The Vaccination Bible, edited by Lynne McTaggart of “What Doctors Don’t Tell You“.

This book is, as it describs itself in the introduction, “an unabashed case against” vaccination.

The usual case is made – that vaccinations are more dangerous and less effective than we are led to believe, and that the diseases in question are not necessarily as serious as we are led to believe. Although there is not much that is novel, the case is made with a good deal more clarity and objectivity than is typical in this debate and as such it is well worth reading.

It does have some of the problems that I have complained about before in relation to vaccination arguments.

For example, on p31 the efficacy of the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine is discussed. McTaggart points out that in a pertussis outbreak in 1993, 82% of the victims had completed a course of three vaccinations while 75% had been vaccinated 4 or 5 times. This looks impressive but, given that she does not give any information about the proportion of vaccinated people in the general population, it is in reality impossible fully to evaluate the claim that this shows the vaccination to be ineffective. (See Lies, Damned Lied and Statistics for more about that.)

Another problem is that – despite an introductory claim that “We’ve concentrated on evidence published in the medical literature. If you are going to make a case against vaccination with your doctor, this is the kind of material he should respect” – a fair number of the references are actually to fellow anti-vaccination writers. For example, Neil Z Miller’s book Vaccines: Are They Really Safe and Effective (click here for my blog on that) is cited twice on p17 as evidence for two statistical claims. If those stastics were accurate, surely it would be better to cite the original sources? (Perhaps I am overly cynical but, given my experiences with Miller’s book, I would not be surprised to find that his source was some yet further anti-vaccination writer…)

The part of the book that I found more interesting was chapter 13 – Diseases caused by Vaccines. The book postulates that vaccinating against some viruses causes them to leave the field to other, perhaps more dangerous viruses. It also postulates that vaccinations can cause the targeted viruses to mutate into other, again perhaps more dangerous strains. Thus, the theory goes, by fighting one disease we merely leave clear the way for others.

In support of these claims, McTaggart provides a great deal of information suggesting a strong link between, in particular, polio and ME. ME is a postviral fatigue illness, and McTaggart argues convincingly that it is, at least, closely related to polio. However, what is not clear is how this is connected to vaccinations. ME can apparently be triggered by the muscle damage caused by an injection. We are given no information, however, about whether and what kind of other events can also trigger ME or how likely an injection is to trigger ME even in a patient who is susceptible… Beyond that, there is little other than the speculative assertion that the virus or viruses causing ME may be mutations of the “original” polio viruses and that this mutation may perhaps have its roots in the polio vaccination campaign. In short, there may be reason to investigate a link between polio, ME and vaccination: but there is no evidence of such a link.

The final point I want to raise relates to a claimed link between the Hib meningitis vaccine and a rise in other meningitis strains (pp159-60).

McTaggart points out that, according to a study pulished in the Lancet in 1993, 94% of the meningitis strains studied were Hib strains, leaving 6% of those strains totally unaffected by a Hib vaccine. This means that, even if Hib strains decline, non-Hib strains will persist. Assuming that Hib strains do decline, non-Hib strains will become proportionately more common. McTaggart concludes from this that the “success” of the vaccine merely enables those other, resistant strains to predominate and so the vaccines “cause” additional disease from those other strains. However, this reasoning is wholly faulty.

Let’s use a simple illustration.

Suppose that there are 10 strains of trembles virus, each causing 100 cases of trembles per year. Nine of these strains are Trembles Q, which can be prevented by vaccination, and the other is Trembles X, which is resistant to vaccination.

  • Prior to introduction of the vaccine there are 10 x 100 i.e. 1,000 cases of trembles per year. Since each strain is equally prevalent, 90% of trembles cases are Trembles Q and 10% are Trembles X.
  • The vacination is 100% effective for all Trembles Q strains and wipes those strains out.
  • Therefore, following vaccination of the whole population, there are no longer any Trembles Q cases, although there are still 100 cases per year of Trembles X. That means that 100% of trembles cases are Trembles X.

According to McTaggart’s faulty reasoning you could now point out that the introduction of the vaccine has caused Trembles X cases to rise from only 10% of all trembles cases to now 100% of trembles cases…. and conclude that therefore vaccination has caused a rise in Trembles X!

In order to complete her case against the Hib vaccine (on the ground that it increases the incidence of other forms of meningitis) McTaggart must also – as a minimum – provide evidence that other strains of meningitis have in fact increased in number as well as in proportion. This she failed entirely to do.

Leaving these criticisms aside for a moment, the book looks on the whole like a relatively fair and objective, if not partiularly original, presentation of the case against vaccination. The problem is that it leaves too many questions unanswered and, ultimately, fails to convince.