Peter Hotez—aka, "Dr. Panic"—cries wolf again
BY J.B. HANDLEY June 18, 2018
A vaccine patent-holder and author of a new "hot spots" study appears to be the point man to help Big Pharma pass mandatory vaccination laws across the country. It's like Joe Camel lobbying to lift a smoking ban.
BAYLOR UNIVERSITY, Texas—In retrospect, the Disneyland measles outbreak of early 2015 was the high water mark of publicity for vaccine proponents. Despite the fact that measles, mumps, and whooping cough outbreaks are guaranteed to emerge from time to time due to their virulence and the low efficacy of the three vaccines for those diseases, the hype from Disneyland allowed one state—California—to introduce a draconian mandatory vaccination law, making it one of only three states in the nation that gives parents no exemption rights for vaccines if they want to send their child to school. The other two states? West Virginia and Mississippi.
In January 2017, in one of the more unusual P.R. stunts I've seen, Dr. Peter Hotez—a vaccine patent holder—drummed up publicity about a "potential measles outbreak." Seriously. There was no outbreak. But, you never know.
“What we’ve seen in Texas in the last few years is a very alarming trend,” Dr. Peter Hotez said. Dr. Hotez is a vaccine scientist and the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He says he’s worried about more and more Texas families opting out of vaccines.
The magic number is 90 percent. Dr. Hotez says if the immunity numbers drop below that it could trigger an outbreak and babies under one year of age would be most at risk. “Then if you’re a mother or a parent with a young baby you have to be terrified about going into shopping malls or going into public libraries or any public space because you’re worried your baby is going to get measles,” Dr. Hotez said.
Dr. Hotez has many reasons to support vaccines — I’m not sure I have ever seen a biography that was so vaccine-dependent. Amongst his many titles and affiliations, Dr. Hotez is the President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, and his research at the Baylor College of Medicine focuses on “developing vaccines for neglected tropical diseases.”
Lying about Measles and Herd Immunity
Call me old-fashioned, I think doctors who specialize in developing vaccines should tell the truth when they speak to the press, and Dr. Hotez clearly does not. Before I get to the point of this article — Dr. Hotez’s new attempt to gin up P.R. about possible outbreaks (and justify mandatory vaccination laws) — I want to talk about the fear-mongering article he planted at CBS Austin that I posted above. Dr. Hotez makes two claims that are very easy to refute, which I feel compelled to point out to convince you that people in positions of authority with a partisan agenda shouldn’t necessarily be trusted:
First, Measles is not a “deadly and serious disease.” Sorry, Dr. Hotez, it simply isn’t. Ebola, yes. Black Plague, absolutely. Small pox, very dangerous. Measles is so NOT deadly and serious that the “cure” in case your child gets it sounds a lot like the common cold:
“Since measles is caused by a virus, there is no specific medical treatment for it and the virus has to run its course. But a child who is sick should drink plenty of fluids, get lots of rest, and be kept from spreading the infection to others.”
I must have missed the part about rushing your child to the hospital to save them from this deadly disease! In the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s, when several years had spikes of measles outbreaks, the CDC reported the death rate of measles at 0.2%, and this is largely attributed to children who were already medically fragile. Healthy kids don’t die of measles, and there hasn’t been a death reported from measles in more than 10 years in the United States. Which makes Dr. Hotez either an exaggerator or a liar, depending on how you want to look at it. Just for fun, just take a look at this video, showing how measles was treated in popular culture before there was a vaccine created for it:
And, the U.S. population is nowhere near herd immunity. Dr. Hotez thinks the scientific number for “herd immunity” is 90% vaccinated. What happens if we fall below that threshold? All hell breaks loose according to him, and “if you’re a mother or a parent with a young baby you have to be terrified about going into shopping malls or going into public libraries or any public space because you’re worried your baby is going to get measles.” The only problem with this ridiculous fear-mongering is that Dr. Hotez failed to mention that American adults are vastly under-vaccinated, as the CDC readily admits in this report from 2014:
How low you ask? 50% or less is the quick answer, which means any notion that the U.S. population has achieved herd immunity is a farcical myth, as this article from The Hill very clearly explains:
“the concept of herd immunity is largely myth — and completely misunderstood…if we look back over the decades and note the lack of rampant epidemics in our nation, while remembering that vaccine protection is in perpetual decline, the myth of herd immunity quickly unravels. Our society has never achieved this level of herd immunity, yet not a single major outbreak of disease has occurred.”
(I wrote extensively about this topic last week: "Herd Immunity"? A dishonest marketing gimmick")
Is Dr. Hotez being groomed as the new Paul Offit?
The vaccine industry, working through their well-compensated P.R. firms, has generally used doctors as spokespeople to defend the vaccine industry, which makes sense, as people generally trust doctors — product marketers have known this for decades.
The most infamous spokesperson for the vaccine industry is Dr. Paul Offit, the inventor of the Rotavirus vaccine and a multi-millionaire due to his vaccine creation. And while at least CBS News ran one extensive story about the conflicts Dr. Offit had in endorsing vaccines, those conflicts have rarely been mentioned in press reports I have seen interviewing Dr. Offit, and I have yet to see Dr. Hotez’s conflicts mentioned in any articles where he is quoted. That didn't stop Dr. Hotez from doing his best to scare the pants of everyone about the Zika virus all by himself at the height of Zika hype a few years ago:
New York Times Op-Ed
One month after Dr. Hotez's measles scare, Dr. Hotez was back with an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times in February 2017 where he used hyperbole, misrepresentation, and outright falsehoods to imply that our country was on the brink of returning to the dark ages if the “Anti-Vaxxers” like President Trump and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. are allowed to “win” by having the audacity to review the safety of vaccines in our country. (Given that the U.S. government had paid out more than $3 billion to vaccine injury victims, who in their right mind wouldn’t like to see the number of vaccine injuries decline through safer vaccines?)
The CDC Playbook
Many years ago, I happened upon an internal CDC presentation, that explained the CDC’s point of view about generating demand for vaccines which goes something like this:
If people aren’t scared to death, they won’t get their vaccines. We need to manufacture “concern, anxiety, and worry” to win this battle.
Don’t believe me? Think I’m exaggerating? Well, luckily I have that slide from CDC, you can read it for yourself. Glen Nowak, Director of Communications for CDC said the following to a group of public health officials:
“The belief that you can inform and warn people, and get them to take appropriate actions or precautions with respect to a health threat or risk without actually making them anxious or concerned. This is not possible…This is like breaking up with your boyfriend without hurting his feelings. It can’t be done.”
And then he explained the importance of fomenting anxiety:
An excellent article in the British Medical Journal took the CDC to task for greatly exaggerating the number of flu deaths every year in order to — you guessed it — convince more people to get their flu shot:
“US data on influenza deaths are a mess. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges a difference between flu death and flu associated death yet uses the terms interchangeably. Additionally, there are significant statistical incompatibilities between official estimates and national vital statistics data. Compounding these problems is a marketing of fear — a CDC communications strategy in which medical experts ‘predict dire outcomes’ during flu seasons.”
“Predict dire outcomes” — sound like anyone you know?
Dr. Hotez in the Washington Post yesterday
I wanted you to understand the CDC strategy for fomenting fear because it puts Dr. Hotez's latest P.R. stunt in the Washington Post last week in proper context.
A new "study" authored by—you guessed it—vaccine patent holder Dr. Peter Hotez purports to show pockets of "antivaccine" communities by looking at areas that have high rates of vaccine exemptions. Despite the fact that the Disneyland measles outbreak (which totaled only 125 people, a tiny outbreak by any standard, more than half of whom had been vaccinated) was more than three years old, it loomed large in Dr. Hotez's panicked report:
Our findings indicate that new foci of antivaccine activities are being established in major metropolitan areas, rendering select cities vulnerable for vaccination-preventable diseases. As noted by the recent experience in Anaheim, California, low vaccination rates resulted in a measles outbreak. In contrast, state closure of NMEs has resulted in an increase of MMR coverage.
Dr. Hotez's writings smack of McCarthyism, as he always paints parents who are wary of vaccinations as "antivaccine" and seems to imply a dangerous movement is taking over the country that simply must be stopped. Of course, Dr. Hotez's study is absurd from the get-go for the aforementioned reason:
It doesn't even contemplate the vaccination rates of all the ADULTS in these hot spots, rendering the data completely meaningless. How do you know how at risk you are if you don't know the vaccination status of more than 75% of the populace (adults over the age of 18)?
Dr. Hotez also never bothers with some of the unfortunate facts about vaccines that more and more parents are learning on their own:
Vaccine Safety Testing Is Inadequate
Vaccines aren’t required to undergo double-blind trials before they are given to babies. When a pharmaceutical company tests vaccines, they don’t have a “control group” receiving a placebo vaccine to see if there is a difference in adverse outcomes from getting a new vaccine. Worse, the safety testing during a new vaccine trial evaluates adverse reactions after participants received a vaccine for somewhere between two and five days. As one example, the only stand-alone polio vaccine in the United States was monitored for only forty-eight hours after administration. That’s it. In fact, many of the known adverse events from vaccines with names like Guillain-Barré syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, and rheumatoid arthritis may take weeks, months, or even years to manifest, so safety testing wouldn’t capture any of them.
As another example, the safety study from Recombivax, one of the most widely used hepatitis B vaccines in the world, and given to many American babies on day one of life, included
“434 doses of RECOMBIVAX HB, 5 mcg . . . administered to 147 healthy infants and children (up to 10 years of age) who were monitored for 5 days after each dose.”
The entire safety profile for this vaccine, given to millions of children, was based on 147 infants who were monitored for five days. And the infants were not given any other vaccines, despite the fact that at two months, four months, six months, and twelve months of age, babies simultaneously receive at least four other vaccines: rotavirus, DTP, Hib, and PCV. As pediatrician Dr. Harold E. Buttram explains in a letter to the BMJ:
In order to meet the criteria of scientific proof, a vaccine safety study would need to perform before-and-after human studies designed to screen for possible adverse effects on the neurological, immunologic, and hematological systems, comparing vaccinated with unvaccinated subjects, both in sufficient numbers and followed for sufficient periods of time to be meaningful. There have never been any studies of this nature, and apparently none have been attempted. Based on personal observation, it appears that before-and-after testing has been studiously avoided by government health agencies for fear that the results would discourage public confidence in vaccine programs. Until this level of safety testing is done, it is a virtual certainty that many adverse vaccine reactions are taking place unrecognized and will continue to take place. By the same token, until meaningful, objective vaccine safety testings are done, in my opinion the NIH, CDC, FDA can justifiably be accused of negligence in protecting the health and welfare of the American public, especially the children.
Because of how limited safety testing is for vaccines prior to rolling them out to more than seventy million American children, the CDC relies on safety monitoring once vaccines are being given in the real world, which is where things get even more problematic.
Adverse Events Are Closer to One in Fifty
The 1986 law that indemnified vaccine makers from harm also created VAERS, which is a passive reporting system for vaccine adverse events. What this means is that VAERS only works to the extent doctors or parents decide to report a vaccine injury to the VAERS online system. Since most parents have no idea what a vaccine injury looks like and most doctors aren’t trained to recognize a vaccine injury, and the general stance is that vaccines are completely benign, you can imagine the limitations of this system, and science has born that out. In 2007 the CDC funded a study by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care for three years involving 715,000 patients that found “fewer than 1% of vaccine adverse events are reported."
In 2016 VAERS received 59,117 reports of vaccine adverse events, including 432 deaths and 10,284 emergency room visits.
The CDC-funded Harvard Pilgrim study’s purpose was to automate the reporting of vaccine injuries by programming known vaccine reactions into medical charts of patients experiencing certain reactions near the time of vaccination. The pilot study yielded troubling results, because of 715,000 individuals, 35,570 possible vaccine reactions were identified. That’s 2.6 percent of vaccine recipients—a far cry from the “one in a million” figure tossed around by vaccine marketers! The Harvard Pilgrim researchers stood ready to integrate this new reporting system with VAERS but reported instead that the CDC went radio silent on a study that cost more than one million dollars, as principal investigator Ross Lazarus reported:
Unfortunately, there was never an opportunity to perform system performance assessments because the necessary CDC contacts were no longer available and the CDC consultants responsible for receiving data were no longer responsive to our multiple requests to proceed with testing and evaluation.
A three-year study produced results so potentially devastating to the CDC—because the adverse event rate was so much higher than anything the CDC could share with the public—that the program was shut down.
Adverse Events Are Poorly Understood
What harm, exactly, can a vaccine cause? In 1991 the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM) looked at side effects from just one vaccine, the DPT, and concluded that science supported a causal relationship with the following six vaccine injuries: acute encephalopathy, chronic arthritis, acute arthritis, shock and unusual shock-like state, anaphylaxis, and protracted inconsolable crying. In 2012 the IOM looked at the 158 most common vaccine injuries reported to VAERS and found that science “convincingly supports a causal relationship” with 18 of those injuries but found that there wasn’t any science to either confirm or deny 135 additional injuries. Here’s the list of injuries that might be caused by vaccines, except no one has looked:
Encephalitis, encephalopathy, infantile spasms, afebrile seizures, seizures, cerebellar ataxia, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, transverse myelitis, optic neuritis, neuromyelitis optica, multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, brachial neuritis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, small fiber neuropathy, chronic urticaria, erythema nodosum, systemic lupus erythematosus, polyarteritis nodosa, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, arthralgia, autoimmune hepatitis, stroke, chronic headache, fibromyalgia, sudden infant death syndrome, hearing loss, thrombocytopenia, immune thrombocytopenic purpura.
In 86 percent of the vaccine injuries reported to VAERS, no one has any idea whether they are related to vaccines.
No One Knows the True Impact of Multiple Doses
In 2012 a study looking at data from the aforementioned VAERS database noted several disturbing patterns. The more vaccines a child received in a single setting, the more likely she was to be hospitalized or die. In the study, published in Human and Experimental Toxicology, Dr. Gary Goldman and Neil Miller found a “a positive correlation between hospitalization rates and the number of vaccine doses” and also “younger infants were significantly more likely than older infants to be hospitalized or die after receiving vaccines.” The authors also affirmed the inadequacies of current vaccine testing:
Studies have not been conducted to determine the safety (or efficacy) of administering multiple vaccine doses in a variety of combinations as recommended by CDC guidelines.
Frustrating for parents is the contradictory, and scientifically unsupported, perspective the American Academy of Pediatrics provides on their website about vaccinating a child with multiple vaccines at once, which states:
“Vaccines are well-studied to make sure that it is safe to give them all at once.”
Parents are understandably confused.
Dr. Hotez's goal is clear
Soon after the Disneyland measles outbreak, more than two-dozen states introduced legislation to make vaccines mandatory for school attendance. Only one bill passed: California. Dr. Hotez is clearly leading the charge for a new round of similar bills, and his town-crier role is a big part of Big Pharma's push to introduce state laws requiring vaccines, as his report's conclusion makes perfectly clear:
"Stricter legislative action to close NMEs [non-medical exemptions] should become a higher priority because of the positive correlation between leniency of state vaccination policies and exemption rates."
Dr. Hotez is nothing more than an agent of vaccine makers. His willingness to yell "fire" in a crowded theater and incite panic is all part of a well-choreographed plan to institute new mandatory vaccination laws. We've seen this movie before with the HPV vaccine in state Capitols in a broad inititative funded by vaccine maker Merck:
This article was eloquent in its critique of Merck's intervention in state laws:
Merck promoted school-entry mandate legislation by serving as an information resource, lobbying legislators, drafting legislation, mobilizing female legislators and physician organizations, conducting consumer marketing campaigns, and filling gaps in access to the vaccine. Legislators relied heavily on Merck for scientific information. Most stakeholders found lobbying by vaccine manufacturers acceptable in principle, but perceived that Merck had acted too aggressively and nontransparently in this case.
Conclusions. Although policymakers acknowledge the utility of manufacturers’ involvement in vaccination policymaking, industry lobbying that is overly aggressive, not fully transparent, or not divorced from financial contributions to lawmakers risks undermining the prospects for legislation to foster uptake of new vaccines.
You can rest assured that state Capitols in 2019 will be crawling with Pharma lobbyists trying to institute new mandatory vaccination laws with Dr. Hotez hyping up the panic. It's going to be up to parents like you and me, still living with the reality of vaccine injury every day, to stop them.
About the author
J.B. Handley is the proud father of a child with Autism. He and his wife co-founded Generation Rescue, a national autism charity, in 2005. He spent his career in the private equity industry and received his undergraduate degree with honors from Stanford University in 1991. His first book, How to End the Autism Epidemic, will be published in September 2018 by Chelsea Green Publishing and is available for pre-order on Amazon.
He is also the author of "A lone FDA scientist could end the autism epidemic." and International scientists have found autism's cause. What will Americans do? Learn more here.