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.