Faithlessness, Skepticism

Account of an anti-vax talk by Magda Taylor 18th June 2012

Eleven pages of my splendid new notebook are now full of notes for this talk, so I hope you all pay attention. I gave up trying to make it sound natural, so any anti-vax statements you see where I don’t say “She said” is just me regurgitating what Magda said. Everything in quotation marks is a word or phrase used in the talk.

I got the number 7 bus from Hove to Whitehawk, the home of Brighton’s Steiner school  to see a talk entitled “Vaccination – What’s the Point?” The talk was given by Magda Taylor who you can see here I found out about it when one of the regulars to Horsham Skeptics in the Pub gave me a head’s up the day before.

Presented by Magda Taylor, editor and director of The Informed Parent.

Is vaccination responsible for the decline in disease?
Is vaccine-induced immunity the same as natural immunity?
Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Magda will present a general overview that will hopefully inspire you to find out for yourself!

I won’t mention what a hero I was to go ahead with this despite having had minor surgery and stitches inside my mouth earlier that afternoon… anyway.

The Brighton Steiner School website is here so you can see it for yourselves. I would recommend that you read David Colquhoun’s detailed overview of Steiner Waldorf education. This blog is not about Steiner schools – it just happened to be the venue for Magda’s talk. Steiner’s anti-vaccination stance is well known, however.

EDIT: For your info. There were 15 present plus staff. 2 skeptics, 2 human males, 11 human females and 3 or 4 very young babies. It was £8 to get in.

We entered the main hall, a wooden-floored room with white walls except for one which was painted with an ethereal scene of blurry kings waving swords around. I don’t know what that was all about. I said hello to the guy I knew from SitP, who was chatting with Magda about a recent vaccination discussion we’d had in Horsham that had got a bit tense. Magda asked if I was Simon and I said yes, somewhat surprised. I’m not sure how she knew my name but my intention to come along had been retweeted a bit so maybe she got my name that way.

The Talk Begins

Magda introduced herself and then started showing us slides of graphs on the overhead projector (aw!). The first graphs, about half a dozen of them, showed infant mortality rates and infections of various diseases dropping significantly prior to the introduction of immunisation. I couldn’t see any obvious problems with the graphs – the y axes started at zero, which was nice.

Scarlet fever, she told us, died out before we even had a chance to vaccinate against it. Not only this, but the actual symptoms of the various diseases were becoming less and less severe too, so the diseases were just not as serious as they used to be. No mechanism was given for why this might appear to be the case, we were just told that “A medical journal” said so.

Magda has a laid-back but believable style of delivery. Her tone and demeanour constantly said take it or leave it, I don’t mind if you agree or not. Not at all preachy, but instead very deliberately understated. I lost count of how many times she said we were free to make up our own minds and that she “didn’t want to tell us what to think”. This is one of the most disingenuous statements I have ever heard.

More Graphs

We were then shown a graph which shows smallpox numbers quadrupling after the introduction of the vaccine, though I can’t remember what country this was in. An outbreak of smallpox in Cornwall at the start of the 20th century was then referred to. We were told that a certain Dr Hadwin reported that out of 44 cases, 84% of them occured in vaccinated children. He was not introduced as “Dr Hadwin the anti-vaccination guy” just as a doctor called doctor Hadwin. His view was that poor housing led to the smallpox outbreak.

Reporting of disease outbreaks is of poor quality “on both sides”. Stories of modern-day measles outbreaks never tell you how many of those infected had already been immunised.

Outbreaks of infectious diseases are caused by living conditions, war and natural disasters. That sort of thing.

The US policy of injecting babies on day 1 of their lives with Hepatits B vaccine was mentioned. Some of the audience audibly winced in sympathy.

Another graph showed the incidence of TB falling prior to the introduction of antibiotics and vaccination. The impression we were given was that the claim that vaccines have eradicated disease is not true – most of the eradication was a result of developments in civilisation.

A large scale test of BCG injections in India casued an increase in TB cases. This was reported as “Bad News From India” in the Lancet in 1980.

Magda bought an expensive book called “Vaccines” which is “the” scientific book on the subject. Magda says it is “Full of ifs, buts and maybes” and also that the scientists are “basically not sure”. According to Magda’s little quote from this book, they conclude that the Hepatitis B Vaccine had little impact.

Scientists, we are told, say it is unethical to do placebo controlled tests as it is unfair on the placebo group. It is just assumed that vaccinations work, so they don’t bother doing rigorous controlled studies.

The Hib vaccine, when introduced in Belgium in 1993 had no impact, though she did say it was reported that this vaccine wiped out Hib.

Next, a graph showing the falling rate of measles infections in the UK before and during the implementation of the immunisation programme. This showed the rate falling significantly before the vaccine came out and continuing to fall when uptake was only at 25%. She then questioned the scientists who say “we need 95% for herd immunity”. I think she was saying there is no such thing as herd immunity, or at least that was my impression of what she was saying. I’m sure other people got this impression too. I can imagine that today some of the parents at this meeting would have spoken to their friends about this talk. Their friends would have asked about herd immunity” and they would have responded that it does not exist.

She then questioned the claim that a drop in vaccination numbers causes outbreaks, referring specifically to whooping cough. Sweden scrapped the whooping cough vaccine because it wasn’t working and had lots of side effects. Scientists had “always denied that whooping cough vaccine can cause brain damage”, but it turns out they are lying because those same scientists use that vaccine to induce swelling in the brains of rats that they want to test drugs on.

The Pioneers of Vaccination Were Bad

We were shown a derogatory quote made about Edward Jenner but I didn’t take not of it. The first boy he vaccinated was re-vaccinated 20 times and died when he was 20. We weren’t told what killed him.

She said that in the early days there were some horrific reactions to the new vaccines but said they had “cleaned them up a lot since then”.

There is an assumption that outbreaks begin in the non-vaccinated population and Magda showed us some numbers from 1870 that showed this not to be true. The first non-vaccinated victims came after a couple of hundred immunised people had already succumbed. In response to a question from the only other skeptical audience member, she said more recent figures were not available basically because the authorities didn’t bother keeping records of things like the number of people immunised in these programmes.

More doubt was cast on Jenner’s qualifications and expertise. Also, his idea was apparently just taken at face value by the establishment and no further testing of his ideas was done.

“It’s not Germ Fact, it’s Germ Theory”

Louis Pasteur was next on the radar. We were given this supposed deathbed admission, he said:

“The seed (Germ) is nothing.
The soil (Body) is everything”

I could hold my silence no longer and asked if he had included brackets and alternative words when he uttered the sentences. I was told that it is all translated from the French and that by “Seed” he meant “Germ”. I said it was open to other interpretations and we left it there.

In germ theory, we are told that germs cause disease so we need to kill the germs to stop disease. Germ theory reckons germs are “monomorphic” (unchanging).

Pasteur’s theory was held up against that of Antoine Bechamp, who said that germs were “pleomorphic” and that they were “Microzymes” rather than microbes. Bechamp said that it is the toxicity of the soil that casues dis-ease (I don’t know why they start spelling it that way, with a hyphen.). By “soil”, Bechamp of course means “home” or “environment”.

Pasteur altered his results to suit his theories, we are told. This was exposed in a book called “The private science of Louis Pasteur”

The accepted theories of of vaccination are based on those of Pasteur. (Personally I think more work may well have been done on them since then.)

A little speech followed. “The main thing is to do your own research. When it comes to healthcare, some people need different information to others”. More nodding from the audience.

A Cocktail of Bacteria, Viruses and Additives

On the screen, this was projected:


A cocktail of bacteria and viruses are given, with other additives and by an unnatural route which would not happen in nature.
Childhood infections are contracted at the appropriate time, normally before puberty”

The word “unnatural” was used many, many times.

An audience member said that jabs of even more than 3 in 1 were now available. Magda said “Well if 3 in 1 is bad then 7 in 1 or whatever would be terrible”.

Magda was on Radio 5 Live once and told us that a doctor she was debating said on air that it is “perfectly safe” to have a booster vaccine even just a week after the initial injection. Gasps from the audience. She added that it was probably an outburst that he immediately regretted, but  then went on to speculate “He wouldn’t give his own kids a booster after just a week.” This attitude is apparently typical of doctors, who say they wouldn’t give their own kids these injections but that they’re fine for everybody else.

We were given a quick overview of why vaccination-induced immunity is not the same as natural immunity. Vaccines “Sneak in the back door, deeper into the system.” “It is not a natural procedure, and not a natural entrance to the system”.

She went to a conference on autism once and all the immunologists disagreed about vaccination. There was  a “big grey area about immunisation”.

We were told about the TH1 and TH2 branches of the immune system. TH2 is responsible apparently for producing antibodies, but it can also “teach” the body to be chronically reactive. TH2  is linked to things like asthma and eczema. Magda’s first child, who was immunised, had eczema and Magda suspects it was the injections as her second daughter, who was not, remained pristine.

Referring to a study which compared Steiner kids to non-steiner kids (as cohorts that represented largely un-vaccinated and vaccinated groups respectively), the Steiner school kids had fewer allergies.

We were told that “It is rare to find autism in non-vaccinated children”.

MMR, Wakefield

Next came MMR. Magda informed us that it is not ONLY the MMR vaccine that may cause autism but separate injections might too – especially the ones that contain mercury which itself causes “autism-like symptoms” we are told. When asked by parents about the benefits of separate MMR jabs, she tells them that there’s no real benefit as all vaccines present risks.

Magda then refers to this story in the Daily Mail with the headline “MMR: A mother’s victory”. She didn’t go into the detail of the case except to say that the judges had ruled that MMR “had caused the autism”.

Onto Andrew Wakefield. He is the victim of an injustice. He “isn’t trying to be difficult and is not deliberately trying to gain anything and certainly hasn’t gained anything. He has been treated like a heretic”. This was all delivered in confident, plaintive tones by Magda. Part of the problem with trying to convince mainstream medicine that vax is bad is that doctors try to “Protect their positions”, she tells us.

The next slide:

“VACCINATION – Chemical warfare on our internal environment
A variety of chemicals, animal and bird products, virus and bacteria.”

Batches of vaccine have been contaminated with “Bird virus and monkey virus”.

Mercury was only removed from vaccines after “grassroots” activity from concerned groups. Although we are told mercury has been removed from vaccines, she then tells us how bad mercury is. It has a “cumulative effect and targets the brain and central nervous system”.

“If a vial of vaccine was dropped onto the floor it would be toxic waste, but they inject it into babies!”
The next little tale was that in Denmark, after mercury was removed from the vaccines, the number of cases of autism went down.

Next slide “Do the Benefits outweigh the RIsks?”

This was followed by the statement: “Since most reactions go unreported and dismissed as a coincidence, there is NO reliable data to establish the true risks”.

Again, I could not hold my silence on this one. I asked, “if there is no reliable data for this, then where did you get the reliable data that says most reactions go unreported or are dismissed as coincidence?”. She said something about Frank Dobson saying that our record-keeping was worse than that of other countries (or something). She didn’t know the actual answer but said I could email her if I wanted to follow it up.

Most doctors, if presented with a case of a bad reaction to a vaccination wouldn’t say “oh sorry, it was the vaccine”, she informs us. Magda smiles, the audience laughs.

All the Diseases

Up next was a slide  with a list of diseases that had either been discovered or had got worse since vaccines were introduced. Here’s the list:

MS, Epilepsy, Cancer, Leukaemia, Autism, Cot death, AIDS, Diabetes, Arthritis, ADD, Behavioural disorders,Allergies,Eczema, Neurological disorders, Guillan-Barre syndrome and Shaken baby syndrome.

She said this list is not attributable to improved diagnoses.

She doubts the “genetic” theory of how autism comes about.“People say autism is genetic but then where does it come from if there is no family history?”

A woman in the audience says that she is dyslexic despite having no family history of dyslexia. She said the now thinks it was vaccinations that caused it. Magda agreed that it may well have been.

Another study she referred to apparently made a clear link between sudden infant death syndrome and vaccinations. The incidence was highest right after the injections were given.

The talk moved on to the legalities. She told us that it was not compulsory to have your kids immunised, despite the grudging attitude of your doctors and the way they get you to sign forms about your decision to withhold vaccine for your children. Vaccinations are not always compulsory even for foreign travel, we may be surprised to hear. If we look carefully at  the rules we’ll find certain loopholes and technicalities that mean you can often get away with not doing it.

HPV, the “So-Called Disease”

Bringing it up to date, she went onto the vaccine for the “So called disease” HPV. She said it was “highly questionable that  HPV causes cancer.” It is apparently self limiting and very common – found in up to 80% of people aged 50 indeed.

An audience member said that at her childrens school the children are asked for their consent when it came to HPV. If the child wanted to over-rule their parents decision to forego vaccination then the school would abide by the child’s wishes. The audience gasped “that’s terrible” and Magda encouraged the sense of outrage for a few moments.

I said that if this is true, then the children would also be allowed to refuse vaccines although their parents wanted them to have them – would Magda mind the school going against the parents in this instance?

“That’s a great question, I don’t know. I rather suspect they would just go ahead with the injection anyway wouldn’t they?” I said that was just speculation.

To end with, we were told that most childhood diseases were naturally self limiting and if left alone they would sort themselves out.

One last projector slide, of a Gandhi quote about filth accumulating in the body. Sometimes, apparently the body can generate symptoms as part of the body’s process of getting better too.

That was about enough for me, and thankfully the talk ended.

Thank you for reading. I hope you don’t feel as sick as I did while writing it.

[Edited for typos 20th June]

1 Comment

  1. Ivan
    June 17, 2013    

    How the hell did you keep quiet in the face of such utter bullshit?
    You are a better man than me. I’d have been screaming at her after the first few blatant lies that fell from her lips.

    As the parent of a child with autism this kind of woo woo makes me sick. Parasites like Magda make a career out of the fears of parents like myself. Its sooo tempting to have a boogy man to blame for your kids condition. Even as a loud and proud life long sceptical thinker I felt that temptation when it became apparent that my son had autism. Was it my fault? How did this happen? Why did this happen? Or should I give my 2nd child the MMR? Maybe I should just “play it safe” and not vaccinate my 2nd child? What should I do? Are all questions that you desperatly want answered in this situation.

    Thankfully I have the education and knowledge to know that the best thing to do is to continue with vaccination, my eldest sons autism was fuck all to do with MMR, neither was it my fault (well unless its my fault for having any genes that contributed) and that the “evidence” against vaccinations is non existent.

    But the fears and strong emotions experienced by parents of kids with autism are very powerful. I have felt them. The sad fact is that there is a whole snake oil industry that will take advantage of those fears and people less educated than myself will be sucked in, these leaches make me sick.

  1. The Right Honourable Michael Gove MP, Golden Duck nominee | Josephine Jones on September 19, 2012 at 9:15 pm

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