Ideological Constructs of Vaccination
By Mateja Cernic, PhD
Vega Press Ltd
Vaccination is the sacred cow at the center of a storm of controversy today. When the two highly charged sides clash, you can almost hear the thunder and see the lightning. Many books have been written on the subject, and there will probably be many more to come as each side uses all available means to promote its point of view. Each side believes that if it can just emphasize its points more clearly, the other side will finally come to its senses and see reason.
This book looks at the evidence and history of vaccination and does a brilliant job. I really like the graphs and charts showing the data in a way that makes it easy to see the impact (or lack thereof) of vaccination on disease. The author also effectively dismantles the fantasy of herd immunity. It is a fact that vaccines do not always work; if they work at all, they generally work for less than ten years. So by the time children reach adulthood, their vaccines are no longer effective.
It is not hard to do the math and see that less than half of the “herd” is protected by vaccines at any given time. In short, there is no vaccine-based herd immunity, and there never has been. With current technology, there never will be. Another result of the push for herd immunity is that vaccines shift mild childhood diseases to teens and adults in whom the diseases tend to be more severe.
But this book goes beyond arguments over vaccine effectiveness and looks at the thinking, mentality, ideology and even religious fanaticism surrounding the issue. Dr. Cernic defines ideology on the first page of the introduction as “interest-driven constructs of reality” that are promoted at the expense of other views. “Interest-driven”—not science-driven.
The pro-vaccination side tends to consider vaccine science to be as well established as the law of gravity. Proponents view themselves as “objective” and “rational” and believe the truth is obvious. Therefore, anyone who questions vaccination must be weak-minded, deranged, dangerous or even a genocidal maniac. However, this attitude already gives the lie to the myth of objectivity. There is nothing objective or scientific about demonizing the opposition. In fact, by doing so, you have changed the subject. If you disagree with me and start questioning my intelligence, character, ancestry or how ugly I am, any of those things may be true but you are no longer addressing the facts of the original argument. If you have no good response to my points, derision is just a common way of distracting everyone and making it look like you have won the argument anyway.
The case of Andrew Wakefield is a well-known example of “scientific” overreaction. Wakefield performed a small study looking at a possible cause of autism, which came to no sweeping conclusions about vaccines but suggested more study would be a good idea. For that he was demonized and crucified.
There is also an implicit belief that scientists as a group are completely objective—somehow fundamentally different from the rest of us mere mortals. This book and many others debunk this perspective. Far from being transcendent beings who are immune to the biases and influences that plague the rest of us, scientists involved in a study are typically less objective than the general public. As experts, they have gone on record with their views on their subject of expertise. When they participate in a study on that subject, they care about whether the study proves them wrong or right. They don’t want to look stupid any more than you or I do.
There is a bigger problem with studies that are made public. They are generally not controlled by the scientists doing them, but by the sponsors—the corporations—that are paying for them. These entities are not paying for science; they are paying for marketing. They want studies that show “you need our product or you may die.”
Cernic says that functionally speaking, science and religion are two sides of the same coin. (You can look up the definition of religion online, and you will find about twenty different definitions, but I don’t like to waste time arguing about semantics, so I won’t.) Science and religion are both about what you believe to be the best or only path or methodology to find the ultimate truth. The view that science and religion necessarily conflict becomes nonsensical when you see that the boundaries between science, religion, history, morality and ethics are artificial. They are all connected. When you try to disconnect them, trouble starts. When you disconnect science from morality or ethics, you end up with nuclear weapons, GMOs and Twinkies.
Ironically, “the science is settled” is not a scientific statement but a statement of religious intolerance and authoritarian dictatorship. It certainly does not represent the behavior of someone who believes in truly objective science. Cernic describes the example of a pediatrician who posts on Facebook that he will expel any parents who do not vaccinate from his practice and file a report with Child Protective Services (CPS). This is an example of intolerance taken to a whole new level. I am not immediately able to think of any major religion that condones taking children from their parents for any reason. Such an attitude is mostly associated with barbaric cultures in their final death throes, which are practicing child sacrifice.
There are too many good points in the book to summarize them, but I want to highlight one more. Cernic cites a study showing that human fetal DNA fragments and retroviral contaminants in vaccines modify the genes of babies and small children especially. They cause autoimmune disorders and possibly other problems. In this era, which considers personal responsibility as quaint and outmoded, blaming health problems on genetics has a certain appeal. Blaming the genes is essentially like blaming God or Mother Nature, depending on your religious inclination. “It’s not our fault.” Well, sorry, but even if there is a genetic component to autism, it is not a naturally occurring genetic defect. And bad genes don’t cause epidemics.
OK, I can’t resist discussing one more point. This is an example from Slovenia, the home country of the book’s author, illustrating that shenanigans like this go on all over the world. Slovenia has stonewalled Cernic’s attempts to obtain vaccine safety data for years. The institution responsible for protecting public health in Slovenia defended its stonewalling with a statement that included the following choice nuggets: “Individuals or larger groups could start rejecting vaccination en masse” and “The public may build up skewed images and wrong attitudes.” After seeing statements like that, I don’t really need to see the data. Those statements tell me everything I need to know.
It would be nice if we could slaughter this sacred cow and turn it into some nice, juicy, fat steaks. Everyone would be happier. Although this book may be a little too deep for the average shallow reader, if you have the mental horsepower, it is a great book. The thumb is UP.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2019