The 2014 book Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, & the Forgotten History follows an unusual format, as authors Suzanne Humphries and Roman Bystrianyk state up-front. They quote evidence from many historical and medical-literature sources, grouped by subject and date, and provide very little opinion, introduction, or conclusions. This allows informed readers to compare opposing statements and to draw their own conclusions. I would add that having a medical degree and working knowledge of modern physiology and immunology are almost a prerequisite as well.
If you require an entertaining introduction to a failed experiment of medical history depicting demons and heroes, this is probably not the book for you. If you are a practicing MD or an informed parent with doubts, you have struck gold.
I am an adjunct college professor of ecology, botany, and farming, and acknowledge I found several sections to be difficult. I must also proclaim the great reward of my having stuck to it. Whenever I encountered the proverbial paragraph with five new, undefined terms, I slowed down my reading, then thought it through, then re-read the section, and this always worked.
As the authors also suggest, at the heart of the work are meticulous original graphs showing annual population rates, reactions, and deaths throughout history for each communicable disease. There are about 50 original graphs plotted from real historical actuarial data. Regrettably, many of the multiple-line graphs are illegible, having been drawn in color with drop shadows but reproduced in grayscale. The bright side is that by going to DissolvingIllusions.com, you can easily see and/or print out any and all graphs for which the book’s smaller-scale gray fails to make clear.
This book was written to be a quotable, cogent source of technical information, rather than to elucidate some theme or idea or to resolve an issue. It is consequently hard to provide a short, adequate review in the usual sense. I will summarize some of the major conclusions to which a reader may reasonably come, having carefully weighed the wealth of published facts and conflicting opinions.
First, I would love to be able to explain the immune system gleaned from reading 500 pages of amazingly detailed medicine, but the authors are very clear that nobody yet comes close to such an understanding. Bruce Goldman writes in his 2011 Stanford Medicine article “The Bodyguard: Tapping the Immune System’s Secrets”: “It is staggeringly complex, comprising at least 15 different cell-types that spew dozens of different molecules into the blood to communicate with one another and to do battle. Within each of those cell types sit tens of thousands of genes whose activity can be altered by age, exercise, infection, vaccination status, diet, stress, you name it. ... That’s an awful lot of moving parts. And we don’t know what the vast majority of them do, or should be doing. ... We can’t even be sure how to tell when the immune system’s not working right, let alone why not, because we don’t have good metrics of what a healthy human immune system looks like. Despite billions spent on immune stimulants in supermarkets and drugstores last year, we don’t know what – if anything – those really do, or what ‘immune stimulant’ even means.”
This admitted confusion of medical decision-making itself stands in stark contrast to the decisive tones one hears on weekly news reports, where vaccines are always touted as a victory of immune science over herbs and quacks. In this book the authors first take the approach: What is the actual history of immunity success, how is it measured, and whence does such clear certainty arise? In summarizing case histories, graphs of 14 contagious diseases are drawn. These histories begin well before vaccines were used, and show improvements from nutrition and sanitation practices unrelated to shots.
Official certainty and confidence in vaccines seemed to increase about the time when many governments intervened in personal medical choices. At that time, vaccine policies seemed rather to naturally accompany the new standards in sanitation and safety also being legislated. Real doubt-removal and compulsory treatments then gathered steam when medical decisions became attached to private power and corporate success. But to achieve the degree of cultural myth currently held by the practice of vaccination clearly required more than a simple misreading of conflicting history.
At this contentious point, many of my (and your?) relatives are given sudden voice: Don’t you even know about smallpox and polio? Thus the authors begin their book with quotes from the history of smallpox – the oldest organized, deliberate intervention in personal immunity in the name of prevention. Here, lacking space for the quotes from 200 pages of thorough treatment, I assure you the graphs clearly show that as the vaccination rates increased, the cases of smallpox did not drop, nor did the death rate of those infected.
In three detailed chapters, we find out how even Edward Jenner’s famous cow-pox-virus vaccine in 1798 was never compared by any large intervention trials, and the sources of its principal viral components were almost completely uncontrolled from batch to batch. Instead of protecting the public by imposing standards on vaccine manufacture, the British government imposed increasingly stringent penalties on parents for failure to vaccinate their children, imprisoning parents who refused to pay large fines for noncompliance.
During every smallpox outbreak, many fully vaccinated people died and were also seen by the public to infect other victims. After a particularly severe outbreak of smallpox occurred in 1872, the industrial town of Leicester announced it had had enough. On March 23, 1885, the citizenry held “The Great Demonstration,” making present-day displays of government disapproval appear pale by comparison. Citizens came from all over, including Ireland and Scotland, and everyone marched around Leicester most of the day. The half-million citizens then voted out of power their town government, and replaced it with one that created a smallpox safety system: Laws were passed that made vaccination voluntary, and that established a rapid notification and quarantine system, including specially trained personnel and comfortable quarantine facilities for anyone exposed to the index (initial) case.
The people of Leicester became world-famous for this action and grand predictions were made of success or failure, as people chose sides as if for a sporting event. Articles in The (London) Times faithfully reported each controversial step, while the New York Times routinely sided with the vaccine enthusiasts, in 1914 calling the people of Leicester fools and predicting horrible outbreaks with massive infant deaths: “Those who openly oppose vaccination ... are taking a heavy responsibility on their souls.”
In the meantime, the virus itself, as with most of the other 13 diseases under the influence of better sanitation and nutrition, was becoming more benign. This is clearly demonstrated in the graphs of dropping yearly fatalities, coinciding with falling vaccination rates. In 1912, 60 years after the start of the Leicester rebel experiment, J.T. Biggs wrote “Leicester: Sanitation Versus Vaccination,” a well-researched summary quoted by Humphries and Bystrianyk. Not only had the predicted horror of mass death been averted, but the yearly smallpox death toll had dropped to zero for the town’s population. Biggs also concluded that the random smallpox-like infections directly caused by the vaccination survivors had been the main source of infection of infants and children, so when vaccination ceased, overall health and infection rates improved.
Did the vaccine enthusiasts even notice from this widely publicized example that they had bet on the wrong horse? In 1980, in Volume 24 of Medical History, Stuart M. Fraser wrote: “Leicester stands as an example, probably the first, where measures other than total reliance on vaccination were introduced successfully to eradicate a disease from a community.” Other authors pointed out that, systematically, medical-text authors just could not let go of the idea that infant vaccination solved everything, despite no demonstration, ever, of its value rising above the evidence of its numerous side effects.
Dissolving Illusions next systematically takes us on the long journeys of improving illnesses for polio, whooping cough, and measles. Graphs show most of the improving story, as diseases become less infectious and deadly. Approximately 98 percent of this improvement came before the corresponding vaccines were ever available, but that never daunted the enthusiasts from claiming full credit, post hoc, for improved conditions.
The whole polio story takes many particularly devious turns, where much, perhaps most, of the causes for paralysis were initially unrelated to the actual poliomyelitis virus. In 1954, on arrival of the Salk vaccine, the disease was immediately completely redefined almost out of existence. Early polio medical treatment apparently was far more damaging than the disease, with anesthesia and rigid casts put on children, who were allowed to scream in pain for up to several days. Through the considerable efforts of Sister Elizabeth Kenny, who administered almost the exact opposite treatments, it was later found and admitted that the early treatment caused the nervous control of their muscles to perish forever. Doctors who employed vitamin C and physical therapy reported zero paralyses.
There are so many causes for “polio” paralysis that it would take a page to list them here, but only the virus is now recognized by the redefinition. From examining Figure 12.4 on page 249, you may realize that much of the paralysis outbreak in the period between 1940 and 1955 was actually due to acute arsenic or DDT exposure from untested pesticides, mostly on farms. After the redefinition, including much more rigorous criteria for the diagnosis of “polio,” pesticide paralysis has continued, but it no longer had any effect on the records of “the new vaccine-cured polio” cases. Outside the U.S., where DDT is widely sold and used, any news of human paralysis simply threatens our precious export markets.
The horrible “iron lung” polio cases, rather than being solved by vaccine, were also cleanly swept under the definition rug. On page 241 of Dissolving Illusions, the authors make a rare summarizing statement: “Does the public have any idea that there are hundreds of cases of something that is now called transverse myelitis that would have historically been called polio and is now leaving children permanently dependent on a modern version of the iron lung?” Polio virus continues to infect today, but like the other illnesses has become almost benign.
One fascinating problem has been identified, described in connection with the problematic vaccination for pertussis (whooping cough). When a youngster first gets the wild infection, B. pertussis, the bacteria attach to bronchial cells and secrete a compound abbreviated as ACT, which fools the immune system into a false truce. After a few weeks of coughing, the system wakes up to the deception and forms a remembered response, which then completely heals the infection. Any future infection is met by this immunity, which typically lasts about 30 years. Enter the vaccine form of the bacterium, sans ACT. The immune system now develops a different, permanent set of responses, minus the knowledge of ACT. Now every new infection with wild or vaccine-strain pertussis produces the same prolonged ACT phase, and, contrary to the contention of Mr. Bush, you do get fooled again and again. This is called Original Antigen Sin, or OAS, meaning the first time is all you get to get it right. So what? Pertussis is now a mostly undiagnosed adult disease, with adult carriers infecting everybody, endemically, instead of a once-will-do-it childhood disease.
If you have no medical training and get this far in the book, you may find yourself feeling stressed and frequently washing your hands in response to the emotional impacts of all this truth. In any case, chapters 15 and 16 on nutrition and evidence for natural remedies will certainly bring cheer and relief. Histories show malnutrition and particularly deficiency conditions such as scurvy increased the severity of all these contagious pathogens. Cases are presented showing prevention and cure by supplementing vitamin C, several intramuscular doses of 1,000 milligrams per day. Vitamin D supplementation was often curative for those bacterial diseases, and true vitamin A (retinol, not beta carotene) for viral diseases. One intriguing case found a shipload of sailors all contracting typhus yet without a single loss by implementing the repeated administration of cinnamon.
Having held my proverbial breath for some summary judgment, on page 479 come the authors’ last words: “The reality ... is that vaccinology, as portrayed to the public today, amounts to writing religion on the back of ignorance.”
This article originally appeared in the fall 2014 issue of Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, & the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WestonAPrice.org).