By Rabbi Dr. Aaron E. Glatt
Continued from December 3, 2018
See the column that started it all.
Why would anyone argue against vaccination? Why are people not following the medical experts as halacha requires? The spurious arguments brought forth are ludicrous, ridiculous and shameful.
Vaccines cause autism
False. Outright sheker. The main fixation of anti-vaxxers groups is the old, totally discredited canard linking vaccination to autism. The author of the paper, Mr. Wakefield (oh yes, he used to be Dr. Wakefield) lost his medical license because of his repudiated, FABRICATED study. All of his co-authors retracted his paper linking autism to vaccinations, in part because he falsified data. Did you know that Mr. Wakefield received money from lawyers to provide false evidence that there was such a link? Meanwhile, the CDC and others have published multiple papers totally disproving any connection between vaccines and autism, yet this spurious claim is still robustly argued by anti-vaxxers.
It is a big money maker for doctors
Yet another silly conspiracy theory. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies profit greatly from vaccination – causing them to throw away their own personal ethics and advocate vaccination so they can make a buck. What absurdity.
A superb article on the business of vaccination in the major publication The Atlantic, totally rips this misinformation to shreds. The Atlantic states that the [financial] argument is historically unfounded. Not only do pediatricians and doctors often lose money on vaccine administration, it wasn’t too long ago that the vaccine industry was struggling with slim profit margins and shortages.
Another major business publication, The Economist writes: “For decades vaccines were a neglected corner of the drug business, with old technology, little investment and abysmal profit margins. Many firms sold their vaccine divisions to concentrate on more profitable drugs.” In fact, vaccines were so unprofitable that some companies stopped making them altogether. In 1967, there were 26 vaccine manufactures. That number dropped to 17 by 1980. Ten years ago, the financial incentives to produce vaccines were so weak that there was growing concern that pharmaceutical companies were abandoning the vaccine business for selling more-profitable daily drug treatments. Wyeth (since acquired by Pfizer) reported they stopped making the flu vaccine because the margins were so low.
There are some new vaccines such as those for prevention of certain infections (such as HPV and shingles) and/or for the prevention potentially of cancer, that might be more financially lucrative. Great. Don’t take these vaccinations if pharmaceutical profiteering bothers you. What does that have to do with measles?
Conflict of Interest
Speaking of money – why was there no mention of the conflict of interest regarding the sole person quoted as an authoritative voice against vaccines? Mr. JB Handley (yes, this Mr. “expert” has no advanced medical degree) recently published a book and is on the PR circuit selling his book. He is making a lot of money off his anti-vaxxer position. Full disclosure: I (and every other doctor I know) have never received even one cent from “big pharma” for recommending or providing vaccines.
Furthermore, Mr. Handley was a leading proponent that the mercury in the thimerosal preservative was the primary cause of the so-called “autism epidemic.” However, after the removal of thimerosal in 2002 from childhood vaccines, autism rates did not decline, so Handley suddenly changed his position and claimed that autism was due to “an overload of heavy metals, live viruses, and bacteria,” … “the tripling of vaccines given to children in the last 15 years (mercury, aluminum and live viruses); maternal toxic load and prenatal vaccines; heavy metals like mercury in our air, water, and food; and the overuse of antibiotics.” Show me the scientific papers that support this fake news. Show me even one published paper in a bona fide scientific mainstream journal that supports his vaccination viewpoint. There are none, but that does not stop him from hawking his book and making money off vaccines.
By the way, the increase we have seen in the diagnosis of autism has been prevalent only well after the basic childhood vaccinations were introduced. How can you account for the two decades with no increase in autism if autism is due to vaccinations?
There are too many vaccines being recommended
Boruch Hashem, we have been given the ability to prevent illnesses that previously caused great pain and suffering, and, yes, even death. However, not all vaccines are equally important, and if a parent chooses to not vaccinate against an illness that will harm no one other than their own child, that is their right. So don’t take those vaccinations. What has that got to do with measles?
Unfortunately, the final point discussed was the most distressing. It was essentially stated that there is a big question whether we are doing “more good than damage” by following the advice of the medical professionals. Halachically, are you suggesting that people should not follow their physician’s advice? When did our religion become the avodah zara of Christian Science? Such thinking, which was also attributed to Rebbitzen Temi Kamenetsky and others in recent days, is astounding if indeed true. We are halachically obligated to protect ourselves, not blindly rely on miracles to protect us, and we certainly are forbidden to cause others harm.
Nebuch, there are many very sick patients, successful bone marrow transplant patients, as well as underage babies and children, and others, who medically cannot take vaccinations. They must rely upon herd immunity to protect their lives. Allowing schools to refuse entry to people capable of transmitting serious diseases is a matter of hatzalas nefashos – it is most definitely not a medical or halachic dilemma.
Larry, you are a fine person who does much on behalf of klal yisroel. Yet, you acknowledged to me that you are not an expert in this area and do not have the knowledge to counter my arguments. Please encourage your readership to listen to the experts. Please do not give non-experts a forum and opportunity to spread their ignorance. This is not a debate – there are not two sides to this issue. We must trust in the system set forth by chazal which is to listen to the experts for medical advice. HaRav Herschel Schachter, shlita always states – not everyone is entitled to an opinion. I hope you retract your op-ed article and remove it from eternal online survival. May the miracle of Chanukah, holding on to our mesorah, win the day again.
Rabbi Aaron E. Glatt, MD: Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases; Chairman, Medicine, and Chief of Infectious Diseases / Hospital Epidemiologist at South Nassau Communities Hospital; full Clinical Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; a spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America and author of 200+ scientific journal articles, book chapters and presentations. He is also a local Rav who gives daily halacha shiurim, and lectures on numerous medical and halachic issues.