By Helen Petousis Harris 05/08/2019

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:

  • Botulism
  • water hemlock
  • deadly nightshade
  • ricin from castor beans
  • tobacco!
  • Water intoxication (hyponatremia)

Updated 6/8 for readability

0 Responses to “Authentic resistance or authentic distortion?”

  • Hi Helen, me again! (that buzzing noise you can hear are the bees in my bonnet). More seriously: Thank you for getting attention focused on this. This outbreak of antivaxxing seems particularly nasty.
    Thanks again


    • Thanks Miles. I too sense a growing level of vitriol and dishonesty within the pages of social media.

  • I wish I had some sort of idea about how to tackle antivaxxing (and related behaviours). It seems to me that antivaxxers et al fight against facts and rational debate not despite these things being facts and rational debate but because they are rational facts and debate. To admit to a subjective truth becomes intolerable because that would jeopardise even more than the comfort and power that being in a group built on a belief gives them.

    Thanks again

    All the best


  • To the “talking about it, but not (yet) dyed-in-the-wool”, I think it helps to remember that moving someone from that sort of view can be a long path, and you get to just add a small nudge at best (hopefully in the right direction!) I think too often people think about these things in terms of “convincing” someone in one conversation.

    New parents, and parents-to-be, I think are most are simply confused by it all but some unfortunately get the idea that ‘no action’ is the ‘cautious option’, when in practice it’s opposite. Most of these people are ‘silent readers’ on social media, so you don’t hear from them. Most of my posts on vaccines over the last year have focused on this group.

    To the truly committed to ‘the cause’, my impression is that little will stop them, save perhaps some revelation in their personal lives. In my experience a substantial fraction of this very small core group are projecting onto vaccines a tragedy they have some emotive connection to, and that gives them a fair bit of emotional energy and righteousness. A few of us write answers to these people, but really intending to reach the second group, above.

    All anecdotal, of course! (With all the flaws that has.)

    It also helps to remember that in the wider picture (i.e. away from social media) there are a range of reasons for people to not vaccinate. Some of these are presented in a survey in (I think) 2013 that I covered.

  • Can’t fault your reasoning Grant. Wish I could. Yup that its damn near impossible to sway someone’s views on the matter in a single conversation. It takes repetition and reinforcement. Which, of course, is horribly easy for the unscrupulous to organise these days. You mention that antvaxxers can be motivated by personal tragedy. The way the current measles epidemic is running we’ll as like as not see provaxxers motivated by personal tragedy. Crying shame that something avoidable should lead to that. Thanks for your comments.



  • HI,

    I am not qualified to contest any of this BUT as long as there is ANY indication that the triple MMR vaccine CAN trigger an autoimmune response that brings on the symptoms of autism and that the single vaccines don’t then WHY can’t we be given the option to administer these vaccines as single dose???

    If cost of the vaccine is the excuse then that is pathetic because the ongoing cost of caring for people that are on the spectrum to the extent that they cannot function without care is huge. Not to mention the tragic impact on families when a developmentally normal child suddenly and mysteriously is affected after experiencing adverse reaction to the combined MMR vaccine.

    There may be a genetic propensity for the disorder but the exponential increase in autism symptoms displaying coincidentally AFTER vaccination indicates that it is something environmental that is bringing this on.

    My observation is that rather labelling the groups RIGHT and WRONG – accept that SOME CHILDREN DO develop autism after the triple vaccine – so, rather than waste time arguing and forcing people to take matters into their own hands (choosing not to vaccinate) -then give people the option to administer the vaccines as single dose, with a recovery period in between each shot (and when the child is in good health – maybe vitamin C boosted too) and observe whether the autism occurrence recedes.


    • Hello Amanda
      You appear to demand 100% certainty about the safety of MMR vaccine. This is called the ‘impossible expectation’ – impossible because science can never guarantee anything 100%. Nothing in life is 100%. Any treatment (or activity for that matter) carries some kind of risk, no matter how remote. However, with regard to the MMR facts, there is no indication that MMR can trigger autistic symptoms, neither is is there any evidence on single vaccines on the matter. The massive body of scientific evidence has made this patently clear. This is one reasons why scientists and health authorities recommend it.
      Cost has nothing to do with it and the MMR vaccine is cheap.
      The notion that there is some kind of exponential increase in autism symptoms after vaccination compared with no vaccination is something you will find on anti science propaganda web sites. I would suggest that if you wish to become better informed about the facts on the topic you avoid places that generate or disseminate misinformation as it can get very confusing when you are not used to assessing the validity of information, as you suggest.

      Personal observations based anecdote, while interesting and hypothesis generating, do not prove or disprove anything. We use the scientific method for that and design studies and experiments to test the observations. The process serves humanity very well, without it we would be in the dark ages. Examining MMR and Autism under an empirical science lens has been done for vaccines and autism, over, and over, and over again. The results are pretty conclusive. It would grossly unethical to offer single vaccines, there is NO evidence to support the practice is in some way safer and it leaves children vulnerable to disease.

      Do you want to base your opinions on facts and logic, or do you want to base them on what feels right to you? If you genuinely wish to research MMR and Autism I can provide links to some scientific information.

  • Hi Amanda – I’m also a lay person, however I accept that some children will be diagnosed with autism following vaccination in the same way I accept that some children will fall of bicycles and injury themselves after lunch.

    To the standard required statistically, there is no evidence lunch causes some children to fall of bicycles, and to claim otherwise is wrong.

    Your suggestion for a population levele experiment is interesting if morally fruaght, but also redundant. Look up the research done based on data from Japan where the withdrawl of vaccines gave an opportunity for that experiment without moral dilemma.

    BTW, there is no reliable evidence that, for normal healthy people, Vitamin C “boosts” do anything other than turn your urine an interesting colour and deplete your bank account.

  • Amanda Holt,

    “I am not qualified to contest any of this”

    Wouldn’t the smarter thing to do then be to not ‘insist’ on things? I know it’s very tempting, esp. if social media groups encouraging you, but learning from good people is often the much better thing!

    Pages on social media and social media groups too often offer rubbish ‘advice’. They usually very intensively think “they are right”, but unfortunately wishing that doesn’t them right.

    A key point about science is that you test ideas. That’s how you sort out what is right or not.

    This might be useful: (Note the comparison this points to,

    “BUT as long as there is ANY indication that the triple MMR vaccine CAN trigger an autoimmune response”

    The effects of vaccines are noted in large trials, and there is no evidence of ‘autoimmune responses’ — and this bit is important — happening more often than in the same number of people not taking that vaccine.

    It occurs in both groups of people at roughly the same rate. If you leave out that, it can be made out to be something the vaccine ‘caused’, but when it’s compared evenly it’s clear it can’t be because of the vaccine.

    (Very often claims on social media about vaccines leave out that claims like this must be compared against what happens in people that don’t take that vaccine. This is a common problem with people reading off the vaccine fact sheets who aren’t familiar with what is being done.)

    “that brings on the symptoms of autism”

    Testing shows this idea is wrong. There is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Any person or group on social media suggesting this idea are suggesting a myth that has well and truly been debunked, repeatedly, over many tests over many years.

    Even subsets of people more at risk don’t show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Several of us have covered this on Sciblogs,

    “and that the single vaccines don’t”

    This was a core claim by convicted fraudster Andrew Wakefield. He was paid handsomely to promote a single-shot vaccine – that’s what his game was.

    “then WHY can’t we be given the option to administer these vaccines as single dose???”

    Because people who are qualified have looked into this and realise it’s nonsense and public health systems generally don’t encourage nonsense practices.

    It’s better for parents to give the vaccines together, as long as the effectiveness of the vaccines isn’t substantially less — fewer trips to the doctor, etc. (There are some indications the mumps component might do a bit better than it does, but that isn’t about it being bundled with the measles and rubella components.)

    “If cost of the vaccine is the excuse then that is pathetic”

    It’s not the main reason the three are bundled. The bigger reason is that fewer trips to the doctor is makes it easier for parents to complete the vaccine schedule. It just happens to save everyone money too. (Having said that, affordability in itself can matter in poorer countries if the vaccines are paid for directly.)

    “ because the ongoing cost of caring for people that are on the spectrum to the extent that they cannot function without care is huge.”

    This presumes that the vaccine causes this, but evidence shows it doesn’t. Autism is very strongly genetic (~80%) and if there is an environmental component it’d have to be something that occurs before the baby is born, as evidence indicates autism develops before birth. Autism certainly develops before childhood vaccines and before the first MMR vaccine shot, which starts at 12 months.

    One small but rather neat little experiment illustrates this. Autism specialists were given videos of baby’s first birthday parties and asked to pick which of them had autism. They were quite successful at picking out the kids that later proved to be autistic. That’s before their MMR vaccine.

    “Not to mention the tragic impact on families when a developmentally normal child suddenly and mysteriously is affected after experiencing adverse reaction to the combined MMR vaccine.“

    There is no evidence of this either. Sorry about this, but whatever group or person is suggesting these ideas to you are a terrible source information (I’m being polite!). A key problem is that we tend to try associate events even if they’re not really linked. It’s a very human fault. Vaccinations are fairly easy to remember, so a few people mentally associate a vaccination and the development of a condition. In practice there are conditions we simply don’t know a lot about that arise sometime in childhood. For what it’s worth, a good number of these are rarer genetic conditions, where the gene variant doesn’t start to be used until some developmental stage like early puberty. As a result they appear as if they are unexpected—you don’t see them earlier—but they have nothing to do with anything in particular other than genetics.

    Similar kids do catch odd illnesses. It’s not nice, of course, but it is life and pegging that sort of thing on something else, while very human and understandable, isn’t helpful to either the parents or everyone else.

    “There may be a genetic propensity for the disorder but the exponential increase in autism symptoms displaying coincidentally AFTER vaccination indicates that it is something environmental that is bringing this on.”

    There is no evidence for this either. Sorry; wherever you’re getting this from is a terrible source of information.

    “My observation is that rather labelling the groups RIGHT and WRONG”

    Unfortunately some things really are just wrong because they’ve been thoroughly examined and found to be wrong. It’s life! Better to run with good information than fret over nonsense, right?

    “accept that SOME CHILDREN DO develop autism after the triple vaccine”

    Again, this has been very extensively tested. It doesn’t happen. It can’t be made to happen by “say-so”. Whoever you’re getting this from is wrong.

    “so, rather than waste time arguing and forcing people to take matters into their own hands (choosing not to vaccinate)”

    No-one is forcing people to do things, this is their choice. (Not a wise choice I’d say, but it is a choice.)

    (Having said that, I think those opposed to vaccines should be careful of what they wish for: if you piss people off too much, they’ll eventually stop being generous about choices. That’s pretty much what’s happened in Australia.)

    “then give people the option to administer the vaccines as single dose,”

    See my earlier reply on this: this is a core wish from a fraudster paid to push this line. He’s still doing via ‘documentaries’ (advertorial stuff for his cause, really) that push this claim among others.

    “with a recovery period in between each shot”

    The ‘too many vaccines too soon’ claim has been examined too, and with the MMR vaccine and autism claims in mind. I covered this on Sciblogs:

    “when the child is in good health – maybe vitamin C boosted too”

    Supplements are not really needed for normal, properly-feed kids (or adults!). It’s mostly a marketing line for companies to sell something you don’t really need. The time you do need supplements is if a doctor has tested you and found a deficiency and recommended them; in that case do take them. (Note that comes down to testing, just like science.)

    FWIW, it’s usually vitamin A levels that is a concern for measles (and measles vaccination), and then mostly for developing nations. That’s about poor nutrition.

    “and observe whether the autism occurrence recedes.”

    Again, testing shows there is no association of the MMR vaccine and autism in the first place: there is nothing to “recede” from!

    It’s worth noting that the apparent (i.e. not actual) rise in autism is mostly due to changing diagnostic criteria. Again, this is because people have gone out and tested the idea. It’s all about testing. People check these things!

    As a simple counterpoint, Japan withdrew the MMR vaccine for a time. If the MMR vaccine was somehow linked to autism, you’d expect the autism rate to plummet. In practice their autism rates slightly rose. If there is something linked to a rise in autism, it can’t be the MMR vaccine.

  • OK… My comment crossed over Ashton’s, which, um, was a lot shorter – but I hope the extra guff might be useful to someone!

    Excuse a few typos, I can’t correct them now.

  • Grant, er, wow! Quite the take down. Thank you and hear hear.


  • So the fact that my nephew has not spoken one word since the day of his 15 month vaccine is just a coincidence?? He is now 3 and autistic.

    • Paula,
      The vast body of scientific evidence that repeatedly show no increased risk for autism among vaccinated people compared with the risk in unvaccinated people would say yes, this would be coincidence. Autism incidence is the same in vaccinated and unvaccinated children.

  • Just to add to Helen’s reply –

    While parents may not always recognise it that early, autism is considered to start before kids are 1 year old, with evidence suggesting it starts prenatally i.e. before any of the childhood vaccines. You’ll notice that is before the first MMR vaccine. The MMR vaccine can’t be causing it: at that age they already have autism.

    Then there are many studies showing it is not associated with autism. There’s no association with other vaccines either. I linked to this and some other posts tackling this in my long comment above. It’s in the second block of links in the comment. My post (the last of the three linked there) covers some of what is known to or might cause autism. It is better that people focus on what does cause autism; it’s not vaccines.

  • I appreciate your replys, obviously you are basing your opinions on the science presented to you, I personally still have many questions!
    Could I ask you about immunity in babies meaning children under 1. Do vaccines work differently on young babies? Do their immune systems function differently?Is that why we have all the repeated doses?Do theses vaccines at such a young age just provide protection for the short term as in protection while under 1.

    • Hi Paula
      Immunity in babies under a year: The infant immune system is pretty well developed at birth, although there are a few things that still need to happen. One, is lots of exposure to microbes (preferably not harmful ones!). The other is an improvement in the recognition of pathogens, un-skewing of the way t-cells respond, and improvement of the response to certain types of antigen called polysaccharides (sugars). Most of these things happen naturally over the first weeks of life with a few other things taking longer. However this does not mean that their immune systems are weak. It is largely the exposure to microbes that drives it to mature. Babies respond better to some vaccines than others. Generally speaking there are some they make a really good response to even at birth (like hepatitis B). The response generally improves through childhood until adolescence when things start going down hill (yes, we are already aging before we have left primary school). So, the answer to the first question is both yes, and no.

      Repeated doses? There are several reasons why we give more than one dose and this depends on the type of vaccine. Ideally, the first dose or two are priming doses. The primary immune response to the first exposure to a vaccine or an infection is a bit slow, and not that great (no matter how old you are) that is why you can get sick with an infection. If there is a good space (4-6 months) between the first exposure and the next exposure the immune response is a secondary response (a booster). A booster dose not only increases the amount of immunity but also the quality of the immunity. The perfect vaccine schedule includes a priming dose or two and a booster later on. Immunity can then be boosted periodically through life if required. This is only true for non-live vaccines, live vaccines are a bit different.

      The duration of protection of the infant doses of vaccine (so just the vaccines that a baby gets in the first year of live) are variable and it depends on many factors including the nature of the disease and they type of vaccine but are (broadly speaking) as follows:
      Tetanus – could be life but cant be sure, not one to do a study on so boosters periodically to maintain antibody levels.
      Diphtheria – maybe 10 years
      Whooping cough – maybe 3 years, need a 4-year old booster (this vaccine is the one we have the most challenges with and this issues also apply to adults whre protection is only around 5-years).
      Polio – >18 years
      Pneumococcal >5 years, boosters can be given but risk is low after age 5.
      Hepatitis B – many years >20
      Haemophilus influenzae type B – enough to get you through to 5 years and past the high risk period

      There are some vaccines where we give fewer doses at an older age. There is a balance of getting is adequate immunity as soon as possible and at the most vulnerable time of life and using the optimal schedule.

      Does this answer your questions?