Antivaccine nonsense Medicine Politics Quackery

What is “medical freedom”? Not what “health freedom” advocates claim

Dr. Clayton Baker at the Brownstone Institute attempts to define “medical freedom” by deceptively wrapping it in what on first glance would seem to be unobjectionable principles.

Any science-based physician or skeptic who dips their toe into the waters of countering quackery, antivaccine activism, and anti-(conventional) medicine propaganda will very soon run into a concept known as “medical freedom” or “health freedom.” (The two terms tend to be used more or less interchangeably, and I will probably do the same.) The concept basically argues that personal autonomy to do what one wishes with their own body trumps science and, as a result, a person should be able to choose any treatment desired, regardless of whether it’s based in science or not or even whether there’s any evidence that it works or not.

While I have been, to some extent, sympathetic to this sort of view, having frequently said that a competent adult can choose no treatment or ineffective treatment, I always included a caveat, namely that the person had to be properly informed of the evidence showing that their chosen treatment doesn’t work and what the consequences of choosing no treatment or quack treatment are likely to be. From my perspective, much of the problem with the “medical freedom” movement is that in practice it often provides a license to hucksters and quacks to ply their trade selling snake oil in that it opposes regulation that would prevent quacks from defrauding people by claiming that their quackery works and then profiting. There’s a reason why I frequently say that “health freedom” in practice means freedom for quacks from any sort of pesky regulation that would keep them from selling ineffective “cures” by falsely claiming that they work—and work miraculously.

This brings me to a post that I saw the other day at the Brownstone Institute, the “free market” and “medical freedom” think tank founded by Neo-Confederate hack Jeffrey Tucker (discussed the other day for his contribution to the Great Barrington Declaration, which promoted “natural herd immunity” and thereby did massive damage to public health). It’s written by someone named Dr. Clayton J. Baker and entitled What is Medical Freedom, Exactly? Naturally, faced with such an article, I can’t resist comparing and contrasting what a Brownstone flack thinks medical freedom is compared to what it really is in practice. As you will see, Dr. Baker pontificates using a whole bunch of unobjectionable bromides about “freedom” and “personal autonomy” that are at odds with what advocates of “health freedom” actually do in practice.

First, I was amused at how much umbrage Dr. Baker took at how “medical freedom” or “health freedom” has been characterized:

For what it’s worth, Wikipedia does not have an entry for “medical freedom” as of this writing. However, it defines “health freedom” as follows: “The health freedom movement is a libertarian coalition that opposes regulation of health practices , and advocates for increased access to “non-traditional” health care.” 

It goes on to associate said movement with such luminaries as former Congressman Ron Paul, former Beatle Paul McCartney, and yes, the John Birch Society. 

In the mainstream media, starting about 2 years ago – soon after the onset of the Covid-19 vaccine mandates – published articles appeared that characterized “medical freedom,” at least in part, as a sort of rallying cry for right-wing militia initiatives.

All of this is, of course, inarguably true. “health freedom” and “medical freedom” have become a rallying cry for libertarians, far right wingers, and even outright fascists. Indeed, the Republican Party has become a bastion of antivaccine and anti-public health hostility, a process that actually predates the pandemic by at least several years. “Health freedom” and “medical freedom” have always been code words for dismantling public health infrastructure, anything resembling a vaccine mandate (even in schools), and dismantling the FDA. That latter goal is justified in the name of “getting cures to the people faster” because, supposedly, the FDA kills more people than it saves through its overweening regulation and particularly pesky regulations requiring that manufacturers demonstrate efficacy and safety before they can market a drug or device. Some even think that a “Yelp for drugs” would be better than large phase three clinical trials. I also can’t help but note that right wing militias had already started marching with antivaxxers several months before the COVID-19 pandemic actually arrived in the US. Of course, the optics of this association are embarrassing to Dr. Baker (and Brownstone), even though they appear to share these beliefs; so Dr. Baker has to try to claim that “medical freedom” doesn’t mean these things.

He also doesn’t like another clearly factual aspect of “medical freedom” and “health freedom”:

More recently, with public distrust in vaccines reaching historic highs, the media has shifted its characterization of medical freedom from a domestic terror threat to a cabal of ingenious and industrious hucksters. (After all, how can a few crackpot far-right militiamen sway mass public opinion so successfully?)

In a March 24, 2023 article, the far-left magazine the Nation described “The Medical Freedom Hustle” as follows:

Under the great dispensation of our new age of medical freedom, these disparate forces—ambitious Republican politicians, self-interested medical professionals, profiteering quacks, and nihilist visionaries—have melded.
It would be a subject for another day and another essay to unpack all the psychological projection concentrated in that quote. Suffice it to say that the traditional far-left – insofar as outlets like The Nation represent it – has come to characterize “medical freedom” largely as a kind of scam or confidence game, allegedly designed to draw the population away from legitimate mainstream medicine and toward the folly of snake-oil and naturopathic quackery.

Amusingly, I couldn’t have put it better myself than how Matt Hongoltz-Hetling put it in that article. You really should read the article yourself. It’s basically what I’ve been saying for 20 years about the “health freedom” movement, that it in reality, rather than meaning freedom to choose how one treats one’s body, in practice it really means freedom for quacks to defraud people. Indeed, before moving on to how Dr. Baker defines “medical freedom,” I can’t resist quoting this passage from Hongoltz-Hetling’s article:

Medical freedom wasn’t an entirely new idea, of course, but the proliferation of One True Cures in the Internet age gave rise to a whole class of American entrepreneurs who had a vested financial interest in beating back the regulations that were designed to protect the public. Fueled by their raw energy, the Health Freedom Expo was an enormous success for all involved, spawning dozens of similar events across the country. In evolutionary terms, if the Internet caused the medical quack to become so immensely prolific that regulatory predators couldn’t keep pace, the medical-freedom activists now invited them to herd up and act as one for mutual protection and benefit.

Thanks to these sorts of grassroots actions, diverse sellers of One True Cures began speaking in a single voice. When the disgraced pH Miracle Diet guru Robert Young had a chance to meet President Barack Obama at an event, he didn’t start talking about the science of acid and alkaline diets. “Freedom is a God-given right,” he told the president. “It’s about the right to choose between complementary or alternative or conventional treatment.” Other alt-health entrepreneurs enthusiastically joined the chorus. Toby McAdam said he merely wanted to exercise his rights to sell supplements that he said could treat various cancers and prevent radiation poisoning ; Larry Lytle argued that the ability to purchase lasers to heal virtually any disease of the mind or body was “a private right”; and Pentecostals like Dale and Leilani Neumann began defending faith healing as an exercise of their constitutional religious rights.

As sellers of One True Cures were converted into medical-freedom advocates, a side effect was the creation of a political space that welcomed the fringe actors remaining in the anti-vaccine movement. They were, like alternative healers, eager to move on from scientific debates and instead talk about the rights of Americans to choose. And they were happy to point to One True Cures as solutions to the communicable diseases that vaccines were designed to prevent. 

As I like to say, every accusation from people like Dr. Baker and groups like the Brownstone Institute is actually an admission. As if to contrast what “medical freedom” really is compared to what the “far left” claims it is, Dr. Baker cites Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ legislation that prevents businesses from requiring proof of vaccination of customers or employees, thus gutting one major component of public health during a pandemic. He also cites additional Florida legislation banning “gain of function” research, which isn’t really related to “medical freedom” per se, but rather to conspiracy theories about SARS-CoV-2 supposedly having come from a “lab leak.” Ditto his citing medical “freedom of speech,” given that quacks have always wielded “freedom of speech” as a defense whenever the law or medical societies have tried to enforce professionalism and quality control on quacks or whenever quacks face criticism for advocating, well, quackery. Dr. Baker approves of such measures based their supposedly addressing what he sees as three big problems:

These are 1) the medical and public health infringement on citizens’ fundamental civil liberties, 2) the systematic and oppressive control and silencing of physicians during the pandemic, and 3) the apparently out-of-control, dangerous, and unethical research that spawned the pandemic in the first place.

One can argue what the proper balance is between civil liberties and public health during a public health emergency in the form of a pandemic, but that’s not what Dr. Baker is doing. Rather, he is arguing that personal liberties should be, in essence, absolute, public health be damned. As for #2, quality control and enforcing professional standards do not equal “censorship” or “silencing.” And, of course, #3 is a conspiracy theory that evidence does not support.

So let’s see how Dr. Baker defines “medical freedom.” Predictably, he refers to the Bill of Rights and everything “American” to justify what he calls the “three-legged stool” of “medical freedom”:

Medical freedom is a moral, ethical, and legal concept, essential to the just and proper practice of medicine, that asserts the following:
  1. The individual patient’s autonomy over his or her own body with regard to any and all medical treatment is absolute and inalienable.
  2. Physicians and public health officials do not possess the authority to deprive any citizen of their fundamental civil rights, including during a declared medical emergency.
  3. The four fundamental pillars of medical ethics – autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice – are essential to medical practice and must be observed at all times by all physicians, nurses, public health officials, researchers, manufacturers, and all others involved in health care.

Let’s unpack these “legs” on the “three-legged stool” or central “pillars” of “medical freedom” one at a time. The first principle sounds perfectly reasonable on the surface, but what Dr. Baker fails to mention is that there are two things often glossed over. Before I get to that, though, if one’s autonomy over one’s body is “absolute and inalienable,” then I would assume that Dr. Baker would also argue that the right to abortion or suicide falls under this principle. (Somehow, I bet that he wouldn’t.) Or that transgender people should have an absolute right to gender-affirming care. (Somehow, I doubt that he supports transgender people having full and unfettered access “any and all medical treatment.”)

What’s glossed over are a couple of other things. First is true informed consent. Antivaxxers frequently warp the concept of informed consent into what I like to refer to as “misinformed refusal” of vaccines based on misinformation portraying vaccines as ineffective and dangerous. That is one element that Dr. Baker has no doubt contributed to by promoting disinformation of the Brownstone variety on vaccines and masks. (Just peruse his articles at Brownstone if you don’t believe me. Vaccines as “depopulation” through sterilization, anyone?) Another element is the consideration, often ignored by antivaxxers, of children as autonomous beings with their own rights who deserve protection when their parents decide that their “medical freedom” includes the “freedom” to medically neglect their children by denying them vaccines or effective treatment for diabetes, both serious and easily treatable infections, and even cancer.. Also, no right is absolute, as Hongoltz-Hetling pointed out in the “far left” article that Dr. Baker hates:

The guiding principle of medical freedom is that a person’s health and safety are the sole concern of the individual, not the government—a bit of ideological boilerplate that pretty much refutes the whole modern history of disease treatment and eradication. All you have to do is Google “Typhoid Mary” to grasp the real-world limitations of this fancy—it’s a simple fact of life that society has a significant stake in an individual’s health. In 1980, Massachusetts court stoutly affirmed this principle in a case involving mandatory helmet laws for motorcycle riders. “From the moment of the injury, society picks the person up off the highway; delivers him to a municipal hospital and municipal doctors; provides him with unemployment compensation if, after recovery, he cannot replace his lost job; and if the injury causes permanent disability may assume the responsibility for his and his family’s continued sustenance. We do not understand a state of mind that permits a plaintiff to think that only he himself is concerned.”

I suspect that targeted surveying would reveal that 100 percent of healthy libertarians proclaim their intentions to do without all these luxuries, while 100 percent of libertarians lying injured on the pavement admit that, yes, such societal services are kind of necessary, now that they think of it.

I forgot to mention mandatory auto seatbelt and motorcycle helmet laws. In any event, the idea that any individual right is absolute is a key fantasy of libertarian “thinking,” which is no doubt why Dr. Baker’s second principle comes into play, his assertion that no one possesses the “authority to deprive any citizen of their fundamental civil rights, including during a declared medical emergency.” Contrary to the Brownstone’s frequent depiction of public health officials as jack-booted fascists advocating endless “lockdowns” akin to what the authoritarian Chinese government imposed, here in the US there was always a debate about personal liberty versus public health. Moreover, “lockdowns” (such as they were, given that governments were doing everything they could to open back up by late summer/early fall of 2020 and the mask mandates—and later vaccine mandates—instituted in their place were hardly the horrific affronts to liberty portrayed by Brownstone) were always weighed against the cost to personal freedom and the economy. Also, again, no right is absolute, and personal rights have always been weighed against public health and interest as in, for example, laws against indoor smoking. Dr. Baker’s argument boils down to arguing that someone carrying an infectious disease should be allowed to spread it because that person’s personal rights override the rights of everyone else around him, regardless of the harm that is caused.

Let’s just say that there’s a lot of “lockdown” revisionism going around, thanks to people like Dr. Baker.

As for Dr. Baker’s third leg of his “medical freedom” stool, that the
“four fundamental pillars of medical ethics – autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice – are essential to medical practice and must be observed at all times by all physicians,” no one is arguing that they should not be observed. Because I have been involved in clinical research and clinical trials throughout my career, I immediately recognized where two of those four principles of medical ethics came from and that two of them (beneficence and non-maleficence, were basically two sides of the same principle.

In case you’re wondering where these pillars come from, Dr. Baker is basically paraphrasing the principles laid down in the 1970s in the Belmont Report, a document that discusses ethical principles as applied to medical experimentation using human subjects, not accepted medical practice. I can’t help but wonder whether Dr. Baker had intentionally done this in order to imply, not-so-subtly, that nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), treatment, and vaccines as applied to the pandemic were medical experimentation. I acknowledge that this could just be my overthinking it, with Dr. Baker just latching onto these principles because they sounded good to him. I also can’t help but wonder why he didn’t cite the much more up-to-date and current “state of the art” with respect to medical ethics governing human subjects experimentation, the Helsinki Declaration, which is periodically updated as ethical principles evolve and become more stringent. The Belmont Report was definitely a landmark in medical ethics, but it is certainly not the be-all and end-all anymore.

Whatever Dr. Baker’s intent in paraphrasing it, the Belmont Report lists three basic ethical principles that must govern human subjects research:

  1. Respect for persons. This includes autonomy but the Belmont Report also states that “persons with diminished autonomy are entitled to protection.” Leaving aside that the Belmont Report is about research more than it is about practice, those with diminished autonomy include children. Also, arguably, in a pandemic, this principle could easily be used to argue that people who cannot avoid being out and about—and therefore frequently exposed to the virus—deserve some protection in the form of measures that can decrease the transmission of the pandemic virus, like…oh, you know…masking, social distancing, good ventilation and air filters, vaccine mandates for workers, and the like, all measures that Brownstone has vehemently opposed. Dr. Baker’s idea of “autonomy” above all is not true “respect for persons,” which is probably why he wrote “autonomy” rather than “respect for persons” and didn’t quote the Belmont Report directly.
  2. Beneficence. Let’s quote the Belmont Report here: “Persons are treated in an ethical manner not only by respecting their decisions and protecting them from harm, but also by making efforts to secure their well-being. Such treatment falls under the principle of beneficence. The term “beneficence” is often understood to cover acts of kindness or charity that go beyond strict obligation. In this document, beneficence is understood in a stronger sense, as an obligation. Two general rules have been formulated as complementary expressions of beneficent actions in this sense: (1) do not harm and (2) maximize possible benefits and minimize possible harms.” I would argue that Dr. Baker’s definition of “beneficence” for purposes of his argument is, as his invocation of “autonomy,” quite incomplete in a manner that ignores society at large and in particular the vulnerable.
  3. Justice. Let’s quote the Belmont Report again: “Who ought to receive the benefits of research and bear its burdens? This is a question of justice, in the sense of ‘fairness in distribution’ or ‘what is deserved.’ An injustice occurs when some benefit to which a person is entitled is denied without good reason or when some burden is imposed unduly.” I can’t help but point out that the “autonomy über alles” approach advocated by Brownstone and Dr. Baker clearly violates the principle of justice in that it requires those at the bottom of society’s ladder (such as workers who cannot do their jobs remotely and have to deal with the public) to bear the burdens unequally in the form of greater exposure to the virus, without even minimal efforts to decrease their exposure through mask mandates, social distancing, ventilation, and other NPIs designed to decrease the spread of the virus.

In light of these principles, a number of Dr. Baker’s formulations are basically straw men, or at least deceptive. For example:

Truth-telling. Physicians and health officials are duty-bound to tell the truth. Willful deviation from this violates patient autonomy, and must result in professional discipline.

I totally agree with this principle, actually. After all, who can argue against truth-telling with respect to disease and medicine? However, Dr. Baker is being deceptive here in that he means “truth telling” in a specific way that excludes what he and Brownstone (and many quacks) do. What I don’t agree with is the libertarian interpretation of this principle to mean that quacks can promote quackery and antivaxxers can promote dangerous pseudoscience and misinformation because they are “truth telling.” In fact, I would argue that quacks violate patient autonomy all the time by telling them incorrect medical information and should therefore be subject to the very professional discipline that Dr. Baker advocates for physicians who don’t tell the truth about diseases and medical interventions. Indeed, I would go even farther and argue that this very principle demands that quacks—such as Dr. Peter McCullough, for example—lose their medical licenses and professional certifications. Again, this is quality control, not censorship.

Dr. Baker’s take on beneficence is a bit…slanted as well:

Beneficence requires that all treatments given to a patient should be done only when the prospect, intention, and likelihood of providing genuine benefit to that patient exists. There must be no “taking one for the team.”

This is an obvious straw man about vaccines, and, of course, vaccines were recommended (and sometimes mandated) with the intent that they would benefit the patient, as well as those whom the patient interacts with. I also can’t help but point out that the entire idea behind the Great Barrington Declaration that, if we just let COVID-19 run through the population in order to achieve “natural herd immunity”—in six months, yet!—was to require young (and presumably healthy) people to “take one for the team” and get infected, the better to speed up the process of “natural herd immunity” for society. The rationale behind this approach was that these people were at very low risk for complications and death.

However, “low risk” does not mean zero risk. The GBD, at its heart, advocated that large numbers of “young and healthy” people endure an illness that could range from asymptomatic to mild to so severe that it would threaten their lives, with the knowledge that some of them would die, all in order to reach “natural herd immunity” that would benefit society and protect the “vulnerable.” If that isn’t “taking one for the team,” I don’t know what is. Remember, “We want them infected” was the slogan of “natural herd immunity” advocates. Dr. Baker is thus very selective in how he views what constitutes forcing people or patients to “take one for the team” so that it’s fine if society does it the Brownstone way but not fine to do it through vaccine mandates.

It’s not for nothing that I am reminded of a famous scene from the movie Shrek:

Dr. Baker’s concept of “justice” with respect to pandemic interventions is also rather…slanted:

Justice requires that both the benefits and burdens of medical care must be distributed equally throughout the population. A new emphasis on the protection of vulnerable populations, especially children, is essential.

Funny, but GBD-inspired “natural herd immunity” also demanded that children, always considered a vulnerable population under medical ethics principles, be infected in order to achieve “natural herd immunity” so that schools could be reopened faster, as Dr. Jerome Adams, Surgeon-General under President Trump, recently railed against.

While it’s good that Dr. Adams now acknowledges this, it’s way too little too late.

Again, I note that, yes, the risk to children from COVID-19 is relatively low, but nowhere near zero. Children can and do die of the disease, even previously healthy children, to the point that COVID-19 is now a major killer of children.

Then, of course, there is this:

Protocols. The mandated or coerced use of strict or inflexible protocols in medical practice must be prohibited. Variation from protocols, to allow for individualized patient care decisions, must be allowed.

In actuality, this was always true. Early in the pandemic, there was no playbook, and doctors tried protocols that seemed reasonable based on existing knowledge. Heck, it’s why hydroxychloroquine was part of the standard of care in some hospitals (including one where I practiced) in March 2020 but was abandoned by summer 2020 as evidence increasingly showed that it didn’t work. Basically, once clinical trials and further epidemiological evidence was accumulated, medicine—as medicine does—became less tolerant of “informed experimentation” by brave maverick doctors and started insisting on science- and evidence-based protocols that had developed as a result of experimentation and clinical trials with the actual SARs-CoV-2 virus and patients with COVID-19. Basically, an appeal to “individualized patient care” has long been a favorite trope used by quacks and cranks to attack conventional science-based medicine and advocate for their quackery.

In fact, that’s exactly what Dr. Baker is doing with his definition of “medical freedom,” recycling very old quack tropes about patient autonomy, “freedom of speech,” and the “individualization” of treatments used by quacks. He thinks he’s saying something new, but in reality he’s just saying the sorts of things that antivaxxers like Andrew Wakefield and cancer quacks like Stanislaw Burzynski have been deceptively arguing for decades.

Same as it ever was.

Does Dr. Baker know that? Who knows? Even if he does, he probably doesn’t care because his infantile version of “freedom” matters more to him than the messy, complicated discussion of how to balance individual freedom with that of others and the good of society.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

32 replies on “What is “medical freedom”? Not what “health freedom” advocates claim”

In any event, the idea that any right is absolute is a key fantasy of libertarian “thinking”…

“Virtually every legal system recognises limits to rights when they impinge on others’ rights. My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.”
I don’t remember who said that, but if anything, it understates things.

I agree with Orac that “medical freedom” should NOT mean that every quack should be allowed to defraud the public.

I think about “medical freedom” is about being able to say NO.

Medical freedom is the right of an individual to make uncoerced choices and say NO to medical treatments they do not want without undue influence or manipulation.

For example, saying no to mammography, vaccines, chemotherapy, antipyretics, semaglutide, etc etc.

Regarding comments on motorcycle helmets: I live in Illinois and ride a motorcycle, and helmets are NOT legally required here. I wear a helmet every time of course.

As for seatbelts being mandated: seatbelts lower insurance premiums. To contrast seatbelts with vaccines, when exiting a car, one is wholly returned to the previous, un-seatbelted state. But nobody can get un-vaccinated. You cannot take the vaccine out, like you can take the seatbelt off.

Millions wish to become un-vaccinated from Covid vaccines, and, in desperation, even resort to quack treatments “helpfully” offered (which do not work). So there is a difference between seatbelts and vaccines.

Quack “detox” regimens to “reverse vaccine injury” have always been a part of antivax. Always. “Detoxing vaccine injury” was (and still is) a large part of the rationale behind what the whole autism quackery movement known as “autism biomed” has always been all about.

Moreover, seriously, no one denies the right of a competent adult to “make uncoerced choices and say NO to medical treatments they do not want without undue influence or manipulation” or to say “no to mammography, vaccines, chemotherapy, antipyretics, semaglutide, etc etc.” (And, before you get all predictable: No, vaccine mandates are justifiable based on the balancing of individual rights with the rights of others; they also leave a choice. There are no jackbooted thugs going around forcibly vaccinated anyone in the US.)

The conflict comes in when those individuals are parents and medically neglect their children by denying them, for instance, antibiotics for severe infections or chemotherapy for cancer—or safe and effective vaccines for childhood diseases.

Not to mention that antivaxxers (you included) always claim that vaccine immunity so-o shortlived, So according to you, vaccination is reversed very fast.

“Vaccine immunity” (for COVID vaccines) is very short lived.

However, vaccine side effects are long lived.

For example, Brogna et al., found that Covid vaccine spike protein persists in the blood of 50% of vaccinated people for 6 months. (They did not test for more than 6 months).

Carlo Brogna et al., Detection of recombinant Spike protein in the blood of individuals vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2: Possible molecular mechanisms.

The scientists cleverly ensured that only vaccine spike protein is detected as they sought presence of “prefusion stabilized” spike protein peptides. Such prefusion stabilized spikes are only found in Covid vaccines.

No such proteins were found in the blood of unvaccinated people.

Why do these spike protein circulate in blood after 6 months post-vaccination?

Wasn’t the vaccine supposed to “stay in the arm”?

Wasn’t the mRNA supposed to be quickly eliminated?

I’m not a scientist – I barely passed h.s. biology. But even I can spot the logical flaws in your claim. Assuming everything is true – the spike persists. So what? does it actually have any effect?

Your question is a good one. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, mRNA technology was not used outside of small failed animal trials. No application of mRNA technology was ever approved for anything prior to 2020.

When the pandemic happened, we had human trials lasting approximately 97 days per trial subject with very perfunctory surveillance.

So, I am not surprised that two years after vaccination, we learn interesting things like “half of the vaccinated people have vaccine spike protein in blood six months after vaccination”.

What is the effect of that? I do not know and, I suspect, neither does anyone else.

What we know is that after being exposed to “persistent irritants” (such as worms) we develop so-called IgG4 antibodies that cause immune tolerance.

One interesting effect of IgG4 antibodies for ANY antigen is that they cause “hyperprogressive cancers”, according to a study by Wang et al., An immune evasion mechanism with IgG4 playing an essential role in cancer and implication for immunotherapy. The Wang study looked at whether non-specific (any) IgG4 enhance malignancy and cause more aggressive disease. They found it to be the case in 2020, and their study had nothing to do with Covid vaccines.

Is there a less scientific name for ‘hyperprogressive cancer’?

Also Brogna was using mass spectrometry to detect fragments of the spike protein, not even the whole protein. 187 days was the maximum time after vaccination he could detect it.

And a bit of protein circulating in your blood is not really a side effect. My side effects went away the second day after the vaccination although it took about 4-5 days for the sore arm to go away.

What we have actually had are vaccines that underwent trials as large or lager as routine vaccines do, and have been subject to an extraordinary level of close scrutiny around the world, and have been – after being given to billions of people – found to have very few and rare side effects, and dramatically reduce deaths and severe diseases.

What we also have is anti-vaccine activists trying to cast doubt on this data by latching to every hypothetical or non-existent issue they can come up with.

It’s not the vaccines that are the problem here.

Authors trypsinize the whole blood separate fragments with gas chromatography, It separates fragments by size only, no chmical analysis is attempted.
There re papers that actually do chemical analysis.
If there were persistent presence of foreign protein in the blood, there would be persistent immune response to it.

@ Igor:

Sorry for being late.
You describe medical freedom as someone not being “coerced” and thus able to freely reject medical intervention “without undue influence or manipulation”
HOWEVER, on Substack, the other day, you presented material that scares readers away from vaccines through histrionic language and cavalier mis-representation of research
Isn’t that manipulation?

You describe aggressive cancers following vaccination which you identify as “turbo-cancers”: fortunately for us- you included- Orac has written greatly detailed posts – 14 to be exact- ( see search box) that explain why this scenario is very highly unlikely indeed. Solid tumours take much longer to form whilst lymphomas and leukaemias may appear more quickly although the time frame is still years, not weeks or months, even after exposure to extremely high levels of radiation. So in effect you’re saying that vaccines are more carcinogenic than experiencing Hiroshima or Chernobyl.

Isn’t your post fear-mongering then?

Because I read and hear alt med/ anti-vax proselytisers, I can recognise the format easily:
you frighten followers about medical interventions and minimise the illness itself or how easily it can be managed by supplements, diet and exercise.
YOU are influencing people away from vaccines and other care regularly.

I think you’re not a lost cause. That’s why I try to enlighten you. Notice that Orac himself- and other regulars- take time to respond to you.

@ Igor:

To continue:
you also influence your followers to mistrust medical research and experts and place yourself as an arbiter of meaningful discussion about vaccines
BUT you have no expertise in this matter!
You say things that reveal your level of ability as Orac, Joel, Aarno, Squirrel, DB, Dr Yeti et al have shown time and time again.

Alt med / anti-vaxxers do the same:
generate mistrust and present their own ideas/ methods.
If people mistrust all experts and news sources, whom do we have left?
Wakefield, Adams, Null, Wolf, RFKjr, contrarians/ chaos agents on You Tube?
Governmental agencies and universities are all corrupt so they have no value but faux experts and rabble rousers are fine?
There are such things as negative values.

Unlike many anti-vaxxers, I believe you can learn.

I actually don’t disagree with your concerns here. That said, I think they go both ways to an extent Pharma can also be quacky or have inadequate evidence. As such at the very least a new vax platform needs to have a requisite medical freedom associated with it. Public health officials and governments were pushing mandates of mRNA vaxes with limited evidence (none re herd immunity, none re transmission and possibly tainted trials – which takes years to expose). The icing was asking for 75 years to come clean with what was relied on for approval. In my view this puts them very close to the hucksters you are worried about.

You know, I actually agree that “medical freedom” would be a disaster with respect to big pharma introducing drugs that don’t have evidence of efficacy and safety. However, I have a hard time taking your pointing out that aspect of “medical freedom” given that you are parroting antivax talking points, particularly the deceptive “needs 75 years to come clean” bullshit about the Pfizer documents. Seriously, this ain’t my first rodeo, and your “bothsidesism” is clearly not in good faith.

“You know, I actually agree that “medical freedom” would be a disaster with respect to big pharma introducing drugs that don’t have evidence of efficacy and safety.”

I imagine that Big Pharma would outperform the poor local quacks and put them out of business.

Herd immunity is a very simple concept, and antivaxxers believe any case natural herd immunity. How it is possible ?
Follow up studies proved protection against transmission quite soon, It would strange if a vaccine prevents infection but noit transmission,.
And data for trials were released,and antivaxxers did not find any new problems.

I wrote a comment that was lost so I’ll try to provide a synopsis.
People who support or publicise ‘medical freedom’ usually :
— don’t want to vaccinate their kids for school or themselves for work
— need to sully SBM’s reputation as they provide alternative products and services
— write articles/ books or produce films to spread their message
— are general contrarians or libertarians seeking an instant audience

Many of them, even in the first category, find ways to monetise their position by offering books, films, supplements, treatments, charities and Substack subscriptions.
Even anti-vax mothers who spread the word to warn others about ‘vaccine injury” often write books or articles and achieve social media fame amongst the likeminded.

If you provide information that was already vetted and backed by meaningful research, you are not NEWS! but opposing SBM clothes your backward ideas in glamour. If I wrote about how students could prepare for tests based on memory and performance studies, I imagine a few serious people would pay attention but to really make a splash, I’d have to dive into the altie or new age pool. “Take an herbal formula with mega B vitamins” or ‘Chant this mantra and pray, pray, pray’.
Often, the core audience for either vaccine/ SBM or cognitive research haven’t got the least clue and will accept all manner of blather, confabulation and outright lies and miss the obvious outlines of the problem concerned and that Other People know exactly how this works. Thus, Other People are the problem to alties/ anti-vaxxers.

I wonder what Dr. Baker thinks about the way we handle tuberculosis. For many decades, people who come in with tuberculosis are subjected to extensive courses of antibiotics. If they resist, they may be confined, or subject to other measures to limit freedom. Does Dr. Baker think people should be allowed to refuse tuberculosis treatment, increasing the risks to themselves and others?

I wouldn’t be suprised he would think that way, because freedom is more important than anything and freedom has to be absolute, because otherwise it isn’t freedom.

Looking at Dr. Baker’s internet bios extolling his humble talents, there is a clear progression from being an academically-based physician (including even Clinical Associate Professor of Medical Humanities and Bioethics at the University of Rochester) to the quack he is now, including an “expert witness” (per the SEAK expert witness directory) in:

Specialty Focus: COVID-19, COVID, Diabetes, Cancer, Heart Attack, Urgent Care, Adverse Drug Reaction, Medical Errors, Medication Errors, Failure to Diagnose, Standard of Care, Vaccine injury, Vaccine Mandates, Vaccine Exemption, Paxlovid, Remdesivir, Ivermectin, Hydroxychloroquine, Pfizer, Moderna, Mask, Masking.

So basically, another grifter.

Clayton Baker’s listing with the SEAK “expert witness” directory lists his focus areas as including “Vaccine injury, Vaccine Mandates, Vaccine Exemption, Paxlovid, Remdesivir, Ivermectin, Hydroxychloroquine, Pfizer, Moderna, Mask, Masking”.

Lots of scope for crankery there.

I totally agree with your points here, and it may well be that I am simply not understanding and you’re already fully aware of this, but the 4 principles that Dr. Baker references (autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-malfeasance) are from Beauchamp’s and Childress’s Principles of Biomedical Ethics, which is commonly taught as a cornerstone piece of ethics, at least in medical education right now. As you correctly pointed out, though, this book is based largely on the Belmont Report, which lacks the current teeth of Helsinki or other ethical statements/agreements.

Also, funny, Beauchamp and Childress saw the way people (especially Americans) were taking the principle of autonomy and running amok. So they updated their work with the clarification that autonomy was never meant to be considered above all other principles, nor to be considered entirely unalienable, but was simply listed first.

The health freedom movement has been enormously enabled by social media even though some outlets disallowed it ( FaceBook, Twitter) but since the advent of Elon, Twitter/ X has reinstated many anti-vaxxers/ alt med providers/ contrarians who have utilised it to their benefit. I read ( via name/ handle) many of them including Naomi Wolf, Katie Wright, Celia Farber, Steve Kirsch and various Covid/ PH denialists ( Malone et al); RFKjr was never tossed despite his unrealistic ideas.

It’s enlightening to spend some time every day observing how their bad ideas develop and drift into politics and general commentary on the sad state of the world and society at large. I especially ‘enjoy’ Naomi Wolf’s tales about how pandemic mitigation has destroyed the fabric of society and human interaction ( also, her Substack which is much longer and denser). A self-proclaimed feminist she laments the decline of femininity in the past decades: we are no longer those graceful, elegant beings shown in old movies but tough, masculinised socialist career addicts. Sceptics might learn from her mistakes and superficial comprehension. Her Daily Clout ( website/ broadcast) includes her investigation ( with 3500 “experts”) of the Pfizer documents.
Oh, and she re-tweets Igor.

I know. The blog database is out of control, and I don’t know how to fix it. Unless I recruit or pay a WordPress expert to help me fix things, there’s not much I can do, and this problem is a reason why I have been seriously thinking of moving to Substack as a free blog. I hate to do it, given how ugly the Substack interface is and vile the company is, but it would free me from the pain of trying to figure out why this blog is so wonky.

Later this week I’ll try some simple things, like rebuilding the database, etc., things that I can do. If that doesn’t work, then I might have to do something drastic, like spending a lot of money to hire a WordPress developer or moving the blog to Substack. In the meantime, commenting can be slow, and some comments might not go through properly or on the first try. Sorry about that, but remember that this is my hobby and that I make no money off of it. In fact, I pay all bandwidth charges, and when a post goes viral it actually costs me money.

No problem at all. I just wanted to inform you about this recent wonkiness. You already do more than enough work to allow conversation / debunking woo.
Woo hoo.

On a lighter note…
Steve Kirsch ( Substack) was contacted by the Counter Disinformation Project which he observes doesn’t get nearly as many likes as he does.
He probably would also not be thrilled to learn that both NY and California are initiating similar plans for K-12 students.
The problem is not these efforts, Steve, it’s you.

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