antivaxxers’ dangerous misinformation

That image is a visual counter to a now-removed billboard put up on an Auckland motorway by the NZ group WAVES (Warnings Against Vaccine Expectations). If you haven’t seen the offending item, this was it:

In less than 48 hours, the billboard attracted more than 140 complaints.

That’s not a warning, that’s a scare tactic, and will surely have led to complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority. After all, the ASA’s Rule 6 states that “advertisements should not exploit the superstitious, nor without justifiable reason, play on fear”.  Rule 2 is even more detailed about what can & can’t be done:

Truthful Presentation – Advertisements must not mislead or be likely to mislead, deceive or confuse consumers, abuse their trust, or exploit their lack of knowledge. This includes by implication, inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, unrealistic claim, omission, false representation or otherwise.

Anyway, what’s in a vaccine, that has got WAVES all riled up? Helpfully, they tell us:

Aluminium (Al) is not on the list of heavy metals provided here – a chemistry site which also provides a helpful definition (see also the information here):

The term heavy metal refers to any metallic chemical element that has a relatively high density and is toxic or poisonous at low concentrations. Examples of heavy metals include mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), arsenic (As), chromium (Cr), thallium (Tl), and lead (Pb).

Since aluminium is the most abundant metallic element in the earth’s crust, it’s found naturally in water, air, & in some foods. In other words, we’ve evolved with it in our environment. Even human breast milk contains it, at around 14-34micrograms/litre. And in vaccines? The Boostrix vaccine (DTaP) contains 0.5mg Al per 0.5mL dose. The amount in Gardasil 9 is the same. In comparison, the USDA estimates intakes from food & drink of 0.10mg/kg/day for 6-11 month infants, 0.30-0.35mg/kg/day for 2-6 year-olds, 0.11mg/kg/day for 10-year-olds, & so on. The vaccines don’t work out at “several times the safe limit”.

In fact, claims like those made by WAVES have already been refuted multiple times – here’s an excellent example over at Science-Based Medicine.

Anyway, two more examples. WAVES is worried about antibiotics in vaccines. Frankly, anyone wanting safe vaccines should be happy that they’re used – because they suppress bacterial growth in the cell cultures used for vaccine production, and by the time you get to the final vaccine, the antibiotics are present in trace doses:

The recommended dosage of streptomycin for the treatment of various infections is 20-40 mg/kg per day, for a maximum of 1 g per day! Why is this relevant? Because every vaccine given to a child during his entire life probably doesn’t even come anywhere near 1 mg, that’s why.

And detergents. WAVES is probably talking about polysorbate-80. Yes, it’s present:

Polysorbate-80, for example, is present at 50μg per dose of Gardasil…. Polysorbate-80 has indeed been found to cause health problems in neo-natal rats – at a dose 800,000 times greater than a young woman receiving the vaccine would receive.

It’s also used as an emulsifier in foods, at much higher concentrations than you’d find in any vaccine.

The scary DNA claim? Here’s an excellent response.

Oh, and WAVES – given your (baseless) worries about heavy metals in vaccines, there’s a certain irony in your choice of image. Check this out.

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