“Herd Immunity”? A Dishonest Marketing Gimmick
As a country and a society, we’ve never been anywhere close to “herd immunity” through vaccination, but where are all the epidemics? That doesn’t keep vaccine makers from using herd immunity as a weapon to guilt and scare parents. Why are we allowing “mythology to trump science”?
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Hiding in a nondescript office building in Washington, D.C., Every Child By Two (“ECBT”) poses as a nonprofit organization with a seemingly noble goal: getting as many children vaccinated as possible. Of course, a quick Google search or perusal of the nonprofit’s 990 forms reveals a different truth: ECBT is a front group for vaccine makers, the primary source of their funding. Don’t take my word for it, the prestigious British Medical Journal ran an expose of many groups like Every Child By Two titled, “The unofficial vaccine educators: are CDC funded non-profits sufficiently independent?” The BMJ was pretty unsparing:
IAC, ECBT, and AAP have a few things in common. They are all non-profit organizations with large online presences that promote themselves as sources of reliable information on vaccines. They also receive funding from both vaccine manufacturers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And, in their advocacy for compulsory vaccination, they all have in common a goal that pushes beyond official governmental policy and, in the case of influenza vaccines, the evidence.
Amy Pisani, ECBT’s director, maintains a twitter account for the organization where she recently encouraged parents to do their part in maintaining “community immunity” through an infographic that was part gentle reminder, part guilt-induced obligation, and 100% founded on nonsense.
What, exactly, is “Community Immunity”?
“Community Immunity” is the term du jour and an apparently more palatable synonym for the oft-invoked concept of Herd Immunity, the idea that unless enough people are vaccinated against a certain disease, everyone is at risk. Find the right doctor to come on TV, and they’ll be happy to explain the magic of vaccine-derived Herd Immunity, and what a scientific process it really is, according to them. Fall below Ms. Pisani’s 95% vaccination rate number in her infographic? We return to the Dark Ages!
There’s just one problem with the Community/Herd Immunity math and the shaming and pressure that goes along with it: we’ve never come close to achieving “Herd Immunity” through vaccination, and we never will. In order for Herd Immunity to be a real thing, you need two things to be true (and neither have ever been):
1. Adult vaccination rates would also have to be very high, just like rates for children
Ms. Pisani’s infographic above mentions the 95% threshold needed to achieve herd immunity for measles, but she fails to mention one thing: the vaccination rate of all the adults. According to the CDC, adult vaccination rates have been, and remain, woefully low, as the CDC’s 2016 survey–Vaccination Coverage Among Adults in the United States, National Health Interview Survey— explained:
“Many adults in the United States have not received recommended vaccinations…”
How low are adult vaccination rates? Well, the CDC study included a chart of adult vaccination rates for at least some vaccines over time:
Do you see what I’m seeing? According to the CDC, it appears that adult vaccination rates for most vaccines ARE BELOW 50%. But, wait a minute, how do we achieve “community immunity” if less than half the adults are playing along? We don’t, as some simple 8th grade math can show you.
Let’s make some assumptions. Let’s assume the child (18 and under) vaccination rate is 100%. It’s not, so this is a conservative assumption. Also, let’s assume the overall adult vaccination rate is 60%. It’s not that high, so this is also a conservative figure. If we blend those two numbers, what do we get? Well, children 18 and under represent 24% of the US. Population, so here you go:
(24% x 100%) + (76% x 60%) = 69.6%
So, the actual “community” vaccination rate in this example is 69.6% (the children’s rate plus the adult rate equals the total rate), and this is probably a high figure, so the real number in the United States right now is probably somewhere around 65%. Nowhere near Herd Immunity thresholds.
But, it’s actually worse, you also need to believe that:
2. Vaccinations provide lifetime protection
The mid-60 percent “community” vaccination rate above is enough to mathematically disprove that we’ve ever attained herd immunity all by itself, but it’s actually way worse than that. You see, vaccinations don’t confer lifetime immunity. In fact, many vaccines “wane” (meaning you lose the protection they provided you with) in under ten years. An eighteen year-old who received their last Hepatitis B vaccine at 4 years old? They probably have no more “protection” from the Hepatitis B vaccine. The “real” rate of vaccine protection in our society? Because of vaccine waning, it’s certainly well below 50%, just look at the “Duration of Protection” provided by some routine vaccines:
The last vaccine I received was my senior year of college, in 1991. That was twenty-six years ago. And, I NEVER received many of the new vaccines on the childhood schedule that have all been introduced in the past 10-15 years. It’s safe to say that I have no vaccine-derived immunity from any disease right now, which raises an obvious question:
If it’s mathematically true that we have never achieved herd immunity through vaccination because of adult vaccination rates and the fact that vaccines wane over time, where are all the epidemics?
I’m not the first person to ask this question. It gets asked all the time by educated people who understand this topic and bristle at the ongoing discussions about herd immunity that take place in the mainstream media. One of the better articles I have read on this topic was in the The Hill, the daily newspaper of the U.S. Congress:
Written by Gretchen DuBeau, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Natural Health, Ms. DuBeau destroys the myth of herd immunity in one short editorial, here’s just an excerpt:
Vaccines may have a place in our medical arsenal, but they are not the silver bullet they’re portrayed to be. Year after year the pharmaceutical industry, looking for lucrative new profit centers, churns out new vaccines. They use pseudo-science to convince the public that these products are safe and effective, and they use public shaming to convince the citizenry that non-compliance is a public health threat. This entire racket completely falls apart with a close examination of the herd immunity myth. Until we are honest in our assessment of both the safety and efficacy of vaccines, kids will continue to be hurt, rights will continue to be trampled, and mythology will continue to trump science.
Ms. DuBeau’s article quotes a doctor, Russell Blaylock, M.D., who has also been an outspoken critic of the herd immunity mythology, he writes:
That vaccine-induced herd immunity is mostly myth can be proven quite simply. When I was in medical school, we were taught that all of the childhood vaccines lasted a lifetime. This thinking existed for over 70 years. It was not until relatively recently that it was discovered that most of these vaccines lost their effectiveness 2 to 10 years after being given. What this means is that at least half the population, that is the baby boomers, have had no vaccine-induced immunity against any of these diseases for which they had been vaccinated very early in life. In essence, at least 50% or more of the population was unprotected for decades. If we listen to present-day wisdom, we are all at risk of resurgent massive epidemics should the vaccination rate fall below 95%. Yet, we have all lived for at least 30 to 40 years with 50% or less of the population having vaccine protection. That is, herd immunity has not existed in this country for many decades and no resurgent epidemics have occurred. Vaccine-induced herd immunity is a lie used to frighten doctors, public-health officials, other medical personnel, and the public into accepting vaccinations.
The school-specific vaccination rate argument is really absurd
I live in Oregon. Like many states, our state publishes vaccination rates by school. If your child attends a school with “low” vaccination rates, the message is that it’s a time bomb waiting to explode! But, wait a minute.
What’s the vaccination rates of the teachers in that school? No one knows. What’s the vaccination rate of the administrators? No one knows. What’s the vaccination rate of the parent volunteers, the janitors, the delivery people, and the parents who walk inside the school every day to pick up their children? That’s right: no one knows. And yet, we’re encouraged by the media to panic.
Perhaps you’re still confused. Yes, my math seems pretty airtight and direct. Ms. DuBeau’s article seems to support my argument, as does Dr. Blaylock. But could all these people screaming about the importance of herd immunity really be that far off base? What if I told you that banging the table about the importance of herd immunity is actually a very recent development, and one instigated by vaccine makers? What if our own history of vaccines and vaccination rates disproved the herd immunity myth all by itself? Let’s go back to the 1980s right here in the U.S. and see what the data says.
Vaccination Rates: 1985
No one can believe this chart when they first see it. They demand to see my data source. I got it from the CDC, here’s the link.
These are vaccination rates for children in the United States in 1985. Does anything stand out to you? Yes, nine of the vaccinations we routinely give to children today didn’t exist in 1985. Yes, vaccination rates for the three vaccines we did give were dramatically below the “herd immunity” threshold that experts today like Ms. Pisani (who is funded by vaccine makers) tells us we need to hit. Well…where were all the epidemics? Feel free to Google “polio epidemic, United States, 1985.” I was alive in 1985. I was a sophomore in High School. No one was having a panic attack. No one was screaming herd immunity, or community immunity. Do I need to keep going?
I’ve kept the arguments here very simple. I’ve just done some simple math and showed you some data from the mid-1980s. Herd immunity is an interesting theory, but it’s a myth that we’ve ever achieved it through vaccination. I could have gone down a few more levels. I could have asked why anyone should worry about vaccination rates if they themselves have been vaccinated? In turns out, the failure rate is probably way higher for vaccines than we think, way higher than even the numbers I quoted you above. Dr. Blaylock addresses this:
In the original description of herd immunity, the protection to the population at large occurred only if people contracted the infections naturally. The reason for this is that naturally-acquired immunity lasts for a lifetime. The vaccine proponents quickly latched onto this concept and applied it to vaccine-induced immunity. But, there was one major problem – vaccine-induced immunity lasted for only a relatively short period, from 2 to 10 years at most, and then this applies only to humoral immunity. This is why they began, silently, to suggest boosters for most vaccines, even the common childhood infections such as chickenpox, measles, mumps, and rubella.
It actually gets even more confusing. As one simple example, it turns out the pertussis vaccine (whooping cough) doesn’t keep you from carrying and spreading the disease. Why do we always read about whooping cough outbreaks? Boston University researchers explain:
“This disease is back because we didn’t really understand how our immune defenses against whooping cough worked, and did not understand how the vaccines needed to work to prevent it,” said Christopher J. Gill, associate professor of global health and lead author of the article. “Instead we layered assumptions upon assumptions, and now find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of admitting that we may made some crucial errors. This is definitely not where we thought we’d be in 2017.”
Like I said, the story is quite a bit uglier than just basic math. Did you know there are employees of one vaccine maker–Merck–who filed a whistleblower lawsuit arguing that the company hid data that showed the mumps vaccine was losing efficacy:
The suit charges that Merck knew its measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine was less effective than the purported 95% level, and it alleges that senior management was aware and also oversaw testing that concealed the actual effectiveness. According to the lawsuit, Merck began a sham testing program in the late 1990’s to hide the declining efficacy of the vaccine. The objective of the fraudulent trials was to “report efficacy of 95% or higher regardless of the vaccine’s true efficacy.”
I could also share with you some other data from the CDC, some data that destroys the myth that vaccines saved us all from infectious disease. I could quote CDC scientists from a study published in Pediatrics in 2000 who said this:
“Thus vaccination does not account for the impressive declines in mortality seen in the first half of the century…nearly 90% of the decline in infectious disease mortality among US children occurred before 1940, when few antibiotics or vaccines were available.”
I could keep going, but I won’t. Herd immunity is a myth. It’s a bully club planted in the media by vaccine makers to scare parents into vaccinating in order to “protect” others. The math doesn’t add up, and never has. The next time you hear someone invoke the importance of herd immunity, send them this article and ask them to refute it! And, ask yourself a question: “If they’re lying about herd immunity, what else might they be lying about?”
Appendix: Other resources
Can’t get enough information about the myth of herd immunity? Here’s some other articles and links.
Community Immunity? (From Informed Choice WA)
Herd Immunity: Fact or Fiction? By Dr. Kelly Brogan
HERD IMMUNITY: CAN MASS VACCINATION ACHIEVE IT? By Tetyana Obukhanych, PhD
There is no Herd Immunity By The Outliers
Let’s talk about herd immunity By Levi Quakenboss
Great video from Dr. Suzanne Humphries (only 6 minutes long):