Vaccines and chemicals

Puff the Mutant Dragon has an excellent takedown of Vaccines Have Chemicals alarmism: “Do vaccines contain toxic chemicals?” Puff considers mercury, ammonia, formaldehyde, thimerosol, aluminum, and hydrochloric acid.

In addition, Puff found a cartoon showing Jenner vaccinating people with cowpox. The results look like a humorous jab at vaccination fears.

The original vaccination in the 1800s: The Cow-Pock

But this was a serious editorial effort by the Anti-Vaccine Society, which objected to adding strange cow-derived substances into our precious bodily fluids. (Click on the picture to see a larger version.)

And yet this was a huge step up from previous inoculation procedures, which used a mild strain of smallpox with only 10% mortality to protect against the wild strains with 30% mortality.

Vaccines and “immune system overload”

In 2002, Dr. Paul Offit and several others published a peer-reviewed paper:  “Addressing Parents’ Concerns: Do Multiple Vaccines Overwhelm or Weaken the Infant’s Immune System?”

One interesting point was the number of antigens that children are exposed to. I’ll just mention a couple of the conclusions:

  • First, theoretically a baby’s  immune system can handle at least 10,000 antigens at one time, just based on the number of circulating immune cells.
  • Second, children’s vaccinations expose them to far fewer foreign proteins now than in 1980–about 4% of the number (or 3.8% of the number given in 1960).
Antigen exposure has dropped 96% since 1980

Antigen exposure has dropped 96% since 1980

You can get a full-sized copy of this graph on flickr. feel free to spread it around.

Children are Exposed to Fewer Antigens in Vaccines Today Than in the Past

Parents who are worried about the increasing number of recommended vaccines may take comfort in knowing that children are exposed to fewer antigens (proteins and polysaccharides) in vaccines today than in the past.

Table 2 summarizes the number of proteins and polysaccharides contained in routinely recommended vaccines administered over the past 100 years. Although we now give children more vaccines, the actual number of antigens they receive has declined. Whereas previously 1 vaccine, smallpox, contained about 200 proteins, now the 11 routinely recommended vaccines contain fewer than 130 proteins in total.

Two factors account for this decline: first, the worldwide eradication of smallpox obviated the need for that vaccine, and second, advances in protein chemistry have resulted in vaccines containing fewer antigens (e.g., replacement of whole-cell with acellular pertussis vaccine).

The paper covers several other interesting points.

Abstract: Recent surveys found that an increasing number of parents are concerned that infants receive too many vaccines. Implicit in this concern is that the infant’s immune system is inadequately developed to handle vaccines safely or that multiple vaccines may overwhelm the immune system. In this review, we will examine the following:

1) the ontogeny of the active immune response and the ability of neonates and young infants to respond to vaccines;

2) the theoretic capacity of an infant’s immune system;

3) data that demonstrate that mild or moderate illness does not interfere with an infant’s ability to generate protective immune responses to vaccines;

4) how infants respond to vaccines given in combination compared with the same vaccines given separately;

5) data showing that vaccinated children are not more likely to develop infections with other pathogens than unvaccinated children; and

6) the fact that infants actually encounter fewer antigens in vaccines today than they did 40 or 100 years ago.

Vaccines and formaldehyde

Here’s a delightful irony: if I read this correctly, the amount of formaldehyde in vaccines is so small that vaccines dilute the naturally occuring formaldehyde in our bodies.

Thinking is real: “Vaccines have toxic formaldehyde”!!!!!

Last week’s Sunday Night show about the whooping cough death of an Australian baby has made it clear that silence isn’t a very good option….

People trying to push an “alternative” health or lifestyle barrow love to list things they demonise as “CHEMICALS”, apparently not realising EVERYTHING is made from CHEMICALS… Even homeopathic “remedies” are made from CHEMICALS, namely water – and sometimes sugar or even alcohol….

Formaldehyde – a simple organic chemical made of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon — is a widespread and natural constituent of all living systems, from bacteria and fish to rodents and humans.

Due to its importance in various metabolic processes, formaldehyde is naturally present in the human body with concentrations of approximately one to two parts per million (ppm) in blood.

the evolutionary process had to include a way to ensure that formaldehyde’s inherent toxicity could be controlled. Certain enzymes… convert formaldehyde that is formed continuously in various biological processes to formate, which is less reactive and, therefore, less toxicto keep formaldehyde from reaching concentrations that are toxic to cells.

…clearly, the notion that the smallest fraction of formaldehyde, less than is already present in the baby’s bloodstream, is a toxin that no baby could possibly endure is a nonsense.

So there you have it.

The event that inspired the writer to research formaldehyde and anti-vaccine sentiment was the death of a small baby in Australia from whooping cough (pertussis). She was too young to be vaccinated but if the people around her were vaccinated she’d be unlikely to catch the disease.

On Sunday evening, Australia’s Channel 7 Sunday Night programme aired a positive, well researched and scientifically based story on the dangers of not vaccinating.

The report centred around the death of four week old Dana McCaffery from whooping cough. The tragedy was Dana was too young to be vaccinated, but lived in an area of low herd immunity, resulting in her contracting the deadly pertussis bacteria. There is no cure for whooping cough.

Dana’s parents, Toni and David made the brave decision to speak out to reporter Rebecca Maddern of “Sunday Night”. What resulted was a wake-up call for parents who don’t vaccinate as we viewed footage of tiny babies with pertussis and heard of the heart break from the parents. Dana’s paediatrician, Dr Chris Ingall, who was unable to save Dana, implored parents to vaccinate, not only to protect the lives of their own children but others as well.

The last time I looked, whooping cough had a small but not negligible mortality, somewhere between 1 and 8 percent.

No link between MMR vaccines and autism

Kathleen SeidelIn U.S. courts, three test cases claiming that autistic disorders were caused by Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccines have ended with judges’ decisions that the claims of causation were unfounded. Kathleen Seidel at Neurodiversity Weblog has a summary of the judgements.

This will have a positive effect worldwide, as scare-mongering has dropped vaccination rates, with a concommitent increase in disease and even death.

Vaccines and autism: done like dinner

The notion that vaccines cause autism is finished, cooked, eaten, and the bones thrown away.

A big hat tip to Tara Smith at Aetiology, who says

Last fall, I wrote about a new research paper which tried to replicate some of Andrew Wakefield’s original results, which not only claimed a correlation between MMR vaccination and autism, but also the presence of measles virus in intestinal tissue…. The more recent study was unable to replicate any of Wakefield’s findings–not surprising, since so many papers in the last decade have found no connection between vaccination and autism.

…a recent investigation by the Sunday Times (London) has another reason why the results of the two papers differ: Wakefield made up his data.

From the Times Online:

In most of the 12 cases, the children’s ailments as described in The Lancet were different from their hospital and GP records. Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal. This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.

Tara goes on to say

This is truly incredible. Even being familiar with Wakefield’s statements over the past decade about his research, and his complete denial about studies that have contradicted his own findings, it’s still pretty shocking that he completely made up data, and then pushed it for ten years as children around the world became ill and even died in light of his research. It’s even more disgusting in light of the fact that I doubt this new information will change many minds when it comes to vaccination–the meme has already spread too far to let a little thing like atrocious scientific misconduct rein it in now.

Outraged parents should be hanging Wakefield in effigy.

Doctor who developed 40 vaccines started by reading Darwin

photo of an aged Maurice Hilleman Maurice Hilleman, who died April 11, 2005, was credited with saving as many as 25 million lives through his work in developing vaccines to prevent diseases. He has been called “the man who saved your life.”

He got his start towards science by reading Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, which had somehow been overlooked by a committee bent on sanitizing the library.

Here’s his obituary in The Economist.

UPDATED: Here’s a link to an account of Maurice Hilleman’s work, on the Web site of the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research

In memoriam: Frederick Sanger

250px-Frederick_Sanger2Frederick Sanger, the only Briton to have won two Nobel prizes, has died. He worked in biochemistry, studying DNA and proteins. His first Nobel prize was awarded for being the first to sequence a protein, insulin. At the time, it required years of work to do so.  He found that it was made up of two peptide chains: all proteins are one or more peptide chains. He spent nearly ten years removing one amino acid at a time from the end of the protein and identifying it, then going on to the next.

Winning the prize enabled him to afford better facilities and gather bright students around him. His second prize was for an ingenious and efficient way of discovering the sequence of nucleotide bases in a molecule of DNA or RNA. The linking of base pairs gives the molecule its ladder structure. The Sanger method cuts the molecules at different places, sorts them by weight (and therefore length) and identifies the base on the end using fluorescent dyes of different colours. According to Wikipedia, he used the method sequence human mitochondrial DNA (16,569 base pairs) and bacteriophage λ (48,502 base pairs). His method was used to sequence the human genome and many others.

His work allowed us to understand the genetic basis of mutations and diseases and was important for the development of better vaccines. Frederick Sanger was also honoured with the Order of Merit for distinguished service in science as well as several other awards.

The Telegraph has quite a nice obituary: Frederick Sanger.

Signal boost: more about squalenes

I put this into a comment but it deserves a wider readership.


Squalene is found in foods and your body makes it and uses it on the pathway to making cholesterol, which is a precursor to vital hormones. Your own blood contains sqalene. It is sold as a food supplement in the form of shark’s liver oil. Traces found in vaccines where it is not added appear to come from the oils left by fingerprints on laboratory glassware. The amounts found are far less than the concentration already in human blood.

The anthrax vaccine given to U.S. soldiers used aluminum hydroxide as an adjuvant. The purpose of an adjuvant is to boost immune response and allow us to use less of the antigen (disease substance that we want to become immune to). The U.S. doesn’t use squalene as an adjuvant in any vaccine. See this Q&A paper from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (Portable Document Format file).

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