Wikipedia’s Vaccination Bias

Wikipedia’s Vaccination Bias


Gary Null, PhD

Progressive Radio Network, June 25, 2019


The US, and indeed many other nations around the world, is witnessing a contentious debate about the safety and efficacy of vaccines. The forces are lining up over whether vaccination should be mandated by government or whether citizens have civil rights and freedom of choice over medical interventions. A lesson can be learned from the earlier feminist movement who demanded recognition and respect for “my body, my choice” regarding abortion. Should women, therefore, and all other citizens be given similar rights to determine what is best for the health of themselves and their children? Unfortunately, the debate is failing to present all the available scientific evidence for careful independent review for health officials to make anything resembling a moral and sound scientific choice. 


Nor is the media reporting on the debate accurately. The New York Times, Washington Post, all the major television networks, and news sites both left and right, simply embrace the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) talking points, which are none other than those espoused by the pharmaceutical industry. The irony is that the large majority of parents who challenge vaccine safety claims have experienced vaccination adverse effects, and even death, in their children. The frustration mounts when parents realize that the vaccine companies cannot be held legally accountable for damages. 


The federal health agencies, notably the CDC, has a very pragmatic monetary incentive to reach high vaccination compliance. Consequently, the agencies have a direct public-private relationship with the vaccine makers. The CDC owns many patents related to vaccines and their delivery. Corporations license these patents for their vaccine development and the CDC in turn reaps enormous financial rewards in royalties. Then in turn the government pushes forward with vaccine mandates. Questions as to whether approved vaccines are truly effective and safe takes a backseat. 


Robert Kennedy Jr has called the CDC “a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical industry.” “The agency owns more than 20 vaccine patents and purchases and sells $4.1 billion in vaccines annually,” writes Kennedy. “Congressman Dave Weldon has pointed out that the primary metric for success across the CDC is how many vaccines the agency sells and how successfully the agency expands its vaccine program—regardless of any negative effects on human health.”


By any measure of reason, this is a gross conflict of interest. In addition, all of the attorneys and pediatricians who have undertaken the research to find measurable concerns about vaccine mandates are now under attack by the apparatus of the state. Not a single mainstream health or science reporter has properly investigated this relationship to suggest ulterior motives for aggressively pushing forward mandates. All of the parent advocacy groups, including board certified pediatricians, are condemned as well. A Washington Post editorial suggests they be arrested, fined or imprisoned. In fact the WHO listed vaccine opponents as a danger to global public health.  However, most people who today oppose vaccines were once pro-vaccine until an injury or death occurred in their families.


If a person wanted to learn about the efficacy and safety for any given vaccine on the CDC’s vaccination schedule, a Google search will take the inquirer to Wikipedia. For example, after a search for the measles vaccine, readers will find a crassly watered-down description on Wikipedia. Among the vaccine’s adverse effects,  Wikipedia only mentions  “fever, rash, injection site pain and, in rare cases, red or purple discolorations on the skin known as thrombocytopenic purpura, or seizures related to fever.” However, Merck’s own product inserts for its two leading MMR vaccines — ProQuad and MMRII — include pneumonia and respiratory infection, cellulitis, aseptic meningitis, anaphylaxis, necrotizing retinitis, nerve deafness, cerebrovascular accident or stroke, encephalitis, Guillain Barre syndrome, acute hemorrhagic edema, arthritis, diabetes, pancreatitis, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (a fatal brain disorder caused by exposure to the measles virus), and death. Moreover, a 2012 Cochrane Collaborative meta-analysis of 57 studies and clinical trials regarding MMR safety concluded that “the design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine studies, both pre- and post-marketing, are largely inadequate.”  By omitting this critical information from its pages, Wikipedia is engaging in a serious disservice by denying the public critical information to educate its users on life-and-death health issues. Why then do Wikipedia’s Skeptic editors censor or ignore these facts. 


In most cases, Wikipedia users make the wrong assumption that the Wikipedia authors and editors on health issues have a convincing medical or scientific background, and that they have educated themselves about the peer-reviewed medical literature to assure accuracy. Unfortunately this supposition is flatly wrong, especially on the encyclopedia’s entries on genetically modified crops, natural and alternative health, and vaccines.  


Perhaps the single most important person Wikipedia’s Skeptic editors rely upon for vaccine information is Dr. Paul Offit. Therefore, we should take a broader look at Offit’s career and past statements regarding vaccines to determine whether he is objective in his assessments or whether his credibility is compromised by conflicts of interest thereby making him an unreliable resource. Clearly, in the course of our review, Wikipedia is not objective, fair nor accurate in how it presents vaccination. Similarly, we believe neither is Offit. 


Dr. Paul Offit is arguably America’s most public voice speaking on behalf of Big Pharma-supported efforts to legislate vaccine mandates and to remove philosophical and religious exemptions. He is the most cited and referenced physician in the mainstream media in its efforts to demonize those who challenge vaccines’ safety and efficacy, including millions of parents. For the numerous parents of vaccine-injured children and who oppose Offit, he is perhaps best known for uttering a statement that a child’s immune system could handle 10,000 vaccines. This statement is not only deceptively misleading but is likely very dangerous as the drug companies’ pipeline of new vaccines coming to the market continues to increase. 


Offit is currently the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the holder of the Maurice Hilleman Chair of Vaccinology at the University of Pennsylvania. In the past, he has been a member of the CDC’s advisory committee on immunization and was a co-editor of the journal Vaccines. 


He is also a prominent celebrity in the modern Skepticism movement, a faith-based rationalist  ideology espousing scientific materialism, commonly known as Scientism. Offit has been a recipient of a major award by Skepticism’s flagship organization, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and it is not uncommon to find him speaking at Skeptic conferences or being interviewed in their journals, such as the Skeptic Inquirer. His work is also frequently referenced by Skeptic editors on Wikipedia as part of the encyclopedia’s campaign to smear, disparage and marginalize non-conventional medical therapies. 


One common strategy federal health agencies and more aggressive proponents of mandatory vaccination rely upon is fear. Offit is particularly skilled in turning fear away from vaccine risks in order to strengthen irrational and emotional fears about contracting an infectious disease such as flu, measles and pertussis or whooping cough. In a 2014 opinion essay Offit wrote for the Wall Street Journal, he associates the rise in infectious disease rates with what he calls “the anti-vaccination epidemic.” The article appeared at a time when there was an uptick in reported pertussis cases. Indeed, in 2010 California witnessed a upsurge in pertussis cases. The important question the entire media failed to ask was how many of these cases represent unvaccinated children.  According to a survey conducted by Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Rafael, 81% of the patients surveyed were fully vaccinated with the complete series of shots, 11% had received at least one injection, leaving only 8% unvaccinated.  Yet figures for the 2014 whooping cough outbreak should have forced Offit and the Skeptics to pause.   Health officials in San Diego county where 621 cases of pertussis were confirmed, found that 85% were fully vaccinated and 11% were only partially immunized. The remaining 4% of infected persons were either unvaccinated or unknown.  Later that same year Los Angeles county reported that only 8% of pertussis cases were among the unvaccinated. County health officials stated that this low number of unvaccinated persons is “not a significant factor in the spread of pertussis.” In 2012, Vermont had one of its largest pertussis increases. Here again, 90% of cases were among the vaccinated population.  Somewhat similar findings hold for the failure of the flu and measles vaccines, and the high rate of mumps infections among populations of fully vaccinated children.


On no occasion have we found Offit making reference to an important observation that is today alarming many medical experts and health officials; that is, some vaccines’ effectiveness, particularly for mumps and pertussis, is waning. The World Health Organization has openly admitted that the pertussis vaccine no longer works and has recommended the development of a new vaccine to replace the ones currently in use. Several years ago, even the CDC acknowledged the pertussis vaccine, along with the flu and mumps vaccines, are the least effective. This means that large segments of the population, although vaccinated, are not immunized. With the increase in vaccine failures, this means that even with 100 percent vaccination compliance in a population, transmittable infections will continue. 


If it is the case that more and more infectious outbreaks are occurring in groups of fully vaccinated individuals, then there can be no confirmatory scientific support for the argument that unvaccinated children and adults are the primary cause for recent surges in infectious diseases. Moreover, this ambiguity or uncertainty should lay to rest one of the major arguments voiced among the proponents of mandatory vaccine advocacy; that is, the need to reach herd immunity to eradicate infectious diseases. 


We should also entertain suspicions about Offit as a reliable resource for Wikipedia because of his gross conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry and his public biases and animosity towards vaccine critics. Offit is the co-developer of the patented live rotavirus vaccine (Merck’s Rotateq), which targets the prevention of a serious viral diarrhea infection. It is estimated that the vaccine will prevent about 74 percent of rotavirus cases, about 98 percent of severe cases, and about 96 percent of hospitalizations; consequently, the vaccine is not a silver bullet. In 2008, the vaccine was sold for a whopping $182 million in cash. Although Offit has refused to reveal how much he was personally rewarded and the figure has never been made public by the institutions he is affiliated with, independent investigations estimated his earnings were between $29-55 million from the sale.  


While Offit is ever quick to deny any association between vaccines and the rising rates of autism among American children, his Rotateq vaccine has also encountered sharp criticism over its safety claims and other problems. In 2010, foreign DNA from a porcine circovirus contaminated in the vaccine, and the FDA promptly suspended its administration; however, the suspension was revoked the same year after the agency determined that this pig virus posed no risk to human health. 


The vaccine has been associated with some deaths. According to the National Vaccination Information Center (NVIC), the CDC has stated that safety and efficacy data for administering the vaccine to infants with immuno-compromised conditions are not available. Nor has it been studied in children with acute gastroenteritis. Shortly after its release on the market reports started to appear about the vaccine causing severe cases of intussusception — a rotavirus condition that the vaccine is suppose to prevent. During a single year, there were 1,251 reported adverse reactions to the vaccine in the government’s Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System. Ten percent were intussusception  cases. Although this occurred a dozen years ago, in 2015, the British Medical Journal reported that France removed rotavirus vaccines from its recommended immunization schedule after three infant deaths and a flurry of serious side effects.  The BMJ article noted, “It is noteworthy that clinical trials have never demonstrated a reduction in all cause mortality with these vaccines, neither in high nor in low income countries.” 


None of this information is offered about rotavirus vaccines on Wikipedia. 


For an investigative journalist, who may sincerely care about exposing true stories on important health issues, Wikipedia’s vaccine biases contrary to the evidence needs to be explored more thoroughly. At this moment, the states of California, Maine and New York are aggressively stripping away our health freedoms. We expect our politicians, public health officials and the media to be deeply concerned whether something we put in our body can be potentially lethal. Since according to the Supreme Court’s own terminology, every vaccine is “unavoidably unsafe,” should we not be demanding a moratorium on all future vaccine mandate proposals and a repeal of those already in effect, until such time that independent gold standard clinical trials are conducted. Such trials have never been performed on any vaccine currently in the CDC’s immunization schedule that employed a scientifically defined inert placebo. Nor have any comprehensive studies been conducted to compare the overall health between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. 


It is time to demand our federal and state legislators, attorney generals and the justice department to conduct an investigation into the anonymous Skeptic editors in the Wikipedia community, including its co-founder Jimmy Wales, to disclose the conflicts of interest that are now undermining and even destroying the health of millions of people. It is time that Wikipedia be held accountable for supporting an orchestrated campaign to deprive the public of vital information that might save lives.