Authentic resistance appears to be a two woman army advocating that the body’s natural immune system is all that is required to keep healthy. They assert that parents must make an informed decision about vaccines based on information from the medical literature. On the latter point we agree.
The Resistance is holding seminars around the country on “Informed consent and natural immunity.” The seminars appear to be based on twisting the intent of informed consent, misinformation about vaccines, and their personal concept of natural immunity. Let’s just unpack a few of those topics below.
Distortion 1. Informed consent.
Informed consent is the process by which the individual is appropriately informed in an environment and manner that is meaningful and they can agree without coercion. The person must understand the that they have a choice, what they are being offered, what is involved, and the probable benefits, risks, side effects, failure rates, alternatives, and risk/benefits of not receiving the treatment. Here is a link to the relevant chapter in the NZ Immunisation Handbook.
Sounds reasonable yes?
The sticking point is not that this is unreasonable, it is more about what constitutes risks and benefits and scientific information versus pseudoscience. In my opinion informed consent must be based on the best current science based information or else it is a sham.
What do Authentic Resistance say about vaccines?
The only information I have been able to find on the Authentic Resistance website about vaccines and diseases is in an interview with Erin Hudson (Resistance leader) on Raglan Radio. A number of topics are discussed and I have summarised the Resistance position on a few and addressed it below.
Distortion 2. The notion that the body can resist vaccine preventable diseases on its own and if someone does contract one of the diseases you can treat that disease.
Mmmm, this is only true in part. The immune system is indeed marvelous, and it protects us against most potentially harmful pathogens every day. But that is not the whole story.
The reality is that the need for a vaccine is driven by the fact that many people contract the disease and that the disease is of a significant severity – in that it brings with it a high burden of mortality (death) and/or serious morbidity (sickness). No one would develop a vaccine for a problem that was not of consequence, because no one would buy it!
In the radio interview some examples are laid out (Below).
Distortion 3. Chickenpox
The claim is that most people recover well from chicken pox and if you prevent the disease in the community then older people will be at risk. Yes to the first and no to the second.
Most people do indeed recover well from chickenpox, but not all of them (See here for NZ specific information). There are over 400 hospitalisations a year in children for this disease and most of them are involve previously healthy children. However, this is a tip of the iceberg as a high proportion of children with chicken pox get infected scabs and require antibiotics. Chicken pox can be fatal in some people.
The notion that older people will be at risk is not born out by evidence. I have covered this previously and basically if you prevent chickenpox then you prevent shingles later in life and if you introduce a chicken pox vaccine older people are at no greater risk for shingles than they were before.
Two key facts.
- Chicken pox can be serious in some healthy people and
- introducing a vaccine against the disease does not increase the risk of shingles in older people.
Falsehood. Notion that there has never been a vaccinated/unvaccinated study.
Erin: Well, the interesting thing about that is that there has never ever been a vacc/unvacc study to show the health of both of those two groups. And yet only in about the last two or three weeks, a study came out of 12- to 16-year-olds in America, from a home schooling group, and across the board the evidence shows that children who weren’t vaccinated were less likely to be at the doctor’s with eczemas, asthmas. All types of the usual things that we think children just get. And the ones who were unvaccinated were most usually than the ones who were not. But this is something that the pharmaceutical companies have refused to do again and again because they….
…We should do a study of vacc’d and unvacc’d that would be ethically unfair to the unvaccinated group of children who are going to be at risk of getting some of those diseases. So I’ll let that one sit a little while.
Seriously? Given that most vaccine studies that address the risks and the benefits of vaccines use methods that compare outcomes in vaccinated people with outcomes in unvaccinated people this is a strange claim, although a popular one among anti vaccine groups. And unlike the internet survey alluded to in the quote above [a peculiar thing that used a convenience sample of 666 home-schooled children in the US and compared vaccinated with unvaccinated and claimed to be a world first]…. the study populations tend to be more representative of the general population, sometimes the entire population. Here is just one example of an actual scientific study that included all children born 1991-1998 in Denmark (over half a million) and compared the risk of autism in the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.
Distortion 4. Delaying vaccination because the baby is too fragile.
Erin says: What families don’t realize is that they can go for their six-week check but they don’t have to vaccinate their baby. They can go back at three months, they can go back at five months or six months and start the vaccine schedule whenever they decide that is going to be right for their family.
…And also their immune system, like I said, is very nonreactive.
Even having a vaccine that early, it might not actually get the response the vaccine manufacturers are wanting, because of breast milk and because of the baby’s immune system. So there is certainly a lot of information that tells us that it might be better if we are vaccinating, to start a little bit later.
It is true that the vaccine induces a higher antibody titre when vaccination occurs later – for some vaccines. HOWEVER, and I stress this, what we are trying to do is protect the infant while they are at their most vulnerable. The reason we have continued to vaccinate at six-weeks of age is not just about coinciding with a visit to the doctor but also to start getting baby protected as soon as possible, particularly against pertussis which is at its most fatal in the very youngest infants. Delaying vaccination leaves baby vulnerable, in fact 4-6 times more at risk of hospitalisation for whooping cough.
Don’t delay vaccines, get baby’s immunity going as soon as possible. Vaccines don’t work if you do not use them.
A very bad idea that is based on magical thinking: Using homeopathic preparations instead of vaccines.
Secondly, all the vaccines that we have on our schedule have been made into a homeopathic remedy and that remedy is given at the same time as the schedule would be given from the Ministry of Health.
So in a way it is mimicking the schedule we currently got and for some families who are not quite ready to not vaccinate, but they also are not convinced that they should vaccinate, they think it is like an in between auction so they are still doing something very proactively as well as breast milk, but they are not choosing the adjuvants and things that go through our pharmaceutical vaccines.
There is little to no evidence to support the use of homeopathy and homeopathic vaccines. What there is appears of low quality. The conclusions from a recent systematic review and meta-analysis of 75 randomised double-blind placebo controlled trials of non-individualised homeopathic treatment concludes the following:
The quality of the body of evidence is low. A meta-analysis of all extractable data leads to rejection of our null hypothesis, but analysis of a small sub-group of reliable evidence does not support that rejection. Reliable evidence is lacking in condition-specific meta-analyses, precluding relevant conclusions. Better designed and more rigorous RCTs are needed in order to develop an evidence base that can decisively provide reliable effect estimates of non-individualised homeopathic treatment.
A randomised blinded placebo-controlled trail documenting the immune response to homeopathic vaccines showed that homeopathic vaccines (homeoprophylaxis) failed to elicit an antibody response, basically it was similar to placebo.
Distortion 4. Vaccine ingredients
Vaccines have a variety of additives that provide stability, enhance the immune response, etc. The quantities are minuscule and demonstrated extremely safe. There are no toxic quantities of anything in vaccines. Noting the names of scary-sounding chemicals plays on people’s chemophobia. This is the widespread irrational fear of chemicals and the Appeal to Nature fallacy – ‘natural’ must be good and ‘unnatural’ must be bad. Let me finish with some perfectly natural substances:
- water hemlock
- deadly nightshade
- ricin from castor beans
- Water intoxication (hyponatremia)
Updated 6/8 for readability