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Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 230 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

COVID: To Get Vaccinated Or Not To Get Vaccinated

Stimulated by a Sociologist's Scholarly
Anti-Vaccination Book: Part 2

Elliot Benjamin

Continuing where I left off in Part 1 of this essay series [1]:

Revisiting Big Pharma Ethical Violations, and Safety and Effectiveness Study Guidelines

At this point in time I do believe that generally speaking the pros outweigh the cons for getting vaccinations.

All four of the vaccines that have been emergency authorized to fight against COVID-19 in either the United States or various countries in Europe satisfy a number of sociologist Marteja Cernic's [2] research methodology guidelines for safety and effectiveness studies, inclusive of a high number of participants, the use of a bona fide placebo saltine solution, the use of a true control group, and determining that the vaccine is effective on the basis of it guarding against the disease, as opposed to merely producing antibodies [1]. These guidelines have all been followed in the clinical trials for the vaccines produced by Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca, with Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson using over 43,000 participants, and Moderna and AstraZeneca using over 30,000 participants [3].

Ideological Constructs of Vaccination

However, as Cernic described, there are Big Pharma concerns about three of these companies: Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca, in terms of penalties and settlements. It is especially concerning to me that Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson have had billions of dollars in penalties, which may include violations of unlawful promotion of their products, downplaying health risks, and giving kickbacks to their drug providers and hospitals, and in particular the fact that Johnson & Johnson is also listed in the category of concealing or falsifying data (Cernic, pp. 402-403). Furthermore, as included in Richard House's review summary of Cernic's book [4], Cernic has given a total of ten methodological flaws that are common in vaccine safety and effectiveness studies, and a number of these flaws are still present in the above four vaccine studies. These include the concerns that preclinical safety studies are often not done, pharmacokinetic studies are not mandatory, observation periods are extremely short, side effects are literally observed, and the majority of clinical trials are financed by producers (House, p. 20).

But in spite of all my above concerns that I share with Cernic, I am in agreement with the emergency basis of authorizations for these vaccines, given the horrific toll of death and destruction that the COVID has taken throughout the world. I don't say this easily, and I don't like the Big Pharma unethical practices any more than Cernic or House do, but all things considered I think the pros outweigh the cons at this point in time in regard to getting the COVID vaccination. And I say this in spite of the fact that since 1992, industry-paid “user fees” may have resulted in biased funding that limit FDA's ability to protect the public from serious adverse reactions to drugs that have few offsetting advantages [5]. I wish there were a better way to fight against COVID, and I know that some people think that nutrition and health is a viable alternative in this regard [6], which I'll have more to say about in subsequent parts of this essay series. But at this point in time, in spite of all the very real Big Pharma concerns that I have, as described above, I still must advocate for people to get the available COVID vaccinations.

Approaching the Vaccination Controversy from a Balanced Perspective

I conveyed in Part 1 that I had red flags in regard to Cernic focusing exclusively on mortality data and completely ignoring morbidity data that show the impressive effectiveness of vaccines in combating disease, instead of including this data with a statement that morbidity statistics are problematic and not completely accurate [1], [7]. However, I also conveyed in Part 1 that there were a number of concerns that I share with Cernic about vaccines, as I think she made a strong case for these concerns to be taken very seriously. At the same time, there are a number of other claims about vaccines that Cernic made which I think need to be addressed in much greater scope, to look at research beyond promulgating her anti-vaccination perspective which is the entire thrust of her book [2]. And in this part of my essay series it is time to begin to take a look at both ends of this spectrum.

House conveyed what Cernic referred to as “'the extremely aggressive hate speech and hostility towards vaccination critics and people who have not been vaccinated,' with opponents of their 'regime of truth' being discredited, but 'without [counter] arguments of any substance'” (House, p. 5). In this regard, It is my goal in this essay series to give a fair and substantial indication of arguments and counter-arguments that may be used to at times reinforce Cernic's anti-vaccination position, and at time to cast doubt on Cernic's anti-vaccination position. Some examples of this thus far are what I have described above about the Big Pharma concerns that I share with Cernic and House, but also my pointing out how Cernic completely ignored the demonstrated significant effectiveness of vaccines in combating indices of disease prevalence, instead of including this information with a statement that using morbidity statistics is problematic and not completely accurate [1], [7].

But House also emphasized Cernic's remark that “It is not true that those who are unvaccinated are a threat to 'public health'” And this is where I have a major problem with Cernic's whole thesis. For I do believe that people who are unvaccinated may very well be “a threat to public health,” at least in regard to deadly diseases such as COVID. But the truth or falseness of my belief is something I need to explore further, in particular in regard to the efficacy of nutrition and health as a bona fide alternative to vaccines to fight against COVID, which once again I will deal with in future parts of this essay series as I learn more about this whole topic. [6] However, I do agree with Cernic and House that it is important to offset the following disturbing situation:

“So deeply is vaccination ideology 'embedded in collective consciousness,' we read [in Cernic], that vaccination as a cultural phenomenon 'has been able to avoid, almost completely, any critical reflection by the professional public.'. . . . Under Covid-19 restrictions, even in so-called Western democracies, free open discussion about the merits or otherwise of vaccination is being systematically silenced: an extraordinary phenomenon of brute censorship which would surely have been unthinkable just a few years ago.” (House, pp. 5-6)

And House personally shared his own experience as follows:

“I have a particular interest in this issue, having been viciously attacked and demonised [sic] in the local press in Gloucestershire, UK (in early 2021) where I live, for daring to call for a full, open debate on the vaccination question so that people can make an informed choice about Covid-19 vaccination.”

In this regard, I sent Part 1 of this essay series [1] to my humanistic psychology colleague Richard House, and I was relieved and appreciative that he wrote back the following: “Thanks Elliot—Look forward to reading this—SO appreciate your having open-mindedly engaged with the arguments and issues—alas, the vast majority of pro-vaxx people don't” (House, personal communication, 3/27/2021). It was a bit of shock to see myself being described as “pro-vaxx,” as I like to think that I am in the process of “open-mindedly” exploring this whole topic. But I also must admit that yes at this point in time I do believe that generally speaking the pros outweigh the cons for getting vaccinations, though as Cernic painstakingly and often very effectively has demonstrated, there are very serious concerns that I think should be taken into account in regard to vaccines [2].

Adverse Drug Reactions

I had better start to get down to business here, as I had indicated in my Part 1 essay [1] that Part 2 would start to deal with some of the other claims that Cernic has made about the destructive aspects of vaccines. So let's take a look at adverse drug reactions (ADRs). As conveyed by House, Cernic gave a very impactful and disturbing description of the deadly destructiveness of ADRs:

“Well over 2 million hospital patients (2,216,000) experienced a serious ADR in the USA in 1994; and quoting the researchers, '[W]e estimated that 106,000 deaths were caused by ADRs in the United States. . . . [W]e found that fatal ADRs ranked between the fourth and sixth leading cause of death.' 'Moreover, the situation is similar in the European Union, with the European Commission estimating in 2008 that there are 197,000 such death each year. . . . So in the USA, for example, in 1994, deaths from ADRs were 169 times higher than deaths from measles in the period before measles vaccination was introduced, and 4,000 times more than in the case of rubella.' Cernic concludes: 'These numbers. . . call into serious question not only a mandatory vaccination, but also the intensive vaccination campaigns and vaccination coercion in general.'” (House, p. 11)

There is not much I can add to this. Clearly Cernic and House have made their points. This is one example where Cernic very effectively has conveyed an alarming scenario, and I must agree with her (and House) that the justification for mandatory vaccinations should be carefully explored. I may be counted by House as a “pro-vaxx” person, but it is just that, in particular in the case of COVID, I believe at this point in time that there is sufficient justification for promoting the vaccinations, though I am not presently advocating that they be mandatory. However, if the COVID situation does not soon improve because not enough people are choosing to get vaccinated, then I may very well change my position about the justification for these vaccinations becoming mandatory.

But O.K. Cernic has made her point in regard to ADRs, which adds to the point she made about Big Pharma. Then again, I think she missed the boat in regard to not including any morbidity statistics, and at this point in time I don't agree with her that unvaccinated people are not a threat to public health. So let's take a look at another dominant concern that Cernic has about the widespread use of vaccines, which is the fact that adjuvants are commonly added to vaccines.

Adjuvants: The Can of Worms Is Now Opened

Mateja Cernic
Mateja Cernic

Up until now, the controversies that I have explored have not been too unruly: I have no argument with Cernic's discounting of mortality statistics to show the effectiveness of vaccines, but I take her to task for completely ignoring morbidity statistics to show the effectiveness of vaccines; I agree with Cernic about her concerns related to the ethical violations of Big Pharma, but some of her guidelines for safety and effectiveness studies have been followed by all four COVID vaccine s that have received emergency approval in the United States or parts of Europe; and I agree with Cernic that the extent of adverse drug reactions is deeply concerning, and that this should be taken into account when evaluating the safety of vaccines. But when it comes to evaluating the vaccine safety concerns regarding the use of aluminum in vaccines, the honeymoon period is over.

An adjuvant is a “vaccine component that boosts the immune response to the vaccine. Adjuvants allow for lesser quantities of the vaccine and fewer doses.” [8] It is well known that aluminum adjuvants are commonly used in vaccines, so let's start with the alarming portrayal of aluminum adjuvant safety concerns described by Cernic, once again as conveyed by House.

“She [Cernic] concludes that the evidence points to at least three risks associated with Al [aluminum] in vaccines: persistence in the body, the triggering of pathological immune responses, and its penetration into the central nervous system. . . . Thus, Al has been shown to impair both prenatal and postnatal brain development. . . . More generally, while medical and government institutions repeatedly claim that vaccine adjuvants are safe and harmless, 'In reality, adjuvents are very far from safe'—with 'their precise mechanism of action remain[ing] poorly understood.'[quote from Cernic].” (p. 13)

House then portrayed Cernic's particular concerns about these aluminum adjuventats related to children's excessive vaccine schedules:

“In terms of children's exposure, we read that US children who follow the recommended vaccine schedule (i.e. 22 vaccines by age six months) receive 2,750 mcg of Al in the first six months of life. . . . At their third regularly scheduled vaccination appointment, babies weighing approx. 5.6 kg at two months (12 pounds) receive 45-50 times more Al than what is considered safe by the FDA. The long-term consequences of such an aggressive vaccination policy have not been adequately investigated. . . . Is it a coincidence that since the sharp increase in the number of vaccines deemed to be necessary before school, 'the prevalence of neurological disorders in children in developed countries has increased by 2,000-3,000%'?. . . . and especially as 'vaccines are administered frequently during the most critical period of brain development.' [bold font as used by Cernic in all quotes in this essay series; last two quotes from a 2011 article by Tomljenovic, as cited by Cernic]” (p. 13)

And in anticipation of a particularly vicious can of vaccine worms, which is the whole autism controversy, that I will take up in Part 3 in this essay series, House conveyed the following, again quoting Cernic:

“Finally, though one must be careful not to assume causality in a simplistic positivistic way from ecological correlations, it is surely at least suggestive that 'Those countries with the highest level aluminum-adjuvanted vaccines had the highest autism rates. . . . [A 1997 research article by Bishop et al., as cited by Cernic] concluded that their research results 'provide support for our hypothesis that intravenous aluminum may have neurotoxic effects, with longer-term consequences for neurologic development.'” (p. 13)

First off, it is noteworthy that the first sentence in this quote, regarding “not to assume causality in a simplistic positivistic way from ecological correlations,” is from House, not from Cernic. To his credit, House at least includes a precaution in regard to interpreting Cernic's vaccine autism concerns, while Cernic continues to promulgate her views with virtually no concern about seriously including differing perspectives from her own. But I'm getting ahead of myself here, as this is part of the autism can of worms discussion that I will embark on in Part 3 of this essay series. All I want to do at this point is to throw some light on the “different perspectives” about the safety of aluminum adjuvants that Cernic so readily discounts. But given that I have no formal background in medicine, biochemistry, or immunology (and neither does Cernic, nor House, for that matter) I don't feel qualified to evaluate who is correct here regarding the safety and dangers of aluminum adjuvants. It would be wonderful if some Integral World readers and/or writers who do have a formal background in medicine, biochemistry, or immunology (like Andy Smith—yes this is a hint Andy!) were to decide to comment on this essay series, or better yet, write an Integral World article on their own about the pros and cons of vaccination.

At any rate, here are some relevant quotes about “different perspectives” from Cernic in regard to the safety of aluminum adjuvants [8], [9]:

“*The FDA. . . specifically addressed the issue of aluminum and vaccines due to public concern *Using the most current infant exposures and research on the pharmacokinetics of aluminum, they calculated that an infant would be exposed over the first year of life to a maximum of 4.225 mg . Based on minimal risk levels established by the ATSDR [Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry], the aluminum exposure to vaccines in the first year of life is well below this threshold . Multiple other studies have similarly validated the safety profile of aluminum in vaccines.” (ObG, p. 1)
“Aluminum adjuvant containing vaccines have a demonstrated safety profile of over six decades of use and have only uncommonly been associated with severe local reactions. A study conducted by FDA. . . determined that the risk to infants posed by the total aluminum exposure received from the entire recommended series of childhood vaccines over the first year of life is extremely low. This study provided additional scientific information confirming that the benefits of aluminum-containing vaccines administered during the first year of life outweigh any theoretical concerns about the potential effect of aluminum of infants. Of note, the most common sources of exposure to aluminum is from eating food or drinking water.” (U.S. Food & Drug Administration, p. 1)
“Multiple high-quality studies have shown that children who receive vaccines containing aluminum adjuvants neither have levels of aluminum in the blood or hair above minimum risk levels established by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, nor are they at increased risk of adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes. . . . Research showed that the body burden of aluminum following injections of aluminum-containing vaccines never exceeds safe US regulatory thresholds based on orally ingested aluminum even for low birth weight infants. The committee concluded that the model further supported other clinical trials and epidemiological studies asserting the safety of aluminum in vaccines and encouraged continued research on pharmacokinetics of aluminum in vaccines as a means of further validating and improving on the model. Although the evidence on the safety of aluminum adjuvants is overwhelmingly reassuring, public concern continues to be fueled by poorly designed studies and unwarranted extrapolation from such studies.” (Conklin et al, pp. 6-7)

I'm going to end Part 2 here (soon), as I think the aluminum adjuvant can of worms is a fitting idea of what to expect in future parts of this essay series. But to sum up my own perspective, I would say that although I feel somewhat reassured about the safety of these adjuvants (the above three quotes are just a very brief glimpse of the large amount of research that can easily be uncovered in support of the relative safety of aluminum adjuvants), I do think that Cernic has made a good point that research on this topic needs to be continued and expanded upon. Along these lines, here is some information that one can choose to take as a precaution about an aluminum adjuvant study regarding infant diet and vaccinations:

“The authors determined whether exposure to aluminum in the diet and in vaccines during the first year of life exceeded the minimal risk level (MRL) set by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). They found that the amount of aluminum received from vaccines was greater than that from dietary sources; however, this level was routinely below the MRL, with the exception of brief periods immediately following vaccination. Levels of exposure slightly above the MRL were also likely to be safe given the manner in which the MRL is calculated.” (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, p. 7, in reference to the article by Keith et al. (2002))

And finally, here is what I think is an accurate summary of what needs to be done regarding further research that has the potential to validate the safety of aluminum adjuvants:

“Human exposure to aluminum is burgeoning. . . with significant implications for human health. . . . ABAs [aluminum based adjuvants] are effective and cheap but are they safe? Confirmation of their safety remains to be addressed and will only come from further research on their biological activities at injection sites and beyond. All ABAs currently in use in vaccination and sub-cutaneous immunotherapy require further validation of their safety, which means that the manufacturer of AAHS [a sulphate salt of a particular aluminum adjuvant] should release this ABA so that its safety can be verified independently. Burgeoning knowledge regarding the biological activities of ABAs now dictates that their safety should be evaluated independently of their presence in vaccine formulations.” (Shardlow et al, p. 14)

Stay tuned for Part 3.

Notes and References

  1. See Elliot Benjamin (2021). COVID: To Get Vaccinated Or Not To Get Vaccinated: Stimulated by a Sociologist's Scholarly Anti-Vaccination Book: Part 1. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net/benjamin121.html
  2. See Mateja Cernic (2018). Ideological Constructs of Vaccination. Vega Press.
  3. See Pfizer (2021). Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers, Administering Vaccine (Vaccination Providers): Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the Pfizer-Biontech COVID-19 Vaccine to Prevent Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov; Frequently Asked Questions About Moderna "COVE" Vaccine Study (2021). Retrieved from https://www.henryford.com; Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions (2021). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov; Phase lll Doubld-blind, Placebo-controlled Study of AZD1222 for the Prevention of COVID-19 in Adults. Retrieved from https://clinicaltrials.gov
  4. See Richard House (2021). Book Review Summary: “Ontological Constructs of Vaccination” by Mateja Cernic, Ph.D. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/cernic-vacc-review
  5. See Donald W. Light, Joel Lexchin, & Jonathan J. Darrow (2013). Institutional Corruption of Pharmaceuticals and the Myth of Safe and Effective Drugs. Retrieved from www.researchgate.net
  6. I'll be discussing the nutrition and health alternative to vaccinations in regard to the fight against COVID-19 in a subsequent part of this essay series.
  7. See Isabella B. (2015). Graphical Proof that Vaccines Work (with sources). Retrieved from https://medium.com
  8. See Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (2018, p. 1). Vaccine Ingredients—Aluminum. Retrieved from https://www.chop.edu/
  9. See Laura Conkin, Anders Hvlid, Walt Orenstein, Andrew Pollard, Melinda Wharton, & Patrick Zuber (2019). Vaccine Safety Issues at the Turn of the 21st Century. Retrieved from https://www.who.int; L S. Keith, D. E. Jones, & C.- H. S. J. Chou (2002). Aluminum Toxicokinetics Regarding Infant Diet and Vaccinations. Retrieved from https://wikileaks.org; ObG 2017). Aluminum and Vaccines—The Evidence for Continuing Safety. Retrieved from https://www.obgproject.com/; Emma Sharlow, Matthew Mold, & Christopher Exley (2018). Unraveling the Enigma: Elucidating the Relationship Between the Physiochemical Properties of Aluminium-based Adjuvants and their Immunological Mechanisms of Action. Retrieved from https://aacijournal.biomedcentral.com; U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2019). Common Ingredients in U.S. Licensed Vaccines. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov






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