I’m going to do it. I’m going to talk about vaccines. Yes, I know it is taboo to question the infallibility of vaccinations. But I also know that when you can’t have a conversation about something — that’s a red flag — and you can be pretty sure there is a problem. Because otherwise, wouldn’t it be “no problem” to talk about?

Pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine?

I want to acknowledge that the topic of vaccination tends to be a contentious one. Many try to frame the conversation as an all-or-nothing debate — either you are “pro-vaccine” or “anti-vaccine” and there is no room in-between for a more balanced perspective. The truth of the matter is that every medical intervention carries with it both potential risks and benefits, and vaccines are no exception.

An analogy

Allow me to elucidate what I just said by way of analogy. Take antibiotics for example. Certainly, they have saved lives. At the same time, antibiotic use has not been without consequence. There are some who have even died as a result of taking antibiotics. But it would be ridiculous to reduce antibiotics to a binary “pro-antibiotic” or “anti-antibiotic” debate (antibiotics have a time and a place, but they are not without consequence, and they ought to be used in a very prudent manner). Yet, this is precisely what we tend to do when talking about vaccines.

A clarification

I want to clarify that I am not calling into question the theoretical basis upon which vaccinations are said to work. Nor am I saying that vaccines are ineffective as a whole (though it is worth noting that, according to the CDC, the flu vaccine has only been between 10% to 60% effective in any given year)[1].

Are vaccines safe?

“Vaccines are safe.” This is the mantra peddled by government agencies and the media. Conversely, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe” — incapable of being made safe for their intended and ordinary use[2]. In other words, there is an inherent and unavoidable risk associated with vaccines.

How safe are vaccines?

Since its inception in 1990, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) has received more than 650,000 reports of adverse events associated with vaccines[3]. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 30,000 adverse events are reported to VAERS each year[4].During 2011–2014, 7% of these reports were classified as serious, meaning they included at least one of the following: death following vaccination, life-threatening health event, hospitalization following vaccination, or lasting disability[5]. Between 1997–2013, 2,149 vaccine-associated deaths were reported[6]. It has been said that fewer than 1% of all vaccine-associated adverse events actually end up being reported to VAERS[7].

Vaccine injury compensation

The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) was established in the late 1980’s to compensate individuals, and families of individuals, injured by vaccines. Since 1988, the VICP has paid out over $4 billion for vaccine injuries[8]. The program will pay up to $250,000 for pain and suffering and death resulting from a vaccine[9].

Vaccinated and unvaccinated populations

Do the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks? This is a difficult question to answer definitively, because so little research has been done comparing vaccinated versus unvaccinated populations. However, one such study, conducted in Guinea-Bissau compared DPT (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) vaccinated versus not yet vaccinated children. The study found that the DTP vaccine was associated with a 5-fold higher mortality rate compared to the unvaccinated group. The authors conclude:

“All currently available evidence suggests that DTP vaccine may kill more children from other causes than it saves from diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis. Though a vaccine protects children against the target disease it may simultaneously increase susceptibility to unrelated infections.”[10]

Another study (a randomized, controlled trial) compared trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV) to a placebo and found that the vaccinated group had a 4.4-fold increased risk of developing non-influenza infections. The authors state:

“Being protected against influenza, TIV recipients may lack temporary non-specific immunity that protected against other respiratory viruses.”[11]

What does this mean?

The above-mentioned studies reveal a frightening possibility — that vaccination may come with unexpected and harmful consequences that outweigh their benefits. Vaccine proponents have argued that a randomized, controlled trial comparing a vaccinated and unvaccinated group would be unethical, because withholding the vaccine would leave the control group susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases. This argument is biased in that it automatically assumes the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks without ever having first tested this hypothesis. This line of thinking precludes the possibility that vaccines may cause more harm than good. Meanwhile, the two studies cited above not only attest to the possibility that vaccines can, in some instances, cause more harm than good, but that this has actually been the case and we just didn’t realize it.

The profit motive

In 1986, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act granted pharmaceutical companies financial immunity from injuries caused by vaccines recommended by the CDC. If vaccines were to be mandated across the United States, this would effectively give vaccine manufacturers (i.e. the pharmaceutical industry) a liability-free, captive market of 74 million American children with guaranteed payment. This explains the ever-increasing CDC vaccination schedule and why there are literally hundreds of new vaccines currently in the pipeline. Given these financial incentives, it should come as no surprise that the vaccine market has gone from $170 million in 1982 to $36 billion in 2017[12]. By some estimates, the global vaccine market is expected to exceed $77.5 billion by 2024[13].

What can you do?

Become an advocate for vaccine safety. Watch the World Mercury Project’s Vaccine Safety Video. Read the Informed Consent Action Network’s white papers on “Vaccine Safety and Autism” and “Aluminum Adjuvants in Vaccines.” Educate yourself and help educate others. Request that studies comparing fully vaccinated versus completely unvaccinated populations be conducted through the Vaccine Safety Datalink, as well as through clinical trials. Call for the repeal of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act which grants vaccine manufacturers financial immunity from lawsuits, and consequently provides them with little economic incentive to create safer products. And finally, uphold individual liberty and freedom of choice by opposing state and federal vaccine mandates.

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[1] https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/effectiveness-studies.htm

[2] https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-152.pdf

[3] http://www.medalerts.org/vaersdb/findfield.php?action=Find&TABLE=ON&GROUP1=APPY

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/ensuringsafety/monitoring/vaers/index.html

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4632204/

[6] https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/61/6/980/451431

[7] https://healthit.ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/docs/publication/r18hs017045-lazarus-final-report-2011.pdf

[8] https://www.hrsa.gov/vaccine-compensation/data/index.html

[9] https://www.hrsa.gov/sites/default/files/vaccinecompensation/resources/84521booklet.pdf

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28188123

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22423139

[12] https://www.bccresearch.com/market-research/pharmaceuticals/global-markets-for-vaccine-technologies-phm014g.html

[13] https://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/global-vaccine-market