Saturday, September 25, 2010

An Anti-vaccine Veterinarian-an interesting mix of pseudoscience, faith, and nonsense.

A particularly egregious example of an anti-vaccine veterinarian was brought to my attention recently (hat tip to Terrierman). Dr.Patricia Jordan has published online a poster she presented at the 5th annual joint North American Homeopathic Conference this year. Her personal website (titled "Mark of The Beast-hidden in plain sight-the case against vaccinations" by which she appears to mean that vaccinations are the mark of the beast) also reveals similar ideas which add up to an interesting mix of misinterpreted and misrepresented science, what appears to be the influence of evangelical style christian creationism, big-pharma and government conspiracy theories, and just plain making things up to suit her ideology. This type of ridiculous reasoning is one of the things that makes me very skeptical of information coming from alternative medicine professional organizations such as the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association or Homeopathic associations-all to often they seem to accept ideas such as Dr. Jordan's uncritically.

From the Curriculum Vitae page on her website, it would appear that Dr. Jordan had a distinguished undergraduate and veterinary school career in the 1980's with several externships and even some type of award for epidemiology. Since the late 1990's it would seem that she has not found a variety of alternative medicine she does not like, including Reiki, homeopathy, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, spinal manipulation and "pulse diagnosis". The legitimate scientific veterinary conferences and seminars she has attended in that time appear to consist mostly of vaccine related events, which she has apparently interpreted as evidence that vaccines are the cause of nearly all disease and some kind of spiritual menace. She conveniently ignores the fact that many vaccine preventable diseases in animals and humans have huge costs in mortality and morbidity by orders of magnitude over any evidence for adverse effects of vaccinations. It makes me wonder if she has ever seen a case of canine distemper, parvovirus or Rabies, or any of the other viruses we routinely prevent with vaccination.

To be fair, there has been a legitimate scientific debate over vaccination of pets over the last 10-20 years which has resulted in some significant changes in vaccination protocols for pets. All Rabies vaccines were changed to killed virus vaccines in the 1980's when it was found that the modified live virus vaccines could, in rare cases, cause rabies. In cats, this had the unintended result of causing malignant tumors in some cats (1). This can also happen in dogs, but is much more rare than it's incidence in cats, which has been reported between one in 1,000 to one in 10,000 cats. Other adverse effects of vaccination are primarily acute and delayed allergic reactions, with very little evidence that other diseases, such as autoimmune disease, other types of cancer, neurological or behavioral diseases are caused by vaccination. For a detailed analysis of these issues, visit The SkeptVet here. While vaccinations can trigger allergic reactions and on rare occasions various autoimmune diseases, this is not proof that the vaccination causes these problems. The greatly varying incidence of allergies and autoimmune disease among different breeds would suggest underlying genetic susceptibilities, and any naturally acquired infection or allergen exposure is as likely or more likely to trigger an outbreak as a vaccination is. As evidence has accumulated about the duration of immunity from vaccination, most veterinarians have switched from annual vaccination protocols to 3-4 year protocols for most vaccines, and I would not be surprised if some of these were extended even more as more evidence is accumulated for longer duration of immunity. Despite this active scientific evaluation of animal vaccination over the past decade or so, Dr. Jordan seems to have decided for ideological reasons that all vaccinations are bad.   Lets look at some of the claims she makes and compare them with the science.

This paragraph from Dr. Jordan's poster illustrates many of the distortions and errors which she makes;
Only vaccinated individuals were found to develop auto antibodies in a landmark study done at Perdue University. Auto antibodies are made with the vaccines from the viruses, from the microbial antigens, from the aluminum and mercury and other ingredients that would mutate or disrupt the pathogen. The increase of molecular mimicry increases with vaccines and these examples of pathways to increase the number of auto antibodies formed the trigger necessary to promote genetic expression of autoimmune disease. Certainly, autoimmune disease expression is one step closer to genetic disease and that handicap will transfer vertically to the next generation in many instances. The important understanding is that the adulteration of the genome came in via the injection of vaccine.
It is true that several scientists at Purdue have done a lot of work evaluating the efficacy and potential adverse effects of vaccination in dogs (examples of their work in references 2, 3, and 4). However, auto antibodies are antibodies which react to normal tissues in the body, and may be formed by exposure to animal protein contaminants of vaccines, and occasionally from injuries to tissues such as the lens of the eye, not normally from viral or bacterial antigens, or by exposure to the small amounts of aluminum or mercury present in some vaccines. Let's see what they have to say from reference 3;

 To date, routine vaccination of these Beagles has not caused any overt signs of clinical disease.  However, the blood of all the vaccinated dogs contains significantly elevated concentrations of antibodies directed against proteins that are present in commercial vaccines as contaminants of the production process.  None of the unvaccinated control dogs has had a similar increase in these antibodies.  These proteins are typically of bovine origin since fetal calf serum is used to grow the viruses for vaccine production.  The close similarity in structure of the bovine proteins to dog proteins results in a situation whereby the antibodies produced by the vaccinated dogs may cross-react with dog tissue proteins in a process similar to autoimmunity. Experiments in other animal species suggest that these autoantibodies might eventually cause diseases in the vaccinated animals, but these
Beagle dogs will need to be followed longer to determine if this is the case.  In addition, the pattern of individual responses of the immune system to vaccination in this study suggests a possible genetic predisposition to autoimmunity.
(this paper appears to have been published online and is no longer available at Purdue's website-this extract was taken from a breeder's website). These results are much more preliminary than Dr. Jordan or some breeders make them out to be, and while they are cause for concern and may be reason to change vaccine production methods, there is no mention of the vaccine directly causing mutations. I have not been able to find any evidence that vaccines cause "adulteration of the genome" which is transferable to the next generation. Perhaps one of the most insidious results of this type of reasoning is that some breeders use it to blame problems caused by inbreeding on vaccination instead. The Purdue paper seems to be commonly misused in this way on many breeder's and "holistic" veterinarian's websites. Unfortunately Dr. Jordan and others are taking a legitimate scientific controversy and distorting it beyond all recognition and far beyond the actual evidence. This quote from Dr. Jordan's personal website's mission statement illustrates in her own words how she has abandoned evidence and science for the ideologically based view she prefers;
It was a decade out of medical school before I clearly saw that the beliefs of modern medicine were simply beliefs and not in alignment with the innate wisdom of the body. Vaccines and drugs are at odds with the intelligence of the almighty design and getting back to the garden means getting back to the natural form and using the optimal nutrition, energetic repair and right relationship of living.
There are many more examples of distorted ideas about evolution and the immune system in Dr. Jordan's poster and website. Since she does not list any references(there are no references on the poster and the references and resources pages on her website are blank), it is difficult to discover where she gets most of her ideas. Many probably come from her own head, and others are from sources I was unable to track down.
In any case, following ideas such as these would be extraordinarily dangerous for pets and humans, indeed far more dangerous than vaccinations have ever been. For an excellent discussion of the relative risks and consequences of antivaccine movements on the human side, see Prometheus' recent post here. It is sad that Dr. Jordan seems more interested in fear mongering and selling books than rationally evaluating the evidence.


June 1, 2005, Vol. 226, No. 11, Pages 1821-1842
doi: 10.2460/javma.2005.226.1821

The current understanding and management of vaccine-associated sarcomas in cats

July 1, 2007, Vol. 231, No. 1, Pages 94-100
doi: 10.2460/javma.231.1.94

Adverse events after vaccine administration in cats: 2,560 cases (2002–2005)
George E. Moore, DVM, PhD, DACVPM, DACVIM; Andrea C. DeSantis-Kerr, DVM; Lynn F. Guptill, DVM, PhD, DACVIM; Nita W. Glickman, MPH, PhD; Hugh B. Lewis, BVMS, DACVP; Lawrence T. Glickman, VMD, DrPH 

3.Effects Of Vaccination On The Endocrine And Immune Systems of Dogs,  Phase II Purdue University, November 1, 1999 
Drs. Harm HogenEsch and Larry T. Glickman 

4.J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2002 Aug 15;221(4):515-21.

Evaluation of antithyroglobulin antibodies after routine vaccination in pet and research dogs.

Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


  1. This type of ridiculous reasoning is one of the things that makes me very skeptical of information coming from alternative medicine professional organizations such as the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association or Homeopathic associations-all to often they seem to accept ideas such as Dr. Jordan's uncritically.

    That seems a little harsh. They are organisations fundamentally committed to promoting and believing uncritically in the most absurd things. Believing one more mad idea is just par for the course. Not so much "all too often" as "all the time".

  2. Maybe a little harsh, but I can never figure out why believing one type of evidence-free nonsense automatically means all others are OK. Also, these groups try desperately to get what they think is scientific acceptance, or at least paint a veil of false science over their activities. It is par for the course, but still really annoying. It also puts the lie to their claims of "peer review" in their journals and meetings.

    In this case, this type of anti-vaccine fear mongering is dangerous, and deserves to be treated harshly, IMO. There are some problems or potential problems with vaccines, but they are very small compared to what the results of not vaccinating would be. Rabies anyone?

  3. We get several cases of rabies a year in WA state...

  4. Always frustrating to see a veterinarian who is so terrifyingly immune to facts and pushing an agenda of dangerous nonsense which can be mistaken for useful information by pet owners. Such ideas, as you rightly point out, do cause harm. Just ask the parents of any of the thousands of unvaccinated children hurt or killed by vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, influenze, or pertussis.

  5. @ Lisa;
    According to the Rabies surveillance report in the current issue of JAMA, there were 14 confirmed cases in Washington state last year, all in Bats.
    rabies vaccination of domestic animals protects not only them from this deadly disease, but gives humans an extra buffer of protection also.

    @ skeptvet-certainly-I think 9 infants have died so far this year in the pertussis outbreak currently happening in California.

  6. Have you read "The Science of Vaccine Damage" by Catherine O'Driscoll? Just as absurd.
    Filled with inaccuracies, half-truths, and scare tactics. Now I must confess, when I first read this article, I fell for it hook, line and sinker! Then, my skeptical nature took over. This article extensively references a limited Purdue study which involved a very small number of beagles. I accessed the study and read the entire report. This study concludes that certain dogs may develop antibodies to bovine contaminants in the vaccine serum. This is certainly no evidence for vaccines causing any long-term health effects in any dogs, let alone ALL dogs…yet that is just what this author states in her article!

    I quote here from the Purdue report:

    “This study did not find any evidence of autoimmune disease in the vaccinated dogs”

    ”There was a marked increase of autoantibodies to the skeletal muscle proteins, myoglobin and myosin, in BOTH groups of dogs”(vaccinated and non-vaccinated... this is surmised to be due to frequent blood sampling of the dogs for the study).

    “There was no increase of anti-thyroglobulin antibodies in the vaccinated animals, or other evidence of thyroid dysfunction.”

    "Vaccination did not cause immunosuppression or alter the response to an unrelated antigen (KLH)......we did not observe a transient lymphopenia in the dogs at any time"

    Consider for a moment the process by which a "core" vaccine (such as parvo, distemper or rabies) is produced. The virus is cultured on tissue, in this case cow or "bovine" tissue. With current technology, many vaccines invariably will contain traces of bovine serum proteins. When a dog is vaccinated, they will form antibodies not only against the virus, but sometimes against these bovine contaminant proteins also. Various autoantibodies to bovine contaminants were detected in some (not all) of the vaccinated dogs. These antibodies were not found to react with the dog’s own tissues. The long-term significance of these autoantibodies has not yet been determined.

    “Since bovine serum components in the vaccine may be responsible for the majority of autoantibodies, elimination of these bovine components may avoid this generations of vaccines, especially naked DNA vaccines, are free of serum components, and these should not induce autoantibodies.”

    BINGO!! Thank goodness for research and development. We are discovering how to make better, safer, more effective vaccines! Great news for our dogs! So the next time you see that article floating around the internet lists, just remember to read it with some skepticism.

    (Continued next comment)

  7. I’d like to address a few more of her faulty accusations against vaccination in general. She states “The monkey retrovirus SV40 keeps turning up in human cancer sites”… Per the CDC, SV40 has been found in cancers of people who either DID or DID NOT received the polio vaccine. SV40 has not been present in any vaccine since the early 1960’s. SV40 may be associated with some cancers, but the virus is transmitted to people by a mechanism other than vaccines. Lastly, SV40 has not been proven cause cancer, any more than any other virus which might lie dormant in the body.

    She also states that “allergy…should be synonymous with the word ‘vaccination’”, and goes on to state that vaccines sensitize or “render allergic”…this is such an inaccurate statement! Actual allergies to vaccine components are rare, and the process of immune system activation, while perhaps sharing some similarities, is NOT the same as the allergic response process.

    More false statements: She states “The Purdue study found that the vaccinated dogs had developed autoantibodies to their own DNA”…Nowhere was this found in this study!

    She states, “The study dogs were found good homes.” No, they were euthanized at 22 weeks so that their tissues could be examined....did this woman actually read the study? Or just doesn't understand it? Or doesn't choose to try to understand it?

    There are many other misquotes in this article, and faulty conclusions as well, but the worst may well be her own conclusion, “Some of us, myself included, have chosen not to vaccinate our pets at all.”

    Luckily for her dogs, herd immunity will likely afford them some protection…even if she refuses to contribute to the health of the community through vaccination.

    Once you are terrorized against vaccinating your pets, you can go to the website where she will happily sell you untested, unproven remedies for health and wellness. For just $31 per year you can sign up for a newsletter!

  8. Hi Starbreeze, The Purde study is definitely one the quacks and cranks love to misinterpret and misquote. My most recent post (
    Discusses how reduced diversity of MHC haplotypes in many purebred dogs predisposes them to autoimmune disease, cancer, and allergies as well.
    Ignoring this inherent problem by blaming vaccines just results in dogs that are allergic to nearly everything, and nearly everything can induce autoimmune problems (including vaccines).

  9. I am going to ask you to read Dr. Yehuda schoenfelds research. You may have your mind opened just a tad. As well, loom at Jean Dodds work. She is a vaccine researcher and has said no holds barred that rabies vaccine causes a number if auto immune diseases. She is involved in the rabies challenge study that has been ongoing for the last 6 years or so.

    1. If you read the post, I agree that vaccines can sometimes trigger autoimmune diseases. However, I think this is different than causing autoimmune diseases. In many cases, viral infections are even worse at triggering autoimmune infections, and if we have certain breeds that are increasingly susceptible to autoimmune disease, perhaps we should avoid inbreeding them so extensively. I am familiar with Jean Dodds, and frankly have not been impressed. After looking at Dr. Schoenfelds work, it is indeed interesting, but seems to have a tenuous relationship at best to veterinary vaccines and purebred dogs. Do you have any specific references in mind?