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In 2019, a remarkable book, “Turtles All The Way Down: Vaccine Science and Myth,” was published in Israel. The book, originally written in Hebrew, is a comprehensive examination of the evidence behind the assertion that vaccines are safe and effective.
Though it might easily have been lost to obscurity, the book gained initial acclaim when the leading medical journal in Israel, Harefuah (“Medicine”), gave it a positive review.
Writing in the September 2019 issue of Harefuah, two senior academic criminologists, Nati Ronel and Eti Elisha, “found the book to be well-written, serious, scientific and important” offering “a comprehensive view of the issue.”
“Turtles All The Way Down: Vaccine Science and Myth” became the first book critical of vaccines to have ever received a positive review from a mainstream medical journal.
Criticism of Ronel and Elisha came quickly from the medical establishment, but as Mary Holland, editor of the book and Children’s Health Defense president and general counsel states in the book’s foreword:
“Their appraisal of the book still stands today, unscathed: in the three years since its (Hebrew) publication, no medical or medical science professional has succeeded in refuting the book’s claims.”
The reason the information offered in the book has yet to be refuted is simple. The book’s 1,200+ citations reference only mainstream scientific journals and health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization.
An attack on the book is ultimately an attack on the medical establishment itself.
The book was recently published in English and has been available since July 2022.
If you wish to productively engage in the vaccine debate that is sweeping the world today, this book is a must-read.
Turtles and COVID-19
Had “Turtles All The Way Down” received its deserved attention from the international medical community when it was written one year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world may very well have avoided the predicament that we are in today.
Nevertheless, the book is still relevant. Rather than enumerating the obvious failures of the current COVID-19 vaccine campaigns, “Turtles All The Way Down” instead offers a compelling explanation of why we should have predicted the vaccines’ failure from their inception — but didn’t.
I am a doctor and have trained at some of the finest institutions in the U.S. Yet I didn’t know much about mRNA technology or vaccines in general in the summer of 2020.
In other words, I was like most doctors. We knew how vaccines worked in principle and we had, at one point in our education, memorized the recommended vaccination schedule for children.
When the CDC announced that the Pfizer formulation met and exceeded minimum efficacy requirements for Emergency Use Authorization, I witnessed our nation breathe a sigh of relief.
I also witnessed colleagues gleefully planning their visits to vaccination clinics to receive this gift of modern medicine.
None of my colleagues were interested in the results of the trial. Nor were they curious enough to know why our health authorities were so confident in their assessment.
When the results of Pfizer’s multicenter trial of its BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine were published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), it was obvious that there were more questions than answers, at least to the discerning amongst us.
According to the NEJM, yes, the trial data indicated that the “vaccine” had a calculated efficacy of 90% in preventing severe disease — but that was only for a matter of weeks and only if measured from the point of maximum efficacy (two weeks after the second dose).
Moreover, only 10 participants out of approximately 40,000 got severe COVID-19 (nine of whom received the placebo). That meant about 2,500 people had to be vaccinated to prevent a single case of severe COVID-19.
Six of every 1,000 recipients were deemed to have had a reaction that was an imminent threat to their life or limb, needed hospitalization or surgical intervention and/or ended up with a permanent disability.
Why would the public accept a treatment that would result in 15 serious adverse events for every case of severe COVID-19 it prevented?
And what about all of the suspicious withdrawals from the trials? Why did 5 times more vaccine recipients get pulled out of the trial within seven days of getting the second dose compared to those who got the placebo?
What happened to these 311 volunteers and why were they excluded from the trial soon after getting the second dose (VRBPAC Memorandum, Table 2)?
Surely the FDA would ask some hard questions. But it didn’t. Neither did anyone else I knew. Not my friends, my neighbors nor my fellow physicians.
Why on Earth wasn’t anyone asking any questions??
The explanation is rooted in unquestioned beliefs deeply held by our society regarding Western medicine and its apparent winning record against diseases that have historically exacted devastating tolls on our species.
The COVID-19 vaccines were presumed to be an enormous success because vaccines have been regarded by many as the best contribution of modern medicine to humanity. Vaccines have a powerful mystique. They don’t cure illness, they prevent it. They keep us healthy!
And we know they work because such things like polio don’t exist anymore (at least not around here anyway). They are obviously safe, otherwise we wouldn’t be injecting them into human beings from the time they are only a few hours old (Hep B), would we?
In retrospect I now see that simply asking questions about the COVID-19 vaccine trial results was seen as an assault on modern medicine, an institution lauded for using innovative technology and research to reach unassailable truths through objectivity while maintaining the highest standards of ethics and safety through oversight by public institutions like the National Institutes of Health, the CDC and the FDA.
Questioning the COVID-19 vaccines was equated with questioning all vaccines. It wasn’t just seen as unscientific, it was considered unpatriotic. It wasn’t just unpopular, it was heretical. It was an attack on the secular savior of humanity.
In order to see what was transpiring at the time, it was necessary to first examine the lens through which we were looking. Referring people to suspicious numbers in a table in the supplementary material of a published study wasn’t going to change a whole lot of minds. I can personally attest to this.
“Turtles All The Way Down” approaches the issue from the only way possible: from the beginning.
A unique and timely book
The phrase, “Turtles all the way down” is the punch line from an anecdote often told in the scientific community.
As the story goes, an elderly woman, after patiently listening to an astronomer’s lecture about the Earth and its place in the solar system, confronts him to let him know that she disagrees with his “theory” as a better one exists.
When asked to explain, she states that the Earth is actually held upon the shoulders of four very large elephants who stand upon the shell of an even larger turtle.
When the bemused astronomer asks, “But what then does the turtle stand upon?” the woman responds confidently, “Upon an even larger turtle! You see, it’s turtles all the way down!”
The story demonstrates how a myth can substitute for evidence if we abandon logic and our level of inquiry remains shallow.
The “turtles” anecdote is also a commentary on the general tenor of discussion between laypersons and scientists, wherein the rational professional is always able to deftly uncover the defective reasoning behind the foolish ideas held by “non-scientists” by asking the most basic of questions.
But what happens when we turn the tables and demand answers to the most basic questions around vaccine science? How do our agencies of public health know all vaccines are safe and effective?
Could the entire “safe and effective” narrative be no more than a series of interdependent myths that ultimately rest on thin air and not comprehensive and reproducible evidence?
Is it turtles all the way down?
The book succeeds where others have not
Before discussing the merits of this body of work, it is worthwhile to mention another peculiarity: the authors are anonymous.
The reason for this is obvious as Holland explains:
“Whenever someone questions any part of the official narrative, no matter how minor the point or reasonable the argument, that person is immediately attacked — to the point that well-known dedicated scientists in numerous countries have lost their careers for challenging vaccine dogma.”
Beyond protecting their own careers and reputation, maintaining anonymity allows the authors another advantage. When solid, coherent and factual criticism of vaccine safety and efficacy do appear, debunkers and so-called “fact checkers” do not respond with opposing evidentiary arguments because they can’t. There simply aren’t any.
They are left with only one arrow in their quiver: ad hominem attacks, i.e., character assaults against authors by using pejorative terms like “science denier” or “anti-vaxxer” to mislead readers or trick them into believing that any book that leads to unflattering conclusions about vaccines must surely be the product of ignorant minds or of crafty snake oil salesmen with ulterior motives.
Sadly, this has proven to be a very effective method to suppress healthy and needed debate around vaccine science.
By hiding their identity, the authors have side-stepped this predictable line of attack upon their work.
However, by doing so another wrinkle appears: How then is the reader able to determine whether the book is an earnest effort by reputable scientists to present all sides of a long and complicated topic or the musings of quack doctors and pseudo scientists that delight in misleading the public anonymously?
The answer is simple. You have to read it. Check the numerous citations. Discuss it with your friends, your family and your doctor.
Yes. You will have to make up your own mind. In this time where information appears at a dizzying pace and accusations of misinformation erupt just as frequently, we will eventually have to face the reality that sooner or later, we will have to rely upon our own wits to make sense of what is going on right now.
I believe the authors of “Turtles All The Way Down” are aware of the predicament the public is in. This is one reason the book is so powerful. Very little prior knowledge is expected of the reader. This makes the material appropriate for laypersons and medical professionals alike.
The authors were also able to give the book broad appeal by making it understandable to the casual reader, but by including more than 1,200 references from reputable sources, it cannot be dismissed as an oversimplified version of “the facts” by those who wish to get to the bottom of things.
In order to answer the simple question of whether the “safe and effective” vaccine narrative is scientific or merely a myth we have to start with the basics and see what rabbit holes appear and then see where they lead.
The book does just that:
- Chapter 1 describes how vaccine clinical trials are conducted and the limits of what can be gleaned by these kinds of investigations. How much can we know about the safety of the products we inject into our children if no vaccine on the CDC’s childhood schedule was ever tested against a true placebo?
- Chapter 2 offers another sobering reality. There has been minimal scientific investigation into the mechanism by which vaccines could harm our physiology. Without any understanding of how they might cause adverse effects, how can we possibly know they don’t?
- Chapter 3 delivers unapologetic criticism of the adverse event reporting systems that purportedly serve to capture safety signals after modestly powered clinical trials are conducted and the vaccine is administered to tens of millions or more. They don’t work, but have they been designed that way purposefully?
- Chapters 4 and 5 demonstrate how epidemiological studies can easily be manipulated to produce a desired outcome. The authors take the discussion beyond the hypothetical and dissect several studies widely cited by vaccine proponents to reveal the bias that permeates their methodology and conclusions.
- Chapter 6 attacks our health agencies’ claims that the childhood vaccination schedule has been thoroughly tested. Is this claim founded in fact, i.e., randomized controlled trials? No, it is not. How about through large, long-term observational studies between vaccinated and unvaccinated children? No again. Certainly such studies would quiet vaccine skeptics. Why haven’t they been done?
- Chapter 7 demonstrates the glaring lack of evidence behind commonly held ideas that the timing and quantity of vaccines are not only optimal but safe.
- Chapter 8 delivers a stiff blow to the vaccine dogma by pointing out the elephant in the room: Mortality from diseases that are targeted by the childhood vaccine program had already significantly declined from their peaks prior to the widespread use of these vaccinations. And the elephant’s shadow: Why has the incidence of chronic disease exploded since the childhood vaccine program was expanded?
- In Chapter 9 the authors teach us about herd immunity, the carrot dangled in front of the public to urge us to participate in vaccination campaigns for the greater good. However, only a minority of the vaccines deployed upon our children are good enough to ever deliver herd immunity, no matter how many of them get into line. Yes, that is correct. Herd immunity is first a function of a given vaccine’s ability to prevent infection and transmission. If a vaccine cannot provide this, herd immunity cannot be attained. Period.
An honest examination of the book to this point should open most discerning readers to the possibility that the vaccine narrative may in fact be anchored more in myth than in science.
How can we know that childhood vaccines are safe if none have been tested against a true placebo?
How do we know that the “scare tactics” used by “anti-vaxxers” aren’t accurate stories of previously healthy lives that were devastated by vaccines? How do we know that adverse events are exceedingly rare if the CDC admits that our reporting systems capture only a fraction of them?
Why are so many children suffering from chronic illness today? Where were the inhalers, EpiPens and nut-free tables in public schools 50 years ago?
Why won’t our public health agencies, which are highly funded by taxpayer money and multinational for-profit pharmaceutical companies, conduct proper studies of the appropriate scale to compare the overall health of vaccinated to unvaccinated children to put this whole issue to rest once and for all?
The biggest turtle
We finally arrive at the biggest topic of all in Chapter 10. It’s the hard stop for many vaccine proponents, especially physicians, who may be open to a spirited debate from time to time.
But no diligent critique of vaccine science can circumvent the topic of polio, the poster child of the modern vaccine movement.
The authors do not shy away from this challenge, devoting one-quarter of their book to this polarizing issue. The authors ask very simple questions, like “Why was the incidence of polio already in decline prior to widespread use of the Salk vaccine in the Western World?” and “Why did the incidence of polio-like paralysis triple in Third-World countries coinciding with the World Health Organization’s intensive vaccine campaigns there?”
These questions lead to other questions that lead to other questions still. Unless these questions can be answered we have to wonder what is holding up this last turtle — if anything.
Something for nearly everyone
The book is not for everyone. If you would rather not consider the possibility that we have been misled by our public health agencies for decades I would instead direct you to corporate-funded media and CDC bulletins that ignore the criticism coming from a rapidly growing number of scientists and health professionals around the childhood vaccination program.
On the other hand …
If you wish to avail yourself of the enormous amount of data and studies from reputable sources that challenge the vaccine doctrine I suggest reading this book in its entirety.
If you are a vaccine enthusiast and do not wish to waste your time with foolish vaccine cautionary tales, I would invite you to read the counterargument section at the end of each chapter. This is where the authors take their arguments one step further by listing and directly addressing the most common challenges to their claims.
If you are a parent of a young child I would recommend, at the very least, you read the authors’ suggested questions to pose to your trusted pediatrician or family physician.
Finally, if you are a healthcare professional, this book is essential. Sooner or later your patients will ask you the same questions the authors are asking — and answering.
At the very least it will provide you with links to hundreds of key publications organized by topic in one place for future reference.
“Turtles All The Way Down: Vaccine Science and Myth” is not an anti-vaccine manifesto. The authors did not present evidence that every vaccine is unequivocally deleterious.
Instead, they very effectively demonstrate there is no evidence proving any vaccine is safe. This despite the deluge of official public service announcements, social media campaigns, billboard ads on our turnpikes and posters in our pediatricians’ offices that say otherwise.
The authors invite us to dig deeper and ask the obvious question: Why? Why, after seven decades, do we not have any proof that vaccines provide more benefit than risk?
Why are all vaccines on the childhood schedule tested against other vaccines or non-placebos to establish safety when a true placebo would be safer and offer more information?
Why is the CDC unwilling to replace the inadequate Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System or VAERS with a working solution that was modeled a decade ago?
Why hasn’t a study that compares the overall health of unvaccinated children to vaccinated children ever been done?
The authors politely refrain from answering these questions. They can’t, and they have nothing to gain by speculating.
However, these are not questions to be asked of the authors — they need to be asked of our public health authorities who apparently have no interest in answering them.