Field of Science

More misinformation on the flu from Mercola

As a followup to my post a few weeks ago on scare-mongering about influenza vaccines, I want to point out a beautiful dismantling of Dr. Mercola's latest nonsense by my colleagues over at Science-Based Medicine.

It seems that Mercola posted an article on his website titled "Do NOT Let Your Child Get Flu Vaccine -- 9 Reasons Why". (I'm not providing the link because I don't want to increase his web traffic, not even a tiny bit.) Not surprisingly, every single reason is wrong, misleading, stupid, or all three. As Dr. Joseph Albietz writes in his post, "There are so many mistakes, so much misinformation in so little space, it’s almost a work of art."

I don't want to repeat all of Dr. Albietz's dismantling of Mercola's bogus claims (I recommend reading his post for the full list), but I want to mention a couple, just to show how dishonest - or maybe just plain stupid - Mercola is. Here, then, are some of his reasons for not vaccinating your children:

"5. Over-vaccination is a common practice now in America. American children are subjected to 29 vaccines by the age of two."
Wrong and wrong. First, "over-vaccination" is a term invented by anti-vaccination groups. There is no evidence that you can over-vaccinate - all the vaccinations available today help to prevent infectious diseases. More vaccines simply prevent more diseases. Second, there are only 10 vaccines on the routine schedule in the U.S., not 29. Some of them require booster shots, but these are not separate vaccines. But in any case, this is irrelevant because even if there were more, the evidence shows that they are beneficial.

Mercola's sixth reason is this:

"6. Modern medicine has no explanation for autism, despite its continued rise in prevalence. Yet autism is not reported among Amish children who go unvaccinated."
This one I've seen before. Jay Gordon, well-known anti-vaccination doctor and Jenny McCarthy sidekick, said the same thing on Larry King Live last year. This too is wrong, as Dr. Albietz also pointed out. The Amish do have autism, and they do vaccinate. So this is just a complete non-sequitur. It has nothing to do with the influenza vaccine.

Perhaps the most outrageous scare-mongering is this one from Mercola:

"3. Adjuvants are added to vaccines to boost production of antibodies but may trigger autoimmune reactions. Some adjuvants are mercury (thimerosal), aluminum and squalene. Why would you sign a consent form for your children to be injected with mercury, which is even more brain-toxic than lead?"
Note the use of the incredibly hysterical phrase "brain-toxic". Scary indeed, if only it were true. But no, this is wrong, wrong, wrong. First, the tiny bit of truth: yes, adjuvants are small trace elements, including aluminum, that make vaccines more effective. Note that this allows vaccines to be effective with a smaller dose of the immune agent, and there's never been any evidence that adjuvants are harmful (they've been used in vaccines for 50 years). But there is no adjuvant in the H1N1 vaccine. That's right - so again this is a non-sequitur, since it doesn't apply to the flu vaccine. And thimerosal is not an adjuvant - it's a preservative used in multi-dose vaccine vials, to prevent bacteria from growing in those vials. So that's wrong too. But wait - there's no thimerosal in the single-dose vaccines, and there's none in FluMist (the nasal version of the vaccine) either. And even if there were, there's now a huge body of evidence (too much to summarize, but look here for a start) that thimerosal has no harmful effects whatsoever.

Mercola's scare-mongering seems designed to promote his own unscientific, unproven vitamin therapies, which he sells on his website. The webpage with his "9 reasons" also contains instructions on "How to protect yourself without dangerous drugs and vaccinations." Not suprisingly, his advice is to buy his vitamin supplements and other products.

I can't tell whether he's just ignorant or whether he's intentionally misleading people to sell his products, but either way, he's a threat to public health.


  1. Great post and I completely agree,but I was curious about your statement "there is no adjuvant in the H1N1 vaccine". Just before reading your blog I read this on the Canadian news site: "The two million doses all included a chemical booster known as an adjuvant, said Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones."

    So I was wondering who is wrong? Maybe the media got it wrong, or is the health minister using the term "adjuvant" loosely and including preservatives in with this?

  2. Actually, we could both be right. For the H1N1 vaccine used in the United States, there is no adjuvant. In Canada they might (let's assume they are) be using a formulation that contains an adjuvant. The health minister ought to know what his own country is doing!

  3. Indeed you are correct. I just assummed that the two countries would be releasing the same vaccine. Canada will be using an adjuvant in their (first round) of vaccines.

  4. Just wanted to ask for a clarification re: vaccinations in the U.S. I have a friend who says that in Europe, children receive less vaccinations than in the U.S.. For example, they do not generally vaccinate for children for the chicken pox and the flu vaccine is also rarer. Though not an anti-vaccine advocate, she is concerned that by vaccinating for these two things, one is not giving the immune system anything to fight against and therefore, long term, it is better to forego those particular vaccines (for illnesses which do not represent significant risks of death or public health problems) and let the immune system fight these illnesses and become stronger. Does this make sense? How do the US and Europe compare in terms of vaccines for children and what is the reasoning behind any differences? Thanks.

  5. Anon: Europe doesn't have a single policy - every country has its own schedule, shown at this link. I can't pretend to be an expert on the reasoning behind all these various policies.

    However, there's no evidence that forgoing any one vaccination makes the immune system "stronger". Our immune system has the ability to recognize thousands (possibly millions) of different infections, and showing it a few more (by vaccinations) doesn't affect it one way or another. What it does, though, is protect you against the disease.

    And it's not true that chicken pox is risk-free. Although rare, complications do occur - in children - including encephalitis (about 1 in 4000 cases). I see no downside to getting the vaccine and a definite risk, albeit a small one, in withholding the vaccine from children.

  6. ...I believe the H1N1 in Germany (?Europe?)also contains adjuvants...would be interesting to see which countries use H1N1 with adjuvants versus those that use H1N1 without (right now I can only think of the US).

  7. That's correct. But let's not forget that the "anti-adjuvant" argument is bogus to begin with. There is no evidence that adjuvants are harmful. In fact, I think they are helpful: the evidence shows that the produce a more robust immune response with lower amounts of the immunogenic agent (the killed virus). This in turn allows us to produce more vaccine doses more quickly - something that we really could use right now in the U.S., where the H1N1 vaccine is in very short supply. I'm trying to get it myself, and in my local community there are no shots currently available.

  8. The Swine Flu vaccine killed 25 people and injured thousands in 1976. What more information does any rational person need to understand the dangerous and downright evil greed of the drug companies that must continually generate new, unproven, unsafe and barely effective drugs in order to meet Wall Streets expectations every quarter? We have just witnessed the largest scam ever on the American taxpayer when our Government gave billions of our money to Wall Street and you guys can't see through this Swine Flu scam? This strange hybrid disease was made in a lab in order to sell more drugs. You have a better chance of dying from Tuberculosis. Wake up people!

  9. I don't know whose Koolaid you're drinking, but why do you believe whatever sources you're getting this from? I've personally done detailed analysis - along with my colleagues - of the genetic sequence of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza virus, and it is very clear that it is a mixture (called a "reassortment") of two previously-existing swine flu strains. It likely arose in a large pig farm in Mexico. There's no evidence that it was "made in a lab" - that's a wacky theory that was pushed, with no evidence, by a cranky old Australian scientist back in the summer, and was quickly refuted. But I guess once these things come up, various unscientific sources keep repeating them, despite the lack of evidence. Sigh.

  10. Mom of kids with AsthmaNovember 2, 2009 at 7:31 PM

    I just found your site. Wow, glad you are out here. I don't know how I found Mercola's site but was a little shocked by the adjuvant comment myself.

    My kids have had the flu, and with asthma its nasty. Steroids, antibiotics, motrin, lung x-rays. I will be vaccinating my children as soon as I can get the vaccine.

    The evidence to me is clear, a miniscule risk of complications with the vaccine vs. a huge risk of complications if they contract the flu. I feel bad for the children whose parents will read and believe "Snake Oil salesmen" like Mercola.

    Why do some people find it so much easier to believe a conspiracy with no evidence, rather than factual data?

  11. I'd like to comment on the inclusion of adjuvants in the Canadian version of the H1N1 shot. We currently have 50 million+ doses on order or available, and our version has AS03, an oil-in-water adjuvant commonly called squalene. There has been concern that those injected with it may contract Gulf War Syndrome, Guillain-Barre syndrome, or become arthritic if there was a history of arthritis in the family. I've been reading Health Canada's website where clinical studies have been completed (to this point), and it appears that the risk of contracting any of the above is small enough to question if there is any linkage at all to the adjuvant. But time will tell. I tried to post the link to the Health Canada website and the full description of Arepanrix, but I wasn't able to do it here. Sorry.

  12. more pharm goons... hey check this out

    Seems Sharyl Attkisson, CBS corresponent and investigative reporter, blew the whistle on the bogus allegations of H1N1. She sure made the CDC and all you pharm pushers look dumb. But hey, poke away, it's not my body....

    PS I know, I know, the dumb witch was prob. paid off by mercola.

  13. Goodstew1: HAHAHAHAHA! Wait a sec - you weren't kidding? But your message was wrong in so many ways, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

    Sheryl Attkisson is claiming that anonymous sources have told her that the CDC is trying to stop counting H1N1 flu cases - so they can cover something up. She then goes on and on (in her interview with Mercola) and her main point is that the majority of "supposed swine flu" cases aren't flu at all.

    Wrong on both counts, Sheryl. First of all, CDC is counting, and they put all their data on their website, which you could have checked in about one minute. Look here and you'll find it. Apparently that's too much trouble, or too complicated, for Atkisson, who says in this video, "People would be shocked to know how hard it is to get their hands on" this information. Hey, Sheryl, do you know how to use a mouse? A web browser? If so, you can see that last week the CDC tested 10,803 cases, of which 3106 were positive for flu, and 2468 had H1N1 pandemic flu.

    Second, she makes a huge deal about how few cases turn out to be flu when tested. Hello??? All of us in the influenza research community have known for years - for many years - that most people who turn up with flu-like symptoms don't have flu. Atkisson makes it sounds like 30% positive is a truly shocking finding, when it is completely routine. She keeps repeating such tripe as "80% of people diagnosed with swine flu don't actually have it" - wrong again! There are simple, highly accurate tests for swine flu - nearly 100% accurate - but informal guesses that someone might have flu, without a test, are not a diagnosis of swine flu.

    So who is "pharm pusher" now? I don't sell anything. Mercola, by contrast, will happily sell you countless remedies, most of them completely ineffective, for flu and for all sorts of other ailments. He's a classic snake-oil salesman.

  14. Correcting the link in the above message, which didn't work: the CDC weekly flu surveillance report is at

  15. What do you mean his vitamin theory is unscientific? Didn't you read the news? Vitamin D (lack of) now linked to cancer, arthritis and many other ailments.

    And CDC admitted to miscarriages causes by H1N1 Flu vaccines. Also in the news.

  16. Ah.....are you going to respond to the last two comments Steve????

  17. Anon: no, I don't have time to respond. These posters are just making stuff up, and there's an infinite variety of ways they can do that. It's not worth it (and not possible) to respond to every invented claim.


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