Swine flu exists. Flu vaccines are protective against influenza. The benefits of vaccination against seasonal flu and swine flu probably outweigh the risks of vaccination. Every year many people suffer and die from seasonal influenza, particularly the elderly, children younger than age 2 and people with other medical conditions or weakened immune systems. These are just some of the things you might like to bear in mind as you read the following.
In this video, Joseph Mercola describes meeting Shiv Chopra at a National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) conference. Chopra trained as a veterinarian in India and later worked in veterinarian vaccines. Mercola claims that Chopra is one of the single most qualified people in the world to discuss vaccines.
Here’s the expert opinion on the swine flu vaccine…
Mercola: Do you think the swine flu works?
Chopra: No flu vaccine has ever worked. Swine flu, we don’t even know there is such a thing. It’s a misnomer. Avian flu, these are all made-up things. The whole thing is a hoax. It has been for the last 10 years. First they started with the avian flu, and then swine flu.
That’s quite a startling claim right at the beginning of Chopra’s statement. It’s not just startling, it’s also untrue.
This abstract, for example, states that “A review of the published literature shows that vaccination of children, healthy younger adults, the elderly, and both children and adults with high-risk medical conditions provides substantial benefits, although the types of benefits vary by age.”
This one looks at “estimates of 4 measures of vaccine efficacy for live, attenuated and inactivated influenza vaccine”. If no flu vaccine has ever worked, then why can I find these academic papers on the benefits of flu vaccines and on the efficacy of different flu vaccines? Does Chopra have a different definition of “worked” than I do?
As for the daft assertions that avian flu and swine flu are hoaxes… I hardly know where to start. Chopra doesn’t suggest who the hoaxers are or what their motive(s) may be. Nor does he provide any evidence that there has been any hoax. It’s almost as if it’s something he just made up.
Here’s why Chopra thinks that bird flu is a hoax…
Chopra: Birds have lived on the Earth for 65 million years, so have their viruses including the bird flu. By now if bird flu was killing poultry and birds then all those birds and poultry should have died – by now there should be no birds on the earth. If there are, they should be immune. How is it that the bird flu virus remains in the birds?
I think I can help to clear up Chopra’s confusion. I don’t recall ever hearing anyone claim that all birds would be infected by bird flu or that all birds who were infected would die. If Chopra has got it into his head that infection and mortality rates for avian flu are both 100%, then I think I can perhaps see how this confusion arisen. It seems that one or two simple misconceptions, when coupled with rather simplistic logic, can easily lead to a confused ‘vaccine expert’.
Here is Chopra’s view of the 1918 flu epidemic:
How come they never talked about this influenza in India? We never heard of it. I never heard of it. [...] People say too much aspirin – there were no controls, we didn’t know how aspirin really worked and what damage it did. Some people may have died from internal bleeding, by taking too much aspirin and trying to bring the temperature down.
Chopra states that he never heard of the 1918 flu outbreak. Not having heard of something that happened before you were born doesn’t necessarily mean that it didn’t happen…
Dr Chopra doesn’t seem to offer any support for his claim that aspirin might have caused the 1918 flu deaths. All we get from Chopra is that “people say too much aspirin…” – we don’t get to hear which people say this, or why they say it. Chopra apparently believes that millions of people died from internal bleeding due to aspirin overdose rather than influenza and related diseases. There’s some rather more realistic comment on the 1918 flu outbreak: here and here.
Chopra’s thoughts on the testing of vaccines:
What I’m saying categorically is that vaccines have never been tested. Vaccines other than smallpox have never been tested for safety or efficacy, as they should have been.
Chopra is now claiming that vaccines have never been tested. Really? For swine flu vaccination, “both non-clinical and clinical testing is being done to gain essential information on immune response and safety. The results of studies reported to date suggest the vaccines are as safe as seasonal influenza vaccines.”
About six months before Mercola posted the audio clip of his interview with Chopra, it was announced that in Australia the first human trials of a swine flu vaccine were to begin. The National Institutes of Health have a page here that includes information on early results from trials of the swine flu vaccine announced last year.
As for other vaccines, there is the example of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella virus: MMR was thoroughly tested before it was introduced. These tests followed the routine procedures for the testing and licensing of all new medicines and vaccines at that time.
But it doesn’t really matter what I write about swine flu, seasonal flu, or vaccination. I don’t expect that more than 200-250 people will ever read this blog post – and most of them will probably have perfectly sensible views on vaccination. Joseph Mercola, on the other hand, has written an irresponsible blog post (with an embedded video of his interview with Chopra) that has already been viewed by over 50,000 people. Presumably, many of those 50,000 will either be unsure about vaccination or will be opposed to it. Mercola is reaching those people, I am not. This cannot be categorised as anything but a failure.