Misinformation continues to infect the internet. Recently, a retired nurse and prolific YouTuber Dr John Campbell hits new depths of disinformation about vaccination, this time specifically targeting people with MS. As someone with MS I feel very strongly about this. He tries to convince us that he is revealing something new and important, but it’s yet more of the sensationalised scaremongering nonsense which is sadly so successful on You Tube. First, a little background.
Anti science is growing
Dr Joe Mercola leads the worlds anti vaccine publicists and makes huge profits from selling supplements, (Big Nutra) some of which helps fund other anti vaxxers. The USA even have antivaxx crank RFK jnr seeking to become the Democrat nominee for President. Misinformation in the USA is sadly mainstream and made evident in the rise of Trump’s post truth delusional world.
Compared with that, it might seem we are far more sensible in the UK, but we are not immune from mind bending nonsense. This time, Dr Campbell is at it again in a video called “Vaccination and Multiple Sclerosis” which has been viewed by an astonishing 930,000 people and liked by 44,000 from his 2.8 million subscribers. Thats a huge amount of what I call ‘Reverse Education’.
Given this, I watched the 20 minute clip with increasing incredulity. In one simple video he makes so many mistakes, each one amplified 930,000 times, and no doubt shared on, making it very significant. That potentially leaves a large number of people basing their thinking and their health decisions on nonsense. Mistake is a very kind word for his post. Let’s look at why.
Vaccines, MS and hyperbole
His errors start with his first spoken sentence. He suggests the paper on which he bases his video comes from the WHO who have issued a ‘press release’ that vaccination can cause MS. They haven’t. He calls it an “official WHO paper”. It isn’t. It is simply a paper included in the WHO database which pulls together all relevant SarsCov2 research.
The information he refers to has been published in a MS journal supplement in abstract form and is simply a method of sharing ideas. It was one of thousands of posters displayed at a conference called ECTRIMS 2022, the European wide meeting of MS experts who discuss anything and everything to do with the illness. In other words, it’s not a ‘paper’, it’s not new and its not from the WHO. Thats just the start.
He repeats the mistake with growing hyperbole, claiming the paper is “quite an admission from the WHO”. Again, it really isn’t. He embellishes his claims by claiming to have looked after “many hundreds of patients with MS”. As an ex A+E nurse, then a nurse educator, I have no idea what his role with MS patients would have been.
He goes on to tell his viewers the main feature of MS is progressive paralysis, the common and simplistic view of MS which Im afraid shows he really hasen’t done his background reading. I feel disappointed that he should use his nursing qualifications to embellish his online misinformation and potentially harm people living with MS.
In reality, the WHO specifically state that inclusion of studies in their database does not mean they endorse them in any way. In other words, the WHO themselves didn’t actually say anything.
He then suggests the paper is being ‘taken down’ and censored. It hasn’t. Its published in Multiple Sclerosis Journal, deep in a supplement relating to the conference. He repeats that the WHO are ‘admitting’ that SarsCOV2 vaccines can cause auto-immune phenomena and describes his analysis as a pretty ‘big breakthrough’ and ‘groundbreaking’. They don’t and it isn’t. That he does this over and over clearly shows his deep antipathy for the WHO, outraged that a global organisation dare make global recommendations for global problems!! Shock Horror again! Thats another story. Back to MS.
What the research really shows…
The poster itself wonders if vaccination may ‘induce‘ MS and he confuses this to mean that vaccination can cause MS. They discuss two cases of people who were diagnosed with MS shortly after vaccination. The authors, in the abstract, begin by stating that vaccinations are safe and effective- he fails to mention this.
In a nutshell, MS is an autoimmune condition which is thought to be caused by a combination of susceptible genes with infection by EBV infection (glandular fever) in adolescence, the risks of which are increased by adverse lifestyles. In that sense, it can be “induced” by mental or physical stress, infection or the simple passage of time. Induction means ‘to bring on” – totally different from ‘being caused by’. Induction of labour brings on birth, it doesn’t cause the pregnancy. It really is that simple and daft a misunderstanding on Johns part.
Comparison to COVID19 infection
He missed the fact that the paper itself states that although transient autoimmune phenomena may be caused by vaccination, it occurs to a far lower extent than natural infection. Nor did he mention that the abstracts author has expressed disappointment that anti vaxxers are using his paper in this way, stating that he ‘hopes the usefulness of vaccines will not be questioned by his observations as there is no doubt that the risks for triggering MS are higher with the natural infection”
Fact checkers check facts!
He derides the fact checkers who have been busily debunking his claims, telling his readers that they are not needed as ‘we can ‘think for ourselves‘. I wonder why? He might have suggested that critical thinking is actually a good thing- indeed is the basis of scientific discourse – but instead instructing his followers that he is of course, completely right and they are completely wrong. Indeed, think for yourself, but as always in science, look for counter arguments. Be sceptical. In social media, be very sceptical indeed.
It gets worse…
He goes on to highlight another paper showing that MS can be diagnosed after vaccination, this time in five cases. Again, he misrepresents the paper and misleads the viewer with his typical ‘Why of Why’ style of innuendo that ‘something should have been done if they knew about this’. He fails to share what the authors of this paper actually wrote, and I quote:
“Based on these cases we cannot conclude whether vaccination represents a trigger in an otherwise predisposed or pre-symptomatic MS phase versus a purely spurious result as a consequence of vaccination in a very large proportion of the population, where incident cases occur independent of vaccination.” Absolutely! They go on….
“Further systematic research is needed to clarify a possible underlying association between mRNA COVID-19 vaccination and the onset of MS. The overall benefits of COVID-19 vaccination, however cannot be understated, and although these cases represent interesting findings they remain relatively rare occurrences and should not dissuade vaccine use in the general population or even in the MS population.”
If you’re in a hole, stop digging….
But he doesn’t. The next paper he highlights shows that T cells induced by vaccination show a cross reactivity with myelin proteins, but fails to either find out or reveal that this was known before the pandemic. In other words, finding T cell clones, those identical armies of immune police cells, that cross react with coronavirus proteins is not new, or surprising. It may be the basis of how some infections reveal or worsen MS.
He suggests that this cross reactivity can cause MS, but any reading of the scientific literature reveals the that cross reactivity may not be able to induce disease, its significance is far from clear and cross reactivity has functions of which we are not yet aware.
So he has not properly read the papers he was broadcasting or he is lying. Or both. He attempts to manufacture outrage and is clearly playing to his now ever more misinformed audience. ‘Why weren’t we warned of these risks’; he moans! Why? Because they are associations – none of the authors of the papers he so misrepresents is suggesting that vaccination causes MS.
Early diagnosis is the real message
The papers actually suggest that new neurological phenomena after vaccination may reveal MS and should not be seen as an isolated vaccine phenomena – at worst, a trigger for the diagnosis to be made in the rare cases this happens. This is actually the important message.
If you have any neurological symptoms after a vaccination or infection, its worth seeking medical advice. Early diagnosis and treatment is critically important for MS, so don’t just assume symptoms are vaccine side effects, it may be new onset MS and needs addressing urgently. Its also important to remember we are talking about tiny numbers here.
For those who have MS, any neurological symptoms after infection or vaccination need investigating to ensure that MS is not more active that it might have seemed. Treatment might need to be changed, or started, and a brain healthy lifestyle emphasised.
Studies show that vaccines are safe in people with MS and when weighed against the risks of COVID19 are definitely a good idea for anyone with MS or indeed any other autoimmune problem. Indeed, this study shows that not only are vaccines are not associated with significant autoimmunity, they actually protect against it – a finding that is very reassuring: The authors conclude:
“..we found that mRNA vaccination was not associated with the development of new autoantibody responses to the extracellular proteome in stark contrast to SARS-CoV-2 infection.”
Of course, those with an anti vaccine bias have been trying to scare people away from the vaccine by using whatever information they can trawl from the millions of papers written on COVID. This sort of data dredging can reveal whatever you want to find, but has to be balanced against the entirety of data available, something JC simply does not do.
The Naked Emperor
So for me this is date corruption is taken to the extreme by John Campbells posts. He is earning a small fortune from a popular channel which despite its reasonable beginnings, has morphed into a far more profitable but far more mind damaging experience for those who can’t or don’t want to see its many mistakes, and misrepresentations. I hope this helps people not to get conned by bad science, however plausible it may look.
For most people with MS, vaccination will be a simple choice to make. I had my primary course with the AZO vaccine then two mRNA boosters. For those on Disease Modifying Treatments, vaccination may be recommended more frequently and you will need the help of your MS team to work out the best choices. A few will not want vaccination, that is personal choice, but with the help of the likes of Campbell, poor health choices can be made on the foundation of bad information which has its origin in bad faith. Bad medicine!
For those who want to find out more, I recommend Prof Giovanonni’s website, MS Selfie, the MS Trust or the MS Society.You can also log on to CONNECT PLUS, an app developed in Torbay which has plenty of input from Dr Agne Straukienne a brilliant local consultant Neurologist.
There is more on John Campbell’s bad broadcasting at Dr Susan Olivers excellent YouTube channel “Back to the Science”, and Prog Greg Tucker Kellogg has also been so disturbed by Campbells nonsense, he too has done his bit to inform carefully and accurately on his channel called “Absolute Nonsense”. For people with MS still uncertain about all this, do give them a watch.
In other words, make sure any decision you make is based on good evidence, because there are mountains of nonsense out there!
I hope this helps.
If you have any comment to make or question to ask please do so in the box below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.