Vaccines, Vegans, & Autistic Puppies, Oh My!

With flu season I’ve been seeing more anti-vax comments online, so I have decided to rewrite this post and update it to help deal with this vexing issue.

The issue of vaccines has been a much debated one in the vegan sub-culture and is one of the areas in which I think well meaning vegans can have rational disagreements, some fully support getting all recommended vaccinations, some selectively vaccinate, and others choose to abstain. Unfortunately while researching this post I came upon a shocking number of vegans citing the misinformation about mercury and “toxins” as a reason they choose not to vaccinate. Such objections just aren’t supported by the science. On a whole vaccines are a benefit to human health but some vegans have issues with animals suffering to make vaccines through animal testing and animal derived ingredients.

The current flu vaccine is made using fertilized chicken eggs, about 1-5 injectable doses produced from each egg, though one egg can produce over a hundred doses of the nasal spray FluMist, so this may be a reasonable lower impact compromise for some individuals. Many other vaccines are also produced using various animal ingredients such as bovine serum, gelatin, milk derivatives, and other forms of animal tissue. The egg method of vaccine production is slow and inefficient and that has been reason enough for the industry to seek out more efficient and hopefully animal-friendly vaccine production methods.

Among these advances are methods using cell lines derived from vero cells, canine kidney tissue, or caterpillar cells, “the cells can be grown essentially forever in the laboratory. And so, no animals need to be sacrificed.” One benefit of such methods is that a new batch of vaccine can be produced in days as opposed to a couple months with the embryonated egg method. Other advances include plant based vaccines with research in Texas working with tobacco plants leading the way.

For a more on other “controversies” surrounding vaccines please check out this post on Vegan Skeptic.

Some folks have taken their anti-vax ideology to extremes…or its logical conclusion.

In a recent article in the Daily Mail, Catherine O’Driscoll is taking the anti-vax propaganda to a new level. She is worried that vaccines are making puppies autistic. The question of how a layperson can diagnose a sometimes-subtle spectrum disorder in a non-human is enough to throw some doubt onto her story, but this woman raises so many red flags you would think its May Day.

She claims, “We are not anti-vaccination,” explaining, “What we are saying is that currently our pets are receiving far too many.” Yet on her own website she also says, “I do not vaccinate my dogs at all – because I believe that vaccines are capable of destroying health.”

So just like Jenny McCarthy does for children, she is using the “too many, too soon” argument as a Trojan horse for the elimination of all vaccines.

This is old news people, but guess what, vaccines DON’T CAUSE AUTISM! The question has been extensively studied, and despite the public controversy stirred up by entertainment celebrities, the scientific consensus is that vaccines for humans and animals are generally safe, with very low incidence of side effects. To not vaccinate your pet is to leave them susceptible to a wide variety of potentially deadly diseases like Parvo, Distemper and Rabies. An un-vaccinated pet runs the risk of infecting multiple other animals or even infecting a person with rabies.

Why would someone promote something so foolish? Well, maybe she really believes it (people believe weirder things). But you should also note that in addition to books and DVDs, her website is offering one- or two-day seminars to learn an energy healing/acupressure technique she calls the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) for £55 to £170.

Whether it is financial interest or genuine delusion causing her to do it doesn’t matter in light of the fact that she may be responsible for many preventable canine deaths.

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26 Responses to “Vaccines, Vegans, & Autistic Puppies, Oh My!”

  1. Anna Says:

    Whether it is financial interest or genuine delusion

    I suppose it could be both. Someone can genuinely believe this stuff — so much so, that he or she will start a business to promote it. I’m sure there are a lot of shameless hucksters out there who are knowingly marketing this kind of nonsense, but the optimist (?!) in me wants to believe that most of them are merely irrational but well-meaning.

  2. JANET JUBILEE Says:

    Vaccines contain filth-I WISH MORE PEOPLE WOULD STOP WITH THE BRAIN WASHING! WE DON’T NEED FILTH INJECTED INTO OUR BODIES!

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      Janet, please specify the particular ingredients you are concerned about. The term “filth” is pretty vague and emotionally loaded. Please do proper research about the personal and social costs of choosing not to vaccinate before making such blanket assertions. I have no interest in brain washing folks, just in providing scientifically accurate information. Ive read some of your other anti-vax comments on other sites and feel you are woefully misinformed. I’ve linked to a list of every current vaccine ingredient, I’m being honest and upfront with folks, you are just being a scaremonger.

      • paleo_huntress Says:

        What are these “costs”? The current outbreaks are occurring in fully-vaccinated people and the source is often a fully vaccinated adult. The polio outbreak ended in Europe around the same time that it ended in the US. In the US, we attribute it to the widespread and compulsory use of Salk Vaccine. However, the EU didn’t have a widespread nor compulsory vaccination program. How can we say that it was vaccines that eradicated the outbreak when it was eradicated in a nation whose use of them was spotty at best?

        “—the personal and social costs of choosing not to vaccinate—“

  3. AmyOh2 Says:

    I got a flu shot this year because I have asthma and my doctor told me to. I had a bad case of the flu last year so I am hoping to hedge my bets.

    It never fails to amaze me how people are afraid of doctors. Over at Mark’s Daily Apple he is telling people he won’t go get his cholesterol checked and at the Weston Price Foundation they tell women not to get mammograms and we should all be drinking raw milk. I feel like we’re going back in time sometimes.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      “I feel like we’re going back in time sometimes.”
      agreed!

    • paleo_huntress Says:

      Mammograms don’t increase survival rates one iota- and every time a woman has one, her risk for developing cancer goes up about 1%. This isn’t voo-doo, it’s backed by real data. Why would anyone choose to increase their risk without increasing their chances of survival?

      at the Weston Price Foundation they tell women not to get mammograms

      • skepticalvegan Says:

        The issue of screening for breast cancer is complex but the science changes with the evidence. Its certainly not as simple as saying “Don’t get one”.
        I recommend you read this post on SBM before going on about this issue.
        http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/the-mammography-wars-heat-up-again/

        • paleo_huntress Says:

          I have read this piece already, and I reread it again in case something new had been added. We have thermography as a viable and non-invasive alternative. It doesn’t irradiate the body- but, it also doesn’t make anyone nearly as much money as mammograms.

          • skepticalvegan Says:

            Your claim of NO benefit is unsupported. As the post I linked to demonstrated, the benefits may be smaller than previously thought but they are there and we have adjusted recommendations to get the most out of the procedure. Its not perfect but few things are.

            I think you have been reading Natural News too much. The increased risk of cancer claim is unsupported.
            http://scepticsbook.com/2009/12/15/no-mike-adams-mammograms-do-not-cause-cancer/

            You also might want to take a second look at thermography.
            http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/dr-christiane-northrup-and-breast-thermography-the-opportunistic-promotion-of-quackery/

            • paleo_huntress Says:

              What I wrote is- “Mammograms don’t increase survival rates one iota” and they don’t. =(

              I don’t bother with Mike Adams- he doesn’t care about the data and he writes like a conspiracy theorist. Is that what you do when someone disagrees with you? If you have an argument, try making it… don’t send folks who disagree to someone else’s argument.

              As for thermography, I’ve taken a second, third, forth, fifth look, etc. It is quite telling that you think if you point folks to an opinion piece from someone who shares your opinion, that they’ll suddenly realize how “wrong” they are and how right you are.

              You write a good game- but it’s still just opinion. Opinion of a layperson no less- with less a platform to stand on than the credentialed professionals on both sides of the issue.

            • skepticalvegan Says:

              “What I wrote is- “Mammograms don’t increase survival rates one iota” and they don’t. =(“

              And what I wrote was “Your claim of NO benefit…”
              So are you nitpicking that there are other actual benefits to mammography, though if so why recommend against them? I thought it was obvious from context that the survival rate was the primary benefit in question so I’m not seeing how I misrepresented what you wrote.

              If the cancer claim didn’t come from Natural News or the Daily Mail, then please provide the source of the claim. It is not a claim Ive encountered before and the Natural News post was one of the the first relevant posts to pop up when I searched regarding the claim.
              Ive make plenty of my own arguments, but I also link to others blogs because A: they may have expertise and credentials in an area I’m not as read up on and B: I have other things to write and do, I don’t need to rehash a good blog post if the original says it well.

              The articles Ive been citing have made reference to and discussed the clinical and epidemiological evidence. YOU are the one offering no more than opinion at this point.
              So how about a direct link to published research http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21712474 & http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21898384

            • paleo_huntress Says:

              I responded here- https://skepticalvegan.wordpress.com/2010/12/07/vaccines-vegans-autistic-puppies/#comment-681

      • Anna Says:

        According to The Emperor of All Maladies (a great book on the history of cancer), a major study by the Lancet, published in 2002, found that mammograms were effective in reducing breast-cancer mortality among females aged 55-70. For females who hadn’t yet turned 50, the screening procedure didn’t seem to be very beneficial at all. I think the study referred to might be this one, but I haven’t looked at it too closely:
        http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2802%2908020-0/abstract

        I’m incredibly skeptical of your unsourced 1% claim (just having basic mathematical literacy should be enough of a red flag — 1% is a LOT in this context), and additionally skeptical of the alternative to mammography of which you speak (also unsourced). I would love for there to be better alternatives to awkward gynecological procedures such as mammography or Pap smears — but they need to be supported by evidence.

        And robust data are a lot different from opinion. I don’t really subscribe to those pomo ideas about all of our opinions being just as valid as any other. We’re not talking about Justin Bieber’s haircut here.

  4. SketiCookies « Skeptical Vegan Says:

    […] little dinosaur shaped sprinkle, then we have a “blood for oil” cookie, a yin-yang, an anti-vax cookie, and a Illuminati cookie. Next up is a bigfoot cookie, a cookie for the dominate world […]

  5. Mr Fat Says:

    Thank you for a great blog and showing me that not all vegans are crazy.

  6. paleo_huntress Says:

    Can I ask what this information [paraphrased] is?

    Unfortunately while researching this post I came upon a shocking number of vegans citing the misinformation about mercury and “toxins” as a reason they choose not to vaccinate.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      It was based upon various blog posts and blog comments.
      Here are some examples…
      http://www.vegfamily.com/vaccines/are-vaccines-vegan.htm
      http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/10/swine_flu_vaccine_neither_vegan_nor_green.php

      • paleo_huntress Says:

        Have you ever been searching for information on the web, and no matter how many times you think you’ve found it, what you’ve really found is yet another site with yet another list of links?

        Can you give me the paraphrase? It shouldn’t be so much work to have a conversation. WHAT is the misinformation about mercury for example? Just generally. I promise not to hold you accountable for its accuracy.

        • skepticalvegan Says:

          “Other extremely toxic ingredients, such as formaldehyde, aluminum, and thimerosal (a form of mercury)”
          The word “toxic” is just being used as a scare word here

          The first article links to some anti-vax books one of which promotes a bogus link between Shaken Baby Syndrome and vaccination and contains ridiculous quotes like “If hospitals and drugs could give us better health, we’d already be better.”
          “My personal favorites are Neil Z. Miller’s book, ‘Vaccines-Are They Really Safe and Effective?’ and Tim O’Shea’s ‘The Sanctity of Human Blood: Vaccination I$ Not Immunization.'”

          The Treehugger article presents a distorted view and promotes a well debunked link as “unproven as yet”
          “childhood vaccines may have a (unproven as yet) link to the ever rising incidence of autism among American children”

          other comments from the net include
          “Many of the reasons we chose not to vaccinate were because we felt the risk of our child getting some of these mostly, non-life threatening diseases were less than the impact of all of the unnatural ingredients going into our little boy’s body and to be honest I had a gut feeling that overloading our son’s system wouldn’t be a good idea.”

          and statements like this, is just more simplistic scare mongering that ignores the difference between ethyl mercury and methyl mercury http://www.who.int/vaccine_safety/topics/thiomersal/statement200308/en/index.html
          “Thimerosal is made of mercury. Mercury is 1000x more toxic than lead.”

  7. paleo_huntress Says:

    What I wrote is- “Mammograms don’t increase survival rates one iota” and they don’t. =(“ And what I wrote was “Your claim of NO benefit…”

    So are you nitpicking that there are other actual benefits to mammography, though if so why recommend against them?

    I believe it is you who is nitpicking. It’s a bit like the arguments made for statins… while it’s true that they reduce risk of heart attack, total deaths form all-cause mortality doesn’t go down. In other words, statins don’t increase survival rates one iota. The same could be said for blood-thinners- fewer heart attacks, more strokes. It’s a wash. I wouldn’t necessarily be against the recommendation for specific very high-risk groups, but as it stands, they are being recommended to ALL women.

    If the cancer claim didn’t come from Natural News or the Daily Mail, then please provide the source of the claim.

    My source for the mammogram data is an article published in the BMJ in July. Breast cancer mortality in neighbouring European countries with different levels of screening but similar access to treatment: trend analysis of WHO mortality database BMJ 2011; 343:d4411

    Objective: To compare trends in breast cancer mortality within three pairs of neighbouring European countries in relation to implementation of screening.

    Conclusions: The contrast between the time differences in implementation of mammography screening and the similarity in reductions in mortality between the country pairs suggest that screening did not play a direct part in the reductions in breast cancer mortality.

    I have other things to write and do, I don’t need to rehash a good blog post if the original says it well.

    I’m not suggesting you rehash someone else’s blog post- the problem is that you comment without quoting what it is in particularthat you’re commenting on. That leaves visitors here with the necessity of trying to guess what specifically you refer to, and then to potentially compose arguments against something you didn’t necessarily mean.

  8. Rob Says:

    1% increased cancer risk per mammogram? Ok, whoever told you that deeply misunderstands radiobiology. It takes an accumulated lifetime radiation dose of 100 mSv (milliSieverts) to increase your cancer risk by 1%. For an overview of cancer risks from low dose radiation, see: http://ec.europa.eu/energy/nuclear/radiation_protection/doc/publication/125.pdf

    A typical mammogram gives a radiation dose of 1.8 mSv (http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/MammographyQualityStandardsActandProgram/FacilityScorecard/ucm113606.htm). Therefore, it would take 55 mammograms to increase lifetime risk by 1%.

    Since women have an average lifetime malignancy risk of 38%, the mammography cancer risk over a lifetime raises this to 39%. (http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerBasics/lifetime-probability-of-developing-or-dying-from-cancer)

    • Paleo Huntress Says:

      In this cohort analysis, any diagnostic use of radiation before age 30 increased breast cancer risk by 90 percent for carriers of BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. A history of mammography before age 30 also raised the risk by 43 percent, even after adjustment for family history as an indication. The cumulative breast dose was STILL linked to breast cancer risk.

      FWIW-
      The American Cancer Society currently recommends annual MRI screening for BRCA mutation carriers.

      Exposure to diagnostic radiation and risk of breast cancer among carriers of BRCA1/2 mutations: retrospective cohort study (GENE-RAD-RISK)” BMJ 2012; 345: e5660.

  9. 19peace80 Says:

    I once read an anti-AR essay by a writer who used a single (anonymous) anti-vaccine crusader at an AR event to disparage the AR movement and paint it as “anti-human.” We really need to get rid of this anti-vaccine hysteria within our ranks.

  10. Margarita Sytcheva Says:

    Do you think it’s possible to switch what type of each (i.e. Fluarix instead of FluMist for influenza (don’t take it anyway)) Here is a list of ingredients: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/b/excipient-table-2.pdf

  11. Robert Wire Says:

    The alleged science behind vaccines is similar to Tobacco science. As some of the other commenters have said, disease breakouts are in fully or almost fully vaccinated populations. How can this be.
    If I chose not to get vaccinated and you chose to vaccinate, how could I possibly be a threat? If you google the etiology of the word vaccine, you will find it originates from the word vacca which is cow in latin. Therefore vaccine somehow comes from cows. The fact is, that the small pox vaccine was made from the cow pox infection. They are similar diseases corresponding to the homeopathic Law of Similars. This law states that a substance which can produce certain symptoms, can be cure with a similar substance. Is that not what has been described or not?

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