M., Teunis, P. F. M., & Pebody, R. G. (2010). Incidence and Reproduction Numbers of Pertussis: Estimates from Serological and Social Contact Data in Five European Countries. PLoS Med, 7(6), e1000291.

NIAID. (2010). Community Immunity (“Herd” Immunity). Accessed: 2012-01-29.

Novella, S. (2009). Pockets of Vaccine Noncompliance in California. Science-Based Medicine. Accessed: 2012-01-29.

Offit, P. A. (2005). The Cutter Incident: How America’s First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Vaccine Crisis. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

PBS. (2011). Frontline: The Vaccine War. Written, produced and directed by Jon Palfreman. Accessed: 2012-01-29.

Petrini, Björn. (2000). BCG-vaccination – kontrovers och kompromiss. Läkartidningen. 97(48).

Shahmahmoodi S, Mamishi S, Aghamohammadi A, Aghazadeh N, Tabatabaie H, Goya MM, et al. (2010). Vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis in immunodeficient children, Iran, 1995–2008. Emerg Infect Dis.

Statens beredning för medicinsk utvärdering. (2009). Barnvaccinationer räddar liv och är säkra. Accessed: 2012-01-29.

WHO. (2011a). Measles mortality reduction: a successful initiative. Accessed: 2012-01-29.

WHO. (2011b). What is vaccine-derived polio?. Accessed: 2012-01-29.

WHO. (2012). India records one year without polio cases. Accessed: 2012-01-29.

Emil Karlsson

Debunker of pseudoscience.

5 thoughts on “The Insanity that is Swedish Anti-Vaccine Crankery

  • January 30, 2012 at 12:00
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    The medical literature has a surprising number of studies documenting vaccine failure. Measles, mumps, small pox, polio and Hib outbreaks have all occurred in vaccinated populations.

    In 1989 the CDC reported: “Among school-aged children, measles outbreaks have occurred in schools with vaccination levels of greater than 98 percent. They have occurred in all parts of the country, including areas that had not reported measles for years.”

    The CDC even reported a measles outbreak in a documented 100 percent vaccinated population.

    A study examining this phenomenon concluded, “The apparent paradox is that as measles immunization rates rise to high levels in a population, measles becomes a disease of immunized persons.”

    Another study found that measles vaccination “produces immune suppression which contributes to an increased susceptibility to other infections.”

    These studies suggest that the goal of complete immunization is actually counterproductive, a notion underscored by instances in which epidemics followed complete immunization of entire countries.

    Japan experienced yearly increases in small pox following the introduction of compulsory vaccines in 1872. By 1892, there were 29,979 deaths, and all had been vaccinated.

    Measles vaccine failures: lack of sustained measles specific immunoglobulin G responses in revaccinated adolescents and young adults. Department of Pediatrics, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20007. Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. 13(1):34-8, 1994 Jan.

    Measles outbreak in 31 schools: risk factors for vaccine failure and evaluation of a selective revaccination strategy. Department of Preventive Medicine and Biostatistics, University of Toronto, Ont. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 150(7):1093-8, 1994 Apr 1.

    Haemophilus b disease after vaccination with Haemophilus b polysaccharide or conjugate vaccine. Institution Division of Bacterial Products, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, Md 20892. American Journal of Diseases of Children. 145(12):1379-82, 1991 Dec.

    Sustained transmission of mumps in a highly vaccinated population: assessment of primary vaccine failure and waning vaccine-induced immunity. Division of Field Epidemiology, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 169(1):77-82, 1994 Jan.

    Secondary measles vaccine failure in healthcare workers exposed to infected patients. Department of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, PA 19104. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology. 14(2):81-6, 1993 Feb. MMWR, 38 (8-9), 12/29/89).

    MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) “Measles.” 1989; 38:329-330.

    Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). 33(24),6/22/84.

    Failure to reach the goal of measles elimination. Apparent paradox of measles infections in immunized persons. Review article: 50 REFS. Dept. of Internal Medicine, Mayo Vaccine Research Group, Mayo Clinic and Foundation, Rochester, MN. Archives of Internal Medicine. 154(16):1815-20, 1994 Aug 22.

    Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology, May 1996; 79(2): 163-170.

    Trevor Gunn, Mass Immunization, A Point in Question, p 15 (E.D. Hume, Pasteur Exposed-The False Foundations of Modern Medicine, Bookreal, Australia, 1989.)

    http://Vaccin.me

  • January 30, 2012 at 21:18
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    I see that Marina Ahlm found her way to my refutation of her blog post. She seems very keen on commenting, as she submitted her comment multiple times. It is interesting to see that she have merely senselessly copy/pasted the comment word-for-word from other texts on the internet, often repeating the same flawed claims that she presented in the original entry at your anti-vaccine blog, rather than making arguments in her own words. she also did not respond to any of the points that I made in this blog entry. Did she even read it before commenting? If she read the comment policy of this blog before she posted (she clearly did not), she would have seen that it prohibits copy/pasting long arguments without any original input. However, I will be humble and allow this behavior. For now. Also, unlike what goes on at the anti-vaccine blog at vaccine.me, I do not randomly delete comments or edit them to undermine critics. She and her allies have been exposed.

    Anyhow, I will indulge her delusional beliefs and provide a point-by-point refutation (again!). Hopefully she will learn this time around, but I doubt it. When someone is so ideologically committed as she is, it is extremely hard to make them see their error. She more or less repeat the same logical fallacies as before: confirmation bias (she artificially inflates minor setbacks and limitations with vaccines while ignoring the benefits and efficacy), perfect solution fallacy (she reject vaccines because they are not perfect) and she also tend to quote government reports and scientific articles out of context. Probably, she have not read the original documents, but merely copy/paste what other anti-vaccine cranks have written, so it is not her fault entirely.

    Why do outbreaks in vaccinated populations occur?

    The reason that you sometimes have outbreaks in vaccinated populations is either because the regional proportion of vaccinated individuals fall below the level required for herd immunity, or because local pockets of unvaccinated individuals that spread it to susceptible individuals where vaccination has not been effective (vaccines are usually 95% effective, with some exceptions). These are the precise individuals that she and her anti-vaccine kind encourage to skip their vaccinations. So, ironically, her argument that vaccines are ineffective because local pockets of unvaccinated individuals become sick when the pathogen enters the community is not only logically contradictory and scientifically false, but also of her own doing. How does it feel to be responsible for the deaths of children due to disease that can easily be prevented with vaccines?

    Measles outbreak in 100% vaccinated population?

    Marina Ahlm claims that the CDC has reported a measles outbreak in a documented 100 percent vaccinated population and the references she provide for this claim are the following two articles:

    i. CDC. (1989). Measles — Quebec. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 38(18), 329-330.
    ii. CDC. (1984). Measles Outbreak among Vaccinated High School Students — Illinois. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 33(24), 349-51

    The problem, of course, is that she have taken these articles out of context (if she even bothered to read them to begin with). It is painfully obvious, because she cannot even get the reference correct. The title of first article is “Measles — Quebec” not just “Measles”. Let us take a look at the context and expose her dishonesty, shall we? The first article states that:

    Since late December 1988, more than 1600 cases of measles have been reported in the province of Quebec, Canada. Five hundred of the cases have occurred in metropolitan Montreal. In 199 (40%) of these cases, the onset of rash occurred in April (Figure 1). Detailed information is available for 486 (97%) of the 500 Montreal cases. Of these, 104 (21%) occurred in preschoolers aged 0-4 years, 328 (67%) in school- aged persons 5-19 years of age, and 54 (11%) in adults greater than or equal to 20 years of age. Of the adults, 42 (78%) were aged 20-29 years. Of school-aged patients, 191 (58%) had histories of previous vaccinations.

    Only 58%, rather than 100% (as you claimed), where vaccinated. 58% is well below the level need for herd immunity against measles, which explains the outbreak. Yet again, this was precisely caused by the actions of vaccine rejectionists like yourself. Does she not see the folly in using outbreaks as a result of low vaccination rates as evidence that vaccines are ineffective?

    Let us take a look at the second reference that she provided. Perhaps this may save her. Unfortunately, it does not. Her second reference states that:

    The outbreak involved 16 high school students, all of whom had histories of measles vaccination after 15 months of age documented in their school health records. Of the five remaining cases, four occurred in unvaccinated preschool children, two of whom were under 15 months of age, and one case occurred in a previously vaccinated college student.

    So some of the individuals infected where not vaccinated. If you continue to read the article, it reviews the evidence for long-term protection from the measles vaccine and concludes that:

    If waning immunity is not a problem, this outbreak suggests that measles transmission can occur within the 2%-10% of expected vaccine failures. However, transmission was not sustained beyond 36 days in this outbreak, and community spread was principally among unvaccinated preschool children. The infrequent occurrence of measles among highly vaccinated persons suggests that this outbreak may have resulted from chance clustering of otherwise randomly distributed vaccine failures in the community. That measles transmission can occur among vaccine failures makes it even more important to ensure persons are adequately vaccinated. Had there been a substantial number of unvaccinated or inadequately vaccinated students in the high school and the community, transmission in Sangamon County probably would have been sustained.

    So the explanation is that no vaccine is 100% effective and that it was due to the chance clustering of those individuals for which the vaccine did not take. This is not evidence of the vaccine failing horribly, but merely that no vaccine product is 100% effective. No one has denied this.

    In conclusion, none of the sources she provided support her claim of large-scale vaccine failure.

    Vaccine rejectionist Ahlm fails at basic math

    Marina Ahlm claims that most individuals who get sick in a vaccine-preventable disease are vaccinated is a statistical artifact due to low number of unvaccinated individuals and betrays a fundamental ignorance of basic mathematics on your part.

    Assume, for the sake of argument, that a school has 10000 students. Let’s say that 5 of them are unvaccinated. Let us also assume that a hypothetical vaccine is 95% efficient and that 80% of susceptible (vaccinated or unvaccinated) become ill. So that means that 4 unvaccinated individuals will become sick (0.8*5) and that 400 vaccinated people will become sick (0.8*0.05*10000). So while it is trivially true that the absolute amount of individuals who become sick will have been vaccinated (400 vs 4), the relative proportion of individuals sick tells another story. The risk of becoming infected if you are not vaccinated are 4/5 = 80%, whereas the risk of becoming infected if you are vaccinated is 400/10000 = 4%. So in this example, you have 20 times higher risk of becoming infected if you are unvaccinated than if you are vaccinated, despite the fact that the absolute number of individuals is higher in the vaccinated group than the unvaccinated group. Maybe they do not teach basic mathematics during her courses in foot therapy?

    Smallpox was eradicated by vaccination!

    She does not list a reference for your claims about smallpox so it is hard for me to evaluate it. However, this does not really matter. The eradication of smallpox by vaccination stands as a crowning achievement of modern medicine and your argument exposes her confirmation bias. It is estimated that smallpox killed around half a billion people through history. Poof! It is gone, thanks to vaccination. It is also intellectually disingenuous to compare a vaccine developed in the 1800s with modern vaccines. It is like comparing apples to watermelons.

    Vaccine rejectionists quote a bunch of papers out of context

    Marina Ahlm cites the paper by Poland and Jacobson (1994) to support her position, but this actually shows that my refutation is correct: the apparent paradox is due to a low number of unvaccinated individuals. The article actually supports vaccines, recommending a second dose of the measles vaccine.

    She claims that measles vaccine “produces immune suppression which contributes to an increased susceptibility to other infections.” This is another quote out of context. It comes originally from a paper by Auwaerter et. al. (1996), but it stated that “Measles produces immune suppression which contributes to an increased susceptibility to other infections”, not the measles vaccine. Another highly embarrassing error from her part. Also, the changes that Auwaerter et. al. reported also returned to baseline after a couple of months.

    Later, she refers to Cohn et. al. (1994) to support her notion of “measles vaccine failure”. However, she has clearly not even read the abstract. It says that:

    The measles-specific antibody responses of seronegative adolescents and young adults were evaluated after revaccination. Of 1650 previously vaccinated healthy volunteers between the ages of 10 and 30 years, 4.4% were found to be seronegative for measles antibodies and 9.9% had equivocal titers.

    This means that only 4.4% lacked antibodies against measles after a first dose. That means that, according to this article, the vaccine was effective in over 95% of individuals for producing antibodies against measles. This study checks to see if those who did not respond to a first dose would respond to a second, not to see whether or not the measles vaccine was effective.

    After that, she cites Yuan (1994). However, this study does not support her claims either, since:

    Revaccination significantly reduced the risk of measles among subjects who had been vaccinated before 1980. It also appeared to reduce the risk among those who had been vaccinated after 1980. The lack of a statistically significant decline in this group was likely due to low study power.

    So revaccination with the measles vaccine reduced the risk of measles among the vaccinated group. How is this a failure of vaccination? The study points out that this particular strategy of giving a second dose was not that effective, but this is yet a discussion of how to improve the administration of the second dose, not a study that shows that measles vaccination has failed.

    Ahlm then cites Ammari et. al. (1994). However, this study does not support your position either:

    Of 1,311 employees working in patient care areas, 900 (68.6%) had sera tested for measles antibody. Fourteen (1.5%) were negative, 338 (37.6%) had low positive antibody levels, 372 (41.3%) were mid-positive, and 171 (19%) were high-positive; 5 (0.6%) showed equivocal results.

    Again, only 1.5% individuals where negative (i.e. the vaccine did not induce antibodies). This does not imply that the measles vaccine was a failure.

    Finally, Ahlm also cites Frasch et. al. (1991). However, this does not support your position either:

    There were 30.7 reported vaccine failures per million doses of the polysaccharide vaccine compared with 9.0 per million doses of the conjugate vaccine, a 3.4-fold difference.

    Based on this data, the vaccine protected 99.9969% of individuals given the vaccine. Hardly a vaccine failure.

    Marina Ahlm uses severely outdated sources

    Most of the sources Marina Ahlm abuses are also way out of date (late 80s and early 90s), which further enforces my conclusion that she is just shamelessly copy/pasting older sources as if it was her own. In science, this is called plagiarism and falls under scientific misconduct.

    Marina Ahlm is a germ-theory denialist

    I find it interesting that Ahlm list the book “Pasteur Exposed: The False Foundations of Modern Medicine” as a reference. It is a book from the 80s that actually denies the germ theory of disease, that it, it rejects the notion that germs such as bacteria and viruses can cause disease. It is a completely delusional book as pretty much all advances in modern pathology is based on the germ theory of disease. It is one of the greatest advances of science and Ahlm apparently deny it. Marina Ahlm’s ignorance amuses me.

    Conclusion

    Marina Ahlm copy/pasted most of the content of her comment from other places without giving credit and is therefore guilty of plagiarism. She did not respond to any of my criticisms, but continued to peddle the perfect solution fallacy, confirmation bias and quoted over half-a-dozen scientific papers out of context, even when the context could easily be found just looking at the abstract. She also apparently rejects the germ theory of disease of all things.

    Marina Ahlm’s comment was an abject failure and she should not be taken seriously on anything she says about vaccines or modern medicine.

  • Pingback:A Swedish Vaccine Rejectionist Comes Out to Play… « Debunking Denialism

  • August 23, 2012 at 22:46
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    India was hailed a success story re near Polio eradication by the BBC earlier this year. However the Indian press were reporting that hospitals were seeing more than 20 times more cases of infantile paralysis due to the live vaccine, with double the chance of mortality as a result.

    http://www.telegraphindia.com/1120116/jsp/frontpage/story_15011108.jsp

    The Web site of the National Polio Surveillance Project (NPSP) reveals that the number of cases of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) in children increased from 3,047 to 60,466 (20 times) during 1997 to 2011
    http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/article2837352.ece?homepage=true

    How can changing one disease for a more serious symptom be of benefit to the children?

    • August 24, 2012 at 12:42
      Permalink

      Actually, the only reason that the incidence of wild polio virus is so low is due to the vaccine. According to your own link:

      Public health experts also estimate that between 100 and 180 children in India develop vaccine-associated polio paralysis (VAPP) each year, a rare but serious side effect of the OPV they had received to protect them from the wild poliovirus. As opposed to VDPV infection, VAPP affects the vaccinated children themselves.

      “Our war on polio isn’t over,” said T. Jacob John, a former head of virology at the Christian Medical College, Vellore.

      “Even if India remains free of wild polio in 2012 and 2013, it will need to pencil a strategy to eradicate all of polio — including VDPV (infections) and VAPP.”

      Paediatricians and public health experts emphasise that it is the OPV alone that has helped India achieve the current zero level of wild polio — after thousands of infections each year during the 1980s and 1990s.

      As India is declared polio-free, they will change to Salk’s inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) which cannot cause a reactivation. Then, any cases of VDPV will disappear.

      Achieving a polio-free world will require the “cessation of all OPV” and with it the elimination of the risk of VAPP or VDPV infections, two immunisation experts, Stephen Cochi and Robert Linkins, from the Centers for Disease Control in the US said this week in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

      Ironically, the only protection against VDPV exposure is getting vaccinated.

      Polio control experts are particularly worried about VDPV. Global surveillance efforts picked up 430 cases of VDPV from several countries between July 2009 and March 2011. As long as OPV is used, virologists, say the world is at risk of VDPV causing polio in unprotected children.

      The other article you link to says that:

      It is well-known that Oral Polio Vaccine inevitably causes Vaccine Associated Paralytic Polio (VAPP) in a miniscule proportion of Oral Polio Vaccine receivers — an average 1 case of VAPP per 4 million doses of polio.

      This is probably a much smaller risk than crossing the street, which I assume you do without any particular fear. Even 1 case per 4 million doses is unfortunate, but 1 case per 4 million is less than letting wild polio spread like wildfire.

      The “shocking increase” you are referring to is simply because more people are getting vaccines. As more doses are being delivered, this will increase the absolute number, but not the proportion. Controlling for confounders is essential and shows yet again that vaccine denialists fail at basic math.

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