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Quack tycoon Joe Mercola abandons an old antivax friend

Antivax Grande Dame Barbara Loe Fisher is lamenting how without warning her old friend, quack tycoon Joe Mercola, cut off his regular financial support of her antivax org. What’s going on here?

I like to call Barbara Loe Fisher the grande dame of the antivaccine movement because she co-founded and still runs what is arguably oldest continuously active antivaccine group in existence, the Orwellian-named National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), which should really be called the National Vaccine Misinformation Center. The NVIC was originally founded in 1982 by Jeff Schwartz, Barbara Loe Fisher, and Kathi Williams under the name Dissatisfied Parents Together, all of whom were bound together by having seen the health of their children deteriorate at some point after having received the DPT (diptheria-whole cell pertussis-tetanus vaccine) vaccine and encountered the TV documentary DPT: Vaccine Roulette, which confused correlation with causation to propose a causal link between DPT vaccines and neurologic illnesses of some children who received them. Fisher came to believe that the DPT vaccine had caused neurologic injury to her child. As I note whenever I discuss this topic, subsequent evidence has shown no link between DPT and neurologic injury. However, at the time, in the early 1980s, there were several case reports and the aforementioned sensationalistic DPT: Vaccine Roulette, which first aired on a local NBC affiliate in Washington DC in 1982, and then ultimately nationally on The Today Show. Three years later, Barbara Loe Fisher and Harris Coulter published a book, DPT: A Shot in the Dark. The fear caused by these media and books narratives, as well as many others, led to a tsunami of lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers to the point that the potential financial liability threatened the vaccine supply and led Congress to pass the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which established the Vaccine Court. For a number of years, quack tycoon Joe Mercola has been providing generous financial support to the NVIC.

Apparently, the relationship between Barbara Loe Fisher and her financial benefactor Joe Mercola—whom I like to refer to as a “quack tycoon” because he’s amassed a net worth north of $100 million selling supplements, quackery, and antivax—has come to a sudden and unexpected end. Yesterday, Fisher told her version of what happened in a video posted to Rumble entitled Why NVIC is No Longer Associated with Dr. Joseph Mercola. To summarize from Fisher’s account, Mercola appears to have more or less ghosted her and her antivax org after the new CEO of his foundation cut off its $300,000 per year recurring gift to the NVIC:

Oh, dear. Whatever will Barbara Loe Fisher do, now that a $300,000 a year hole has been blown in the NVIC’s budget?

Before I discuss Fisher’s account and speculate what might have happened, it’s important to note that this relationship between Mercola and her has been going on a long time, as I discussed in 2019 (ironically, around the time that the earliest reports of an outbreak of deadly pneumonias in Wuhan, China due to a novel coronavirus were starting to show up in US news). My post was based on a Washington Post story discussing Mercola’s longstanding funding of antivax causes that, among other things, reported that by the end of 2019 Mercola had contributed well over $2.9 million to the NVIC over the course of the previous decade, accounting for 40% of the total annual budget of the organization. (Doing the math, my reaction at the time was: Holy hell! Who knew that the NVIC had a budget approaching $750,000 a year? Crap!)

By way of background, I’ve been writing about this collaboration between the grande dame of the antivax movement and its biggest quack tycoon on and off since 2010, which is when I first noted the two jointly declaring a Vaccine Awareness Week, in reality Antivaccine Awareness Week to spread antivax misinformation. By 2011, the groups investing money running antivax ads on the Times Square JumboTron and on Delta Airline flights. Such were the “fruits” of this antivax collaboration, with Mercola’s largesse helping the much smaller NVIC punch above its weight class.

Let’s see how Barbara Loe Fisher describes the rift between her and Mercola in the video and from the transcript provided on her website. First, she states why she’s speaking up only now, given that the rift occurred in February:

This commentary clarifies why the non-profit National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is no longer associated with Dr. Joseph Mercola after his sudden defunding of NVIC in February 2024 became a recent topic of public discussion online, which spread false information about the history of that association. 

You’ll excuse me if I find it highly amusing and ironic that a spreader of misinformation is now upset at having misinformation spread online about her and her organization. It’s also odd that I haven’t seen this discussion online and before seeing her video hadn’t been aware of her falling out with Mercola. This makes me think that this discussion is not happening in the usual spaces I monitor. Perhaps it’s on private Facebook pages and the like, because I’ve seen nothing about it on X, the hellsite formerly known as Twitter, Bluesky, Threads, Instagram, or anywhere else that I monitor for material for this blog and to keep my finger on the pulse of the antivax crankosphere.

Next up, Fisher serves up a reminiscence about the good old days, back when Mercola and she were best buds and Mercola was pouring $300,000 a year into her organization:

There are monuments in Washington, D.C. honoring those who have fallen defending the United States of America in wars fought to preserve freedom. Since the early 1980s, I dreamed of creating a monument honoring the children who had no voice and had no choice and were injured or died from vaccines mandated by doctors waging a two- century war on microorganisms

That dream came true on March 25, 2023 when I stood with Dr. Joseph Mercola in Cape Coral, Florida and we unveiled the Truth and Freedom Monument that I designed with my daughter and was built and sponsored by the National Vaccine Information Center.1 It was a day I will never forget because the event also marked the 40th anniversary of the founding of our charitable organization, an event we had postponed for a year because of the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian in the city.

The Truth and Freedom monument has at its center a silvered bronze angel  standing on a blue globe holding a baby. The monument features quotes  defending autonomy and civil liberties. At the top of one of the marble arches  is a quote from the Bible – “The truth will set you free” – a phrase also found in  contemporary academic settings affirming freedom of thought and the power  of knowledge. 

The angel, which is represented in Judeo-Christian and other major religions, reminds us of our sacred duty to protect our children. The torch held up by the  angel’s left arm is the light of truth. The child held in the angel’s right arm symbolizes the future of humanity.

Can you say, “Tacky”? Sure, I knew you could. Oh, wait, you don’t believe me. Well, take a look at what Fisher’s monument:

I’ll leave my readers to be the judges for themselves regarding the tastefulness of this monument, which must have cost a pretty penny to create. I suppose it’s better that the NVIC and Mercola wasted what was likely tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars to create this eyesore, rather than using it for more effective antivax propaganda. Also, given that it was constructed on property owned by Mercola, it was unlikely that a lot of people could see it and potentially be influenced by its deceptive antivax propaganda.

Moving on, Fisher continues to reminisce about what great buds she and Mercola were, how before the rift between them she had long “admired Dr. Mercola’s vision as a doctor empowering people to take control of their health,” and how she had “considered him to be a friend, as well as a colleague.” With obvious sadness, she lists some of their past antivax achievements together, as well as his generous financial support from 2008-2023, leading to more reminiscences of their mutual back patting for what a great job each thought the other was doing:

In 2009 at NVIC’s Fourth International Public Conference on Vaccination, I presented Dr. Mercola with NVIC’s Visionary Award.7 NVIC was a co-founder in 2011 of the Health Liberty Coalition sponsored by Mercola.com, which included leaders of allied non-profits dedicated to promoting health freedom and raising awareness about the risks of vaccines and GMOs and mercury amalgams and fluoride in drinking water.8

In 2019, I received Dr. Mercola’s annual Game Changer Award given to an individual “whose work stands as a great service to humanity.”9 In 2020, at NVIC’s Fifth International Public Conference on Vaccination I presented Dr. Mercola with NVIC’s Lifetime Achievement Award for “inspiring millions to take control of their health and choose more natural ways to stay healthy.”10 On NVIC’s website, Mercola.com was listed as a Partner.

Such beautiful quacking and grifting together! It almost makes me wistful! (Almost.) Alas, however, the glorious tag team quacking and grifting were not to continue forever. It is true, of course, that nothing lasts forever, even a grift as sweet as the one that Mercola and Fisher had kept going for 15 years, but, even so, the grift’s end was shockingly sudden:

Exactly one year to the day after Dr, Mercola and I dedicated NVIC’s Truth and Freedom Monument in Cape Coral, Florida, on March 25, 2024, NVIC received an email from someone identifying herself as the new CEO of Mercola.com informing us that donations from Dr. Mercola’s Natural Health Products Research Foundation were immediately discontinued. After all the years we had worked together,16 Dr. Mercola did not contact me by phone or email or text to explain why he suddenly chose to defund NVIC without advance warning, which impacted our fiscal year programs and services and left me with no information to give to my Board and staff.

Oh, dear. What could possibly have led to Mercola’s decision to cut off the NVIC in such a sudden, cruel, and seemingly arbitrary fashion? As I watched the video, I had my suspicions, given that (1) Fisher learned that Mercola had defunded the NVIC in March and (2) my most recent post about Mercola was in February and described how the quack tycoon had fallen under the spell of a psychic medium who refers to himself as The Kai—real name: Kai Clay—who claims to channel an entity known as Bahlon, described as an “ancient and wise high-vibration entity from the causal plane.” I note that the transcript on the NVIC website does n0t give the full flavor of just how batty Bahlon sounds. To experience that, I encourage you to go to around 8:10 on the video and listen for yourself, as first we hear a bunch of gibberish from Bahlon and then see The Kai channeling Bahlon in English, going on for nearly a whole minute. It is truly odd and definitely reeks of grifting psychic medium nonsense.

In fact, before I continue with Fisher’s lament, let me just quote again from an article that I cited describing what was happening. First, consider the context. Apparently early this year, Mercola fired a bunch of longtime executives at his company:

In hours of video discovered online, Mercola converses with a man going by the name Kai Clay who speaks as though he is the voice of the entity, referred to as “Bahlon.” Clay, with his eyes closed as if in trance, talks with Mercola about his business and spiritual matters in a rambling conversation that the doctor claims will be the basis of a series of books he plans to publish. In a video of Mercola that was shared with the brand’s employees Feb. 12, the doctor described a 12-book series as “a new beginning for the company” and declared that “my new goal is to reach billions, literally billions, around the world with a new paradigm of how to increase joy in their life.”

The Feb. 12 video came five days after three top executives — CEO Steve Rye; Chief Business Officer Ryan Boland; and Chief Editor Janet Selvig, Mercola’s sister — received termination letters signed by a Laura Berry, who had not worked at the company before but claimed in the letter she was the new Mercola CEO. In the Feb. 12 video, Mercola announced he will visit the offices on Feb. 14 with “my new CEO who’s a brilliant, unbelievable woman who’s going to take us to the next level,” but offers no name. He also promises a “surprise guest” who will be the company’s chief operating officer.

Bahlon’s channeler, it turns out, is a psychic grifter—but I repeat myself—named Kai Clay. Apparently, sometime in late 2023 Mercola fell under this particular psychic grifter’s spell, leading his sister to become increasingly alarmed at her brother’s odd behavior and his increasingly frequent references in their conversations to having consulted with Bahlon about business decisions. Amusingly (to me, anyway), Fisher’s article includes a link to a followup article published after my post about Mercola and Bahlon, in which it was reported that Mercola had planned to start releasing videos of Bahlon in order to, well, just read a brief excerpt, and maybe laugh:

In Mercola’s article, which had not been published as of March 1, the doctor promised to release videos of his conversations with Clay/Bahlon in order to share “the universality of Bahlon’s wisdom.”

“I’ve come to understand Bahlon as a high-vibrational entity seeking to uplift humanity through messages of love, hope and healing,” the doctor wrote.

Mercola went on to describe “a blending of optimal biology and eternal energy” and noted that “according to Bahlon, the energy produced in your mitochondria is identical to the energy that created the material universe.”

Whoa. So very, very deep. It’s like Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts, only for woo. Sadly, Fisher was clearly hurt by Mercola’s treatment, going on to ask:

Did that person tell Dr. Mercola to walk away from our partnership and his long-standing commitment to NVIC without contacting me to explain why?

The media articles published in February and March detailed the fact that this self-identified psychic who Dr. Mercola is now consulting with had convinced him that he, Dr. Mercola, is “a god” and “the new Jesus.”22 The articles contained references to videos and descriptions of what had taken place at the Mercola.com company in early February when Dr. Mercola without warning fired top executives, including his own sister, who helped him establish and has worked at his company for 40 years.

The harm that has been done to good people is shocking and heartbreaking.

The horror…the horror…

I’m actually rather torn here. While I am certainly not in the least bit unhappy that the NVIC now has a gaping hole in its 2024 budget (and beyond) and won’t be able to do as much as it used to do trying to ensure the preventable deaths of children from preventable infectious diseases, I have to wonder if the “new” Mercola might do even more damage with his newfound attachment to psychic woo. On the other hand, whatever influence Clay has over him seems to be pretty malign, as Mercola appears to be doing what cult leaders always impel their cult members to do and burning bridges with friends, family, and any0ne else who might have supported him or helped him regain his independence, including his longtime girlfriend and quack paramour Erin Elizabeth. Certainly Mercola looks to be on a path that has the potential to destroy his hundred million dollar-plus quack business empire, puttering it away on projects as stupid as the book series that he plans on publishing. (We can only hope.)

Whatever the reason, you might remember that Mercola’s sister suspects that those who were fired were fired based on their religion, given the serious rants against Catholicism showing up in some of Mercola’s videos and emails and his sister’s noting that all of the fired executives were Catholic. This observation led Fisher to write:

NVIC has a long history of defending human rights, including freedom of religion. I am a Christian and Dr. Mercola knows that. Whether he chose to end his relationship with NVIC without warning or explanation because of my religious beliefs that he knows would prevent me from believing in Bahlon is an open question. Nevertheless, our Truth and Freedom monument cannot be associated with a doctor who has taken actions against people based on their religious beliefs and who receives and gives business and health advice based on directions given to him by a person claiming to be a psychic channeling an ancient entity.

While one might view Fisher’s not wanting her precious tacky antivax monument to be associated with someone who has apparently become a religious bigot to be somewhat admirable, that last part made me laugh out loud. Seriously, Ms. Fisher, you’ve been happy for the last four decades to promote the quackiest of quacks, the wildest conspiracy theories about vaccines, and the most bonkers antivax pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, and lies, all in order to scare parents out of vaccinating and not caring that your activities likely result in the preventable deaths of children, but you draw the line at being associated with someone like Mercola, who is now taking business and health advice from a psychic grifter? Too funny.

In any event, as I mentioned before, her monument had originally been built on property owned by Mercola; so Fisher somehow managed to scrape together the funds to take it down, with Mercola’s permission, and move her antivax monstrosity to a storage facility, where it is now out of site while she looks for a new permanent home. Meanwhile, she is struggling to figure out how she is going to manage her organization, now that its budget has suffered an unexpected huge cut. Good. If Clay is able to tank both Mercola’s quack empire and Fisher’s antivax org, one might say that Bahlon has done the world a service. I will concede, however, that the cost might end up being too high, depending on what Mercola tries to do in his delusional capacity as the “new Jesus” and his $100 million net worth.

Finally, it is possible that it is mental illness that has made Mercola susceptible to the blandishments of a grifter like Kai Clay. If that’s the case, I hope that he finds a way to seek the science-based mental health treatment that he needs to shake off Bahlon’s malign influence. However, it might not be mental illness leading him to this, at least not any DSM-diagnosable condition, in which case a grifter being ensnared by another, even more outrageous, grifter strikes me as karma more than anything else.

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]

66 replies on “Quack tycoon Joe Mercola abandons an old antivax friend”

Is LOL the correct response here?

It is sad that there are grifters like Mercola and Clay in the world preying on vulnerable people. I know I should feel sorry for the fact that Clay is preying on Joe Mercola, but I am having a lot of trouble doing so.

As for Fisher, her antivax organisation has lost its influence to ICAN and CHD, she is going to struggle to raise enough money to make her organisation relevant again. One less antivax organisation, but there are still too many out there.

On the one hand, it is good, like you say, that the NVIC has lost a significant source of funding. On the other, it is alarming that Mercola appears to be in thrall to this man. It is deeply concerning whenever this happens, and especially for someone as wealthy and quacky as Mercola.

Good news!

“… and move her antivax monstrosity to a storage facility, where it is now out of site while she looks for a new permanent home.”

Maybe she can have it placed in the field where the kook favourite “Georgia Guidestones” used to reside.
… Or on Mike Adams Texas property in the middle of his tomato patch.
… Or in the entryway foyer of her buddy Andy Wakefraud’s mansion.

Next she’ll be selling pot metal reproductions to her gullible acolytes – cast and painted by Chinese child slave labor.

Lot’s of grifting possibilities.

In a surfeit of irony “The truth will set you free” caps the lot. Quackery like religion panders to those who are captive to their needs and wants rather than what is actually true.

… The Truth and Freedom monument ….

After catching my breath and wiping the coffee off my screen I stared wondering: are there really still people out there falling for this kind of crazy Orwellian nonsense?

There’s an anti-vax group near me called “Truth and Liberty in Community.” Their latest newsletter promotes polio denial and homophobia. Given how popular psychological projection is in the R party, Orwellian nonsense looks like it’s here to stay.

Perhaps a statue for the victims of the victims of vaccine preventable diseases would be a better idea. Preferably with all the names.

I feel like NVIC and also Age of Autism have been supplanted by Children’s Health Defense (CHD) and it’s “Defender” rag (which won’t brook any dissenting comments unlike AoA) as well as Bigtree’s ICAN (for legal/advocacy stuff). NVIC feels like a dinsosaur.

CHD could easily (given they are pulling in $25 million a year) plug that $300K hole Mercola left, and this NVIC video could be a not-so-subtle plea by BLF for help. I don’t see RFKjr or Bigtree helping (if they do) out of altuism. Those two are in it for the big $$$ of overturning NIVCP and suing for many many billions.

Looking at the Form 990 for NVIC, revenues (for this “non profit) doubled from about 1.2 mil/yr in 2019 to 2.3 mil per year in 2021 (so the pandemic was good for them), thus a $300K hole may not be lethal. Unlike CHD, BLF pays herself modestly at $60K/yr unlike money-grubbing$500K/yr RFKjr has been treating himself to of late (must be cost a lot to do his falconry, uh-huh).

The landscape of antivaxland is rapidly changing. Mercola’s actions may hasten things along.

These organizations are not big on helping others unless there’s something in it for them.

I hope that statute does not end up somewhere more visible.

Are you at all familiar with ICAN and Children’s Health Defense?? Both spend inordinate amounts of money on legal work trying to fight vaccine mandates, both within states and across the nation as a whole. ICAN secured the religious exemption for Mississippi for the first time in over 40 years. I understand that you feel these are terrible goals, that every child should be given every vaccine and that vaccine injury doesn’t happen, but my point here is simply that ICAN and CHD spend the majority of their budgets “helping others”, your comment belies just how little you understand about both of these organizations.

So what? They have an agenda. We do not care about their agenda, we care about the science.

To be taken seriously please provide the evidence that any vaccine on the present American pediatric schedule causes more harm than the actual disease by providing PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers published in the last twenty years.

So no studies from the poorest country in Africa. Nor any from outside of the USA (India is not a state in the USA). No studies by lawyers, journalists, computer scientists, finance professors, public relation folks, homeopaths or those who have have legally lost their legal right to practice medicine.

And as a reminder: the American DTP was replaced by the DTaP decades ago.

CHD does not spend money for legal defence. Robert Kennedy Jr takes hefty legal fees, and loses quite often. ICANN mostly files FOIA requests,without ssmoking gun yet. Bigtree does pay himself a hefty salary.
You should read IRS 990 forms.

I never said either ICAN or CHD spends money for legal defen[s]e, they both spend a lot of money filing lawsuits mostly to fight vaccine mandates. They have both won numerous cases for military veterans, school children, teachers, first responders, etc. etc.. ICAN (one N) does file a ton of FOIA requests, but they also file and win many lawsuits. As I said already they secured the religious exemption for the state of Mississippi, a huge precedent-setting victory. Maybe spend a bit less time reading tax forms and familiarize yourself with the groups you are criticizing?

David Foster. I found religious exemption curious, What religion says thou shalt not vaccinate ?

I am aware that they fund lawsuits to fight to promote their views and interests, yes.

I also know of several cases where they refused financial help to other anti-vaccine activists, even those facing serious problems. I don’t consider funding lawsuits to promote their agenda altruistic. They likely choose their plaintiffs carefully to help their agenda, not to help the plaintiffs. You are welcome to point out any case in which they offered financial support to help someone that was no intended to shore and provide power to their views.

I do not claim that vaccine injury “doesn’t happen”, or that every child should get every vaccine, and it’s disturbing – and telling – that you felt a need to misrepresent my views in such a way to make your points.

“I understand that you feel…that every child should be given every vaccine and that vaccine injury doesn’t happen”

I understand that the fire marshal wishes to speak to you about that giant inflammatory strawman.

Falsely imputing views to pro-immunization advocates damages your credibility, not theirs.

I sometimes wonder if quacks do more damage when they push alt med/ anti-vax pseudo science OR when they profess New Age-y, quasi religious, pseudo-psychology/ counselling, economic/ life style BS?

Not only do these charlatans advise totally avoiding SBM/ physicians by substituting diet- supplements- exercise- meditation as panacea BUT they tell people how to live, where to live, what careers to pursue, how to ( avoid) getting educated, how to vote, how to invest, how to raise children and deal with relationship problems. I doubt that they have insight that exceeds the average person: none of it sounds like stuff I studied in psych/ counselling/ education/ advertising. I’ve heard risible advice about study/ teaching/ memory/ problem solving…. abysmal crap. You hear better in scifi novels/ films.Even Dune makes more sense.

So is Mercola worse as a medical quack or a New Age prophet?

So is Mercola worse as a medical quack or a New Age prophet?

I would say it could turn out to be a draw: people buying his “medical” advice open themselves to physical harm, and we know people who follow prophets end up sending money and suffering economic harm. It’s rather like the old saying If you drive the most expensive cars in your neighborhood, run a cash business, and don’t pay taxes, you’re either a drug kingpin or the head of a mega-church.

The harm that has been done to good people is shocking and heartbreaking.

There were/are good people associated with mercola’s quakery business?

re ” good people “at Mercola’s businesses?

Maybe the people who pack supplements for mail order or who run the smoothie blender in his cafe, not the higher ups.
See Mercola Market, Cape Coral Florida

Good point. I was fixed on folks at the upper levels who worked directly with him. No excuse for my failing to think more broadly about the entire system.

Wonder how many other foot soldiers in the Mercola empire have fallen by the wayside in recent times, as Bahlon continues to entrench him (it?) self.

In 2023 “integrative veterinarian” Karen Becker announced she was “expanding beyond the Mercola umbrella”, “rebranding” and establishing a new website, “Barks and Whiskers” where she could spread the gospel about holistic pet care, which in her view includes disdaining the “unnecessary conventional vaccine schedule”. According to Becker:

“We aren’t anti-vaxxers, we’re science-based longevity junkies”.

Um, suure.

Whether or not this apparent breakup with Mercola had anything to do with his spiritual awakening and rebranding as the New Jesus, it suggests that multiple woo promoters are finding out that Joe is not a dependable sponsor.

Maybe Mercola will be focusing more of his future energies and dough on sponsoring Spiritual Healers rather than pseudo-health practitioners.

Religion? Oh, we have both kinds: Christian AND Judeo! They always toss in the Judeo- prefix to give the illusion that they care about anything other than Christianity. That a Bible verse is highly regarded in academia is a sleight of hand I’m not sure I’ve seen before.

“Fisher came to believe that the DPT vaccine had caused neurologic injury to her child. As I note whenever I discuss this topic, subsequent evidence has shown no link between DPT and neurologic injury.”

I stopped reading here.

Perhaps you would like to comment on the following, which only took about 5 minutes to put together:

Diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus vaccine induced recurrent seizures and acute encephalopathy in a pediatric patient: Possibly due to pertussis fraction

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3284047

“Manifestations that indicate occurrence of encephalopathy include the following: seizures with or without fever occurring within 3 days of immunization and persistent, severe, inconsolable screaming, or crying for 3 or more hours within 48 h of immunization. Usually, these are not associated with permanent sequel.[1,2]”

“Pertussis component of the DPT vaccine is mainly responsible for neurologic reactions. It causes neurologic damage: by affecting cellular signaling, catecholaminergic and GABAergic systems and defect in blood–brain barrier due to endotoxin-mediated endothelial damage. Whole cell pertussis vaccine induces the IL-1β production in the hippocampus and hypothalamus of vaccinated animals. This leads to decrease in release of the inhibitory neurotransmitters GABA and adenosine in the hippocampus and induce convulsive activity. Acellular type did not induce the IL-1β production.[9] Association of such severe reactions made the whole-cell pertussis vaccine highly unpopular and withdrawal of it from many countries.[10] Occurrence of neurologic complications is a contraindication for subsequent doses of the whole-cell DPT vaccine and its replacement by the acellular type.[7] Whole-cell pertussis vaccines contain 3000 different proteins, whereas acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP) contains 2–5 proteins.[10]”

So DPT can cause encephalopathy, and “Usually, these are not associated with permanent sequel”.

That is wildly different from claiming that there is “no link between DPT and neurologic injury”.

Lest there be any doubt, “[DPT] causes neurologic damage: by affecting …”.

The DPT has not been used in the USA for over two decades. It was replaced by the DTaP, and for older children/adults the Tdap.

The article you cited is from India. India is not part of the USA, where Ms. Fisher lives. In the future try to be more up to date, and remember to make sure that the vaccine you are discussing is relevant. They vary depending on the country that they were developed and/or used in. This is why there are so many different Covid vaccines.

This is David Foster, anti-vaxxer, you are responding to. Chances of some introspection or not cherry picking the literature are non-existent.

It is amazing how often anti-vaxxers revel in their ignorance.

Yes, I recognized him. I just took advantage of his cherry picking to show how idiotic his “baffle with bovine excrement” really is.

Interesting how finding a study which directly refutes the stupidity emanating from this site is somehow “cherry picking”. There are many other studies to choose from, that one did happen to be the closest I could find to being a direct refutation.

David Foster is whining that his link was not cherry picking and is evidence that DPT vaccine causes permanent neurological damage.

What he actually linked to is a case study of a single child who had seizures after receiving DPT vaccine. The authors speculate there was a link between the vaccine and the seizures, but also state: “The patient was followed at 3 months and found without any neurological sequel.” So no permanent neurological damage.

Yet another anti-vaccine failure.

David Foster is whining about how the article he linked to is not cherry picking and is proof that DPT vaccine causes permanent neurological damage.

In fact what he has linked to is a case study of a single child who suffered seizures after receiving the DPT vaccine. The authors speculate that DPT could be the cause, but also state: “The patient was followed at 3 months and found without any neurological sequel.” So no permanent neurological damage.

Yet another anti-vaccine failure to understand the literature.

David Foster Finding one study that confirms your idea is indeed cherry picking. There are many studies about this matter.Read more widely.

Are you learning impaired?

The annointed one’s claim was that DPT vaccine did not cause neurologic injury, and he made this claim in the context of Barbara Loe Fisher claiming that her son was permanently damaged by the DPT vaccine.

What I posted was absolutely relevant.

You should check your insults.
In case of Barbara Loe Fisher, it was proven that encephalopathy cases reported then were caused by Davet syndrome, not by vaccine.. Preditable indeed that you failed to pick these papers. This is what “cherry picking” means.

Sigh…

Yes, Dravet Syndrome has been shown to be one possible cause of encephalopathy and seizures following pertussis vaccination, likely triggered by fever. But that doesn’t mean that ALL cases of encephalopathy and seizures after pertussis vaccine are caused by Dravet Syndrome, and not the vaccine.

@David Foster:

[T]hat doesn’t mean that ALL cases of encephalopathy and seizures after pertussis vaccine are caused by Dravet Syndrome, and not the vaccine.

And this right here is your problem. To you and other antivaxxers, it has to be the vaccines. What you haven’t shown us is good evidence that they ARE responsible.
If you want us to take you seriously, bring the data.

No it wasn’t. You clinging to an article about a vaccine manufactured in a country that is not the USA, and one that has not been used for TWO decades in the USA shows you do not know how to read nor logic.

You seem to be the one who is learning impaired. You resorted to cherry picking, and got called out for it. You are even ignoring that the real cause was found: Dravat Syndrome (by the way there are several genetic disorders that cause seizures resulting in brain issues: https://www.gimopen.org/article/S2949-7744(24)00195-X/fulltext )

My first child had seizures when he was just two days old. Do explain how a DTP vaccine did that. Time travel? (there was no HepB vaccine when he was born)

David’s one source is a 12 year old case report of one patient. And its reference 1 (Gogtay NJ, Kshirsagar NA. Probable DPT induced Generalized Tonic Clonic seizure. ) which was cited 4 times in the Introduction is not available and not indexed on Pubmed.

Gale et all from 1994 (PMID: 7903109) found that

The estimated odds ratio (OR) for onset of serious acute neurological illness within 7 days for young children exposed to DTP vaccine was 1.1 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.6 to 2.0). When the analysis was restricted to children with encephalopathy or complicated seizures and adjusted for factors possibly affecting vaccine administration, the OR was 3.6 (95% CI, 0.8 to 15.2). Odds ratios for specific study diagnoses varied, but all CIs included 1. No elevated risk was observed for the largest group of illnesses studied, nonfebrile seizures (OR, 0.5; 95% CI, 0.2 to 1.5).

Ray et al from 2006 (PMID: 16940831 DOI: 10.1097/01.inf.0000234067.84848.e1) found that

Results: Four-hundred fifty-two cases were identified. Cases were no more likely than controls to have received either vaccine during the 90 days before disease onset. When encephalopathies of known etiology were excluded, the odds ratio for case children having received DTP within 7 days before onset of disease was 1.22 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.45-3.31, P = 0.693) compared with control children. For MMR in the 90 days before onset of encephalopathy, the odds ratio was 1.23 (95% confidence interval = 0.51-2.98, P = 0.647).

Conclusions: In this study of more than 2 million children, DTP and MMR vaccines were not associated with an increased risk of encephalopathy after vaccination.

But far be it from David to let evidence get in the way of a convenient narrative.
And it’s OBE in the US anyway.

Squirrelelite can you do me a favor? I don’t have access to the full text of that study, if you do could you copy/paste their description of how they define and operationalize their control group?

The study you cite was done by the Vaccine Safety Datalink Group, and they are known to use study designs like the Rapid Cycle Analysis, where “controls” in their vaccine safety trials are themselves vaccinated, and in fact both cases and “controls” comprise the same group of participants.

“Encephalopathy After Whole-Cell Pertussis or Measles Vaccination” is behind a paywall so I can’t access it either. But it is a Case Control study.

Records from January 1, 1981, through December 31, 1995, were examined to identify children aged 0 to 6 years old hospitalized with encephalopathy or related conditions. The cause of the encephalopathy was categorized as known, unknown or suspected but unconfirmed.

These were matched with control that did NOT have encephalopathy or related conditions.

Up to 3 controls were matched to each case.

They then analyzed to see if patients WITH encephalopathy were more likely to have been recently vaccinated than the cases who were not.

Conditional logistic regression was used to analyze the relative risk of encephalopathy after vaccination with diphtheria–tetanus–pertussis (DTP) or measles–mumps–rubella (MMR) vaccines in the 90 days before disease onset as defined by chart review compared with an equivalent period among controls indexed by matching on case onset date.

When encephalopathies of known etiology were excluded, the odds ratio for case children having received DTP within 7 days before onset of disease was 1.22 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.45–3.31, P = 0.693) compared with control children.

They also looked at the MMR vaccination and found no correlation.

For MMR in the 90 days before onset of encephalopathy, the odds ratio was 1.23 (95% confidence interval = 0.51–2.98, P = 0.647).

So patients with encephalopathy were no more likely to have been recently vaccinated than patients without. That is a strong indication that the vaccine(s) are not correlated with encephalopathy. The effects of the vaccines on the body are strongest in the immediate period after vaccination when the whole cell pertussis or attenuated measles vaccine is still present and can replicate. As those are eliminated and the byproducts metabolized, the body recedes to a baseline condition. And time gives more things a chance to infect or otherwise affect the body reducing the likelihood of much earlier vaccination being the cause of WHATEVER effect is observed.

You are a perfect examplar of the cognitive dissonance it requires to be a vaccine apologist despite being presented a direct refutation. Yes, I cited a case study, and yes that particular child did not suffer permanent damage, and so of course all you idiots then argue that this proves the DPT vaccine does not cause permanent damage, even though the authors of the case study refute this directly in their introduction and discussion.

Then other idiots bring up Dravet Syndrome, something I am well aware of. To you idiots, the fact that some DPT adverse reactions related to seizures and encephalopathy were found to be caused by Dravet Syndrome means that ALL such DPT adverse reactions are caused by Dravet Syndrome, even though the literature on DS makes it clear this is not the case.

But your dogged insistence on defending a dangerous vaccine does provide social benefit and for that I thank you. People can contrast your idiocy with the recent revelations that children who received DPT vaccine in certain regions of Africa decades ago had at least 5 times the mortality of children who did not. And this research done by the same guy who was in charge of the mass vaccination programs, himself a staunch “pro-vaxxer”. But he saw data which concerned him so he investigated.

Imagine that. Researchers with a conscience.

The fool says: “Yes, I cited a case study, and yes that particular child did not suffer permanent damage, and so of course all you idiots then argue that this proves the DPT vaccine does not cause permanent damage,…”

Again, I need to remind you the Indian DPT is not used, nor has it ever been used in the USA. The American DTP was discontinued over two decades ago when the DTaP was introduced.

And here is an explanation of why we are laughing at you about using a single case report… look at that pyramid and tell us what level case reports are on: https://thelogicofscience.com/2016/01/12/the-hierarchy-of-evidence-is-the-studys-design-robust/

It is obvious you have never studied how science nor biostatistics work.

In the future if you want to be taken seriously that any vaccine on the present American pediatric schedule causes more harm than the actual disease provide real studies (not case reports) done in the 21st century by reputable qualified researchers.

In the mean time, stop digging that big ol’ hole of ignorance you standing in.

Yes, I cited a case study, and yes that particular child did not suffer permanent damage, and so of course all you idiots then argue that this proves the DPT vaccine does not cause permanent damage

You cited this study as your evidence that DPT vaccine caused permanent neurological damage.

I criticised you for 1) cherry picking a case report of a single child and 2) for the study not supporting your argument, despite you trying to hand wave that away.

Others on here have pointed to plenty of large studies that show the DPT vaccine is not associated with neurological damage, yet you are steadfastly ignoring those studies.

People can contrast your idiocy with the recent revelations that children who received DPT vaccine in certain regions of Africa decades ago had at least 5 times the mortality of children who did not.

Yet another example of cherry picking. This is one research group using evidence from a single small country in Africa. Data from other countries in Africa and indeed other parts of the world find no increase in mortality of children given DPT. This raises the question as to why this effect is only seen in studies from Guinea-Bissau?

The GACVS in 2014 after looking at all the data concluded: “The data available do not provide conclusive evidence that the current schedule results in deleterious effects on all-cause mortality in children less than five years of age.” https://terrance.who.int/mediacentre/data/sage/SAGE_Docs_Ppt_Apr2014/9_session_non-specific_vaccine_effects/Apr2014_session9_non-specific_vaccine_effects.pdf

So much for 5 times mortality after receiving the DPT vaccine.

I suppose it’s a minor achievement that I wrote something that you thought merited a response. What continually strikes me is not just that you don’t understand the intricacy of the process by which scientists test their ideas and find out how the world works. It is that you repeatedly show contempt for and dismiss the results of that process. And of course you repeatedly try to paint over the many details that are necessary for that process to work.

But let’s say as a scientist you notice that A happens and then B happens. You may think A caused B but how do you find out? Even if it proves to be causal, all you have at this point is a coincidence. So you have to go on to the next step, For that you need to collect a lot of cases where A happens and when it does not. Then you can check to see if B happens more often in association with A. And that is what the two studies I cited are doing. If A and B happen more often together, you still need to move on to figuring out the mechanism. What is actually going on to cause this? That requires a lot more detailed testing.

Although the process set up with input from BLF only requires that you demonstrate a temporal association and a plausible physical mechanism.

But back to he detail.
Orac wrote

Fisher came to believe that the DPT vaccine had caused neurologic injury to her child. As I note whenever I discuss this topic, subsequent evidence has shown no link between DPT and neurologic injury.

And you replied

The annointed one’s claim was that DPT vaccine did not cause neurologic injury …

So Orac said that “subsequent evidence has shown no (statistical) link …”. That is a different claim from asserting the vaccine did NOT cause the injury. A fundamental premise in science is that it is impossible to prove a negative. So such an absolute negative statement is fundamentally unscientific. A scientist like Orac simply wouldn’t say that.

It is possible to find an extremely low probability connection between two phenomena, as in the connection between the Epstein Barr Virus and Multiple Sclerosis.
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41582-023-00775-5

But that required a huge amount of work analyzing many years of data with confirmatory testing. AFAIK, none of the studies referenced in these comments (until mine) do that.

And finally, the main point of the article is that BLF has been a prominent anti-vaxxer for about 40 years now without contributing anything but disinformation to our understanding of vaccines and their effects. The condition of her child that led her into that enterprise is a minor point in this overall picture (although I wish the best for that child these many years later).

But you chose to focus on that minor point and make an argument about it that really proves nothing.

Now another one: if DPT can cause encephalopathy it does cause it. Nice example of cognitive dissonance. If if were when, pigs would fly.

Lest there be any doubt, antivaxers ignore a large body of evidence demonstrating that the DPT vaccine has not been shown to cause acute or chronic neurologic injury.

“Timed observational, case-controlled, and prospective cohort studies have not shown evidence of brain damage from pertussis vaccine. This suggests that the cause(s) of brain injury recorded in case series was other than DTP immunization. Any relationship is likely a temporal coincidence because DTP is administered several times in infancy. A vigorous effort is required to dispel the myth of DTP-induced brain damage.”

http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/516089
http://cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00041645.htm

And as noted, DPT was replaced long ago by other vaccines.

Dr Bacon:

Anti-vaxxers ignore large bodies of evidence in general about DPT, MMR and Covid. as well as autism research.
It’s what anti-vaxxers do.
Because vaccines have been so highly effective in controlling the spread of infectious disease, and preventing death, alt med/ anti-vax proselytisers need to dismiss them as they run counter to natural health principles like lifestyle uber alles.
Vaccines are not natural products of g-d’s green earth and the humble, pure intentions/ hard work of simple farm folk.They come from labs and are the products of educated researchers.

Yup. Unfortunately, it took a number of years before the evidence accumulated that DPT had not been the cause of the neurologic injuries attributed to it, and by then it had become an article of faith that DPT caused brain damage.

And unfortunately my oldest was denied protection from pertussis because of the 1980s scaremongering by Barbara Loe Fisher and Lea Thompson. He has neonatal seizures that landed him in a children’s hospital when he was a newborn.

He only got the DT vaccine. And this is was a time when there was a pertussis outbreak in our county. Thanks to the “work” of Fisher and Thompson. I made it a habit to ask other parents the vaccine status of their kids. I did meet on anti-vaxer who had a stick so far up her anus she did seem to sound like a puppet.

Your first citation is literally an Op/Ed article written by someone clearly intending to “dispel the myth of DTP-induced brain damage”, lest those pesky “uncontrolled case series” convince too many people there may be a problem with DPT vaccine safety. The bias in this op/ed is obvious.

If I were to cite something like this to support my views, literally everyone on this blog would swarm to it with the same admonition, it always fascinates me how this audience is so particular about the science presented when it does not make their case, but if it DOES make their case then anything goes.

From the CDC’s MMWR report that you cited, my may want to pay close attention to the following as it supports my position that DPT vaccine can cause permanent neurological damage and death:

“Analysis of the data from these patients and from age-matched control children showed a significant association (odds ratio=3.3; 95% confidence interval 1.7-6.5) between the development of serious acute neurologic illness and receipt of DTP vaccine. Most of these events were prolonged seizures with fever. The attributable risk for all neurologic events was estimated to be 1:140,000 doses of DTP vaccine administered. These 30 children were followed up for at least 12 months to determine whether they had neurologic sequelae. Seven of these children presumed to have been previously normal neurologically had died or had subsequent neurologic impairment. A causal relation between receipt of DTP vaccine and permanent neurologic injury was suggested.”

This is what the ACIP recommendation says immediately after that quote:

“The methods and results of the NCES [the quoted study] have been thoroughly scrutinized since publication of the study. This reassessment by multiple groups has determined that the number of patients was too small and their classification subject to enough uncertainty to preclude drawing valid conclusions about whether a causal relation exists between pertussis vaccine and permanent neurologic damage… Subsequent studies have failed to provide evidence to support a causal relation between DTP vaccination and either serious acute neurologic illness or permanent neurologic injury…. Although DTP may rarely produce symptoms that some have classified as acute encephalopathy, a causal relation between DTP vaccine and permanent brain damage has not been demonstrated.”

Now, please give us the relative risk statistics. Please tell us how actually getting pertussis, diphtheria and/or tetanus is safer than getting the DTaP or Tdap vaccines. Just provide us the PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers written in the 21st century that any vaccine the on present American pediatric schedule causes more harm than the actual disease.

And, again, there is no DPT vaccine in the USA at this time. It was discontinued almost in the 1990s, which was over two decades ago.

Let me make this clearer for you:

A case report with N=1.
In India, where the DPT vaccine is different than the DTaP in the USA. Along with its sanitation levels. There was a reason there was a distiller in kitchen of the house my brother lived in while working for the US Embassy in New Dehli, India.
Published over TEN years AFTER the DTP was replaced by the DTaP in the USA.

Seizures happen for many reasons. Cherry picking with a case report is just pathetic.

constructed on property owned by Mercola, it was unlikely that a lot of people could see it and potentially be influenced by its deceptive antivax propaganda.

FYFY?:
Sitting on property owned by Mercola, it was unlikely that a lot of people would see it, and thus recognize the kookery of antivaxers, to which the grotesque statuary speaks volumes.

Seriously, the aesthetics of that thing are more frightening than funny.

I’m no art critic and even less of an artist, but that mess is not even any kind of art. It’s something you’d get at the Dollar Store to hang on the Christmas tree if you lived all alone and had no money for decent ornaments. (A small version of course.)

The face is just bad, bad work–like an unartistic child might attempt in fifth grade.

My years of church and sunday school ended when I was 13, many years ago, but looking at the “angel” in the sculpture my first thought was how these “christians” picture angels as based on people instead of the the biblical descriptions presented to me many years ago: I remember those as terrifying.

Angel just means messenger. In the Hebrew Bible angels are fearsome apparitions. In the New Testament we are all “spirt” (literally windy) beings and we all have a guardian angel that looks just like us. Neither view corresponds to the later view of angels being beautiful beings with wings. That came with medieval depictions of saints.

“Angel” just means messenger, and angels in the Hebrew Bible were scary apparitions. By the time you get to the New Testament there are guardian angels, which strangely enough look just like you. People in the New Testament are made of “spirits” (literally: winds). It wasn’t until the medieval period where iconography took off that angels turned into attractive human beings.

All in all too much time spent here on the form of fictional beings.

It’s intriguing that frequently images of angels, goddesses, saints, personifications ( justice, truth, liberty) are merely idealised women….aren’t the real ones good enough?

And actual women torture themselves with diet/ surgery to replicate these models- both imagined and living A well known plastic surgeon complains that youngsters have overly perfectionist/ abstract concepts of beauty so that everyone looks the same…which actually works against his greatest earning potential!

In other news…
Alex Jones has to liquidate his empire – including Info Wars– to pay parents of the murdered children he designated as crisis actors
1.5B. USD.

“Alex Jones has to liquidate his empire – including Info Wars– to pay parents of the murdered children he designated as crisis actors
1.5B. USD”

It couldn’t happen to a nicer, smug twat.

In additional news…

Naomi Wolf ( Substack) again begs for more financial support for her so-called investigations. She also is part of Steve Bannon”s misinformation network; now that he’s off to jail, maybe she’ll have more space to mislead people.

AND The Epoch Times may be a money laundering scheme not a news outlet. The Guardian; MSNBC

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