5 badly informed opinions about vaccines

5 badly informed opinions about vaccines

Initially, I wanted to create a comic about the influenza (flu) vaccine.

My goal was to convince you that this vaccine is effective, safe and essential to modern society. Because that’s what I think.

But by doing this, I would have skipped steps … because before trusting the flu vaccine, you must first trust vaccines.

You’ve probably heard of some public figures’ efforts to limit vaccination in the USA:

jenny mccarthy vaccines

But they’re not the only ones. All over the world, tons of people are opposed to vaccines. Many of them are intelligent, highly educated people who seem to know the topic extremely well. Some of them are even healthcare professionals, including physicians.

So, who should you believe? I can easily understand why you’re confused when you hear stuff like:

  • “Vaccines cause autism!”
  • “Vaccines are released on the market before we know they’re safe!”
  • “The diseases we vaccinate against are long gone!”

There’s much to do to put the record straight.

So the flu vaccine will have to wait for another comic. In the meantime, let’s start from the beginning.

Translation by Olivier Bernard, proofreading by Lauren Knight.

5 badly informed opinions about vaccines

Live attenuated and inactivated vaccine

Subunit and conjugate vaccine

The great paradox of vaccination

Poliomyelitis , measles , meningitis and preventable diseases

Vaccines are not 100% safe , but nothing is

Making vaccines isn't even good business for big pharma

There is no single scientific evidence that vaccines systematically cause autism

The Wakefield study , thimerosal and aluminum adjuvants

Homeopathic vaccines , gluten-free diet ... nothing can replace a vaccine

Open letter to people and parents worried about vaccines

Open letter to the anti-vaccine lobby



34 responses to “5 badly informed opinions about vaccines

  1. References:

    – Types of vaccines: http://www.vaccines.gov/more_info/types/

    – About the inactivated flu vaccine: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/flu.html; there’s also a live, intranasal flu vaccine which requires more precaution as stated in the comic: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/flulive.html

    – The ages mentioned for the administration of the different vaccines are based on the Quebec Immunisation Program, so it may vary from one region to another: http://sante.gouv.qc.ca/en/programmes-et-mesures-daide/programme-quebecois-d-immunisation/

    – Risk of an allergic reaction associated with each vaccine: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects.htm

    – The Wakefield paper retracted by The Lancet: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(97)11096-0/abstract

    – There’s solid evidence that vaccines don’t cause autism: https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/still-no-association-between-mmr-and-autism/

    – The “Fraud at CDC – MMR vaccine causes autism” story was thoroughly debunked: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2015/08/05/the-cdc-whistleblower-william-thompson-appears-to-have-gone-full-antivaccine/

    – A meta-analysis finds no link between the vaccines, mercury (thiomersal), aluminum and autism: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24814559

    – Aluminum can be found in a variety of foods: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp22-c6.pdf

    – Health Canada warns against the use of homeopathic nosodes, which essentially are fake, inefficient vaccines; “No homeopathic product should be promoted as an alternative to vaccines because there are no substitutes for vaccines”: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodnatur/about-apropos/info_homeo-eng.php

    – How many vaccines is too much? Theoretically, a child could receive 10000 vaccines: http://www.quackwatch.com/03HealthPromotion/immu/too_many.html

    – Vaccines do not weaken the immune system, they strengthen it: https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/boost-your-immune-system/

  2. There’s a sentence still in French in the part about meningitis.
    I read your French website but it’s great to discover your comics again in English.

  3. This is vital information and the truth.

  4. Excellent article! Simple enough for even the most rabid pro-diseaser to understand, I hope!

    • Let’s hope so 🙂
      But more realistically, I hope to help those who have doubts, fear and/or a misunderstanding of vaccines forge an informed opinion.

      Those who’ve already taken a firm stance against vaccines and refuse to challenge their assumptions… I’m afraid I can’t do anything for them.

      Thanks Trisha !


  5. …and even if it turns out to be true that vaccines can cause serious medical conditions, would you rather have an autistic/etc. child, or a marker in a graveyard? (Of course, that doesn’t mean that vaccines shouldn’t be tested carefully for safety.)

    • Hi Keith !

      That’s true. Here’s another way of looking at it: if there’s an increased risk for some adverse event with a vaccine, how large is the increase and how does compare the risk of being infected with the actual disease / experiencing complications?

      As an example, let’s say a vaccine increases the risk of a neurologic problem from 1% (risk in the general population) to 2% (with the vaccine). It’s a minor difference, especially considering that the vaccine is administered only once or twice. But some would say it DOUBLES the risk, which sounds scary.

      But what about the disease itself? If it’s potentially lethal and spread over a lifetime (like most diseases we vaccinate against), the very small risk of a neurologic problem may be acceptable.

      Thanks for your comment !


  6. Hello,

    My Wife is French Canadian and has showed me your English version of the website she has been reading. Love the site. It’s informative and funny.

    Keep up the good work!

    • I find your comment irritating.
      “… very small risk of a neurologic problem may be acceptable.”
      Clearly you’re not a parent of autistic child.
      To put it in to perspective: there’s a perfectly healthy child (physically, neurological, etc) which may never be in contact with serious disease the entire life, and it’s ok if he/she become potentially disabled and dependable of someone else for the rest of his/her life as result of vaccin side effect, but it’s wrong if he/she died as a result of disease that may never happen to him/her. And even with vaccine there’s no 100% guarantee, as the new strain may develop, and there will be another vaccine and another… more potential side effects with each.
      In your comment your trying to weight probabilities and treat people as numbers not living beings.
      This looks like commercial article written for marketing purposes to sell more vaccines – as mentioned in article “vaccines is shitty business”.
      Wonder if author will publish my comment or change/delete as harming business interests of this article.

      • If your child develops autism, do not presume that they were perfectly healthy beforehand. Most of the vaccines would have been given before 18 months of age, but an official autism diagnosis can’t typically be made until 18-24 months of age. They may have seemed “normal” before that point, but they were likely already showing the beginnings of symptoms, but not strongly enough for a doctor to diagnose it as such.

      • Sir, I’m autistic. I have spent a lot of my life with people with neurological issues of all stripes and learning issues and you want to know what we are beyond tired of hearing? That vaccines made us “this way”. Do you have any idea how insulting it is to hear what amounts “to yeah my kid could die, but worse he could be like you. I don’t want that for him.” I would vaccinate and endorse vaccination to anyone and everyone I could even if it could cause autism, because my lifes not perfect but it’s pretty damn cool! The Anti-Vax Movement needs to stop using the “Disabled” as their Personal Boogeymen.

  7. Glasses dude is wrong, that is not a Venn diagram. Doing a slightly different job than a true Venn Diagram, but even if you allow it (which one could make a case for) it needs a square drawn around it.

    • thepharmafist

      The guy with the glasses is me! I’m no mathematician, but from what I gather it looks OK:

      “The intersection of two sets A and B is the set of elements common to A and B”

      But hey, maybe it’s not a true Venn diagram. I like to be challenged on that sort of things anyway!

  8. Hi there, what a great article!
    Just one query, in the types of vaccines examples you include the MMR in the ‘live attenuated vaccine’ classification but then say the ‘Flu vaccine’ is the only one that is in this category & therefore the only disease you are at risk of developing.
    I’m a tad confused as to which type of vaccine MMR is?
    Just so I can make sure I have it right when clipping AV’ers around the head, I mean explaining how vaccines work to the non believers.

    • Hi Fiona!
      What I mean is that the only vaccine that could theoretically cause the disease is it supposed to protect against, is the live inactivated one. Flu vaccine or any other in that category.
      Thanks for asking!

  9. Another great comic, please keep up the good work!

  10. A good example of how poor pseudo research is which suggests a link between vaccination and autism is this. It’s actually a very useful piece of work in another way though, helping students understand how to identify poor research. See how many flaws you can spot.

  11. Ellen Losew, MD, FAAP

    The syringe talking about vaccines being released before we know they’re safe is immediately followed with “It’s true, vaccines are not 100% safe.”
    This makes it appear that it is true they’re released before we know their safety profiles. I think a short statement about the rigorous testing of vaccines prior to release and even recommendation would be helpful. Maybe also mention continuing safety studies (old rotavirus vaccine?).
    Great article and this pediatrician will be sharing it.

  12. “Thimerosal” is hard to find in vaccines anymore!

  13. I LOVE this comic! I work as a Public Health Educator, so I feel very strongly about the importance of vaccines and general herd immunity. Just curious though, is there a reason why you didn’t include toxoid vaccines along with the other types of vaccines? Because I believe the toxoid vaccine is responsible for the tetanus and diphtheria in the Tdap, and the subunit vaccine is responsible for the pertussis protection. That was my understanding while I was studying it.

  14. One thing I would add to the first part would be to indicate which type of vaccine is currently used when creating the flu vaccine. You indicate that it isn’t the live attenuated type, but don’t go any further. Also, you might want to explain why some people feel not so great a few days after getting a vaccine and why that’s not a bad thing.

  15. Great article!

    I would suggest a paragraph about thimerosal making vaccines heat stable for developing nations without reliable refrigeraton. In the US and Canada refrigeration is widely available and thimerosal is a non-issue.

    Thank you very much for broadcasting this vitally important information.

    Best Regards,
    Rob Oelhaf, MD, FAAEM, FACEP, FASAM

  16. Thoughts on the schedule and how many there is now as opposed to say 1984? My children were vaccinated, now they each have a child. And when I first saw the schedule and how many are given at each well child visit it flipped me out! I’m probably wrong, but shouldn’t we wait until their little immune systems get a chance to evolve somewhat? Hepatitis B at birth? New one to me. I’m 54 yrs. old and have had no vaccines since I was in Jr. High maybe. And tetanus is a virus? I’m worried about my grandkids. I read a book called Dr. Mary’s Monkey about the polio vaccine and SV40. Which of course has me questioning everything that might be injected to me or grandkids. Don’t belittle me inform me. Thank you in advance.💙

    • Hi Amy!

      Thanks for these excellent questions! I completely understand how parents can be worried when they see their children get several vaccines simultaneously or very close to each other. And you are correct: many vaccines may seem to be injected prematurely or to be inappropriate in very young children.

      We very seldom hear about how the vaccination schedule came up and the rationale that’s behind it. That’s unfortunate, because the vaccination schedule is actually based on evidence regarding both when and which vaccines should be administered. Vaccines are studied for a long time before they are released on the market (10-15 years usually), and during these trials the researchers assess what is the best age to receive a given vaccine. The idea is to administer a vaccine quite some time before the child has a chance to be in contact with the preventable disease.

      Hepatitis B is a good example: in Quebec, the chiuld receives the vaccine at 2 and 4 months of age. Most children have a low risk of acquiring the disease, but receiving the vaccine at an early age makes it more likely that they will develop lifelong resistance to the disease. By comparison, adults respond significantly less to most vaccines, resulting in a less-than-ideal protection.

      Most people think that vaccines interferes with the child’s immune system and I totally get that feeling. But we forget that kids are constaly exposed to aggression by bacteria and viruses, especially when playing. Think about what a baby put in his mouth and you’ll know what I mean 🙂 Vaccines are actually the only real way to “boost” the immune system, and it does so in a very natural way: by introducing a pathogen weak enough not to be threatening, but in a way that it’ll still stimulate the production of antibodies.

      I’m not lucky enough to have kids yet (although we’re trying!), so I can’t even begin to imagine how it is to care for your grandchildren! What I know for sure, however, is that vaccination is a safe process. It’s been around for a very long time and the safety of vaccines is reassessed on a constant basis. But more importantly, among all medical treaments available today, vaccines may be the most effective of all.

      Thanks again for sharing this with me and for the thoughtful questions.

      Take care,


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  18. I think I saw this last year, but forgot about it. Have been sharing widely (again) because it is so good.

    And I LOOOOVE the way you have drawn Make Me Rich Andy.

  19. Quick correction – 2nd dose of MMR is 4-6 years, not 18m.

  20. Really enjoyed this! I work in preventive HIV vaccine research, trying to discover a vaccine that will protect against HIV infection. You might want to update your “types of vaccines” section, because there are also “Virus-Like Particles” vaccines, with the Gardasil HPV vaccine as an example. VLP’s have the same shape as the real disease-causing virion, but are essentially empty shells. There’s lots of info online, but here’s a good reference as a starting point:

    • thepharmafist

      Many thanks Gail! I didn’t know about this new type. I’ll add a note for my next update 🙂

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