At the United Nations, talking about the importance of vaccines and how they have saved millions of children from debilitating illnesses across the world, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev ends up spreading the very misinformation that anti-vaxxers spread on social media.
I was today alerted about a dangerous tweet and message on vaccination by Jaggi Vasudev. The tweet reads: “The significance of vaccination against many debilitating diseases should not be played down. But at the same time, it is important it is not overdone, without taking into consideration the many side-effects or negative impacts of vaccinations.”
The tweet has a link to excerpts of Jaggi Vasudev’s conversation with Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the anti-vaccination movement. One can also listen to the conversation he has with Dr. Swaminathan on Youtube.
The conversation he has with Dr. Swaminathan at the UN General Assembly on June 27, 2019 once again highlights the danger of allowing people who are not experts on vaccines to speak on the subject, especially at an international forum. Jaggi Vasudev’s understanding of many issues connected with vaccines is patently wrong and should never be allowed to spread misinformation on vaccines.
While advocating for vaccination and clearly telling the advantages of how polio vaccination in India has today prevented children from becoming crippled, he veers to an uncharted territory and ends up uttering incorrect and misleading information on vaccines and the supposed dangers of vaccination.
“I was talking to some parents in California, and they said they were being put through around 40 different types of vaccines. Maybe in United States they are overdoing it a little bit. Apart from treating the basic things which would cripple or cause death in children, I think the healthcare system is trying to give a vaccine for just about everything,” he says to Dr. Swaminathan.
Dr. Swaminathan is seen clarifying at the end saying: “I don’t think there is anything too much of a good thing.”
She then goes on to say: “There are side effects of everything but it is one in a million, maybe one in two million. But they have been blown out of proportion and this gets circulated on social media.”
How many vaccines do children in the U.S. get
Sadhguru may do himself and the rest of the world a lot of good by first fact-checking before uttering such nonsense on an international forum.
The website of the Atlanta-based Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clearly mentions the different vaccines that are recommended for children from birth to 18 years. And they are only 13 vaccines and not 40 vaccines as Sadhguru claims. Of the 13, only 12 are part of the routine immunisation while Meningococcal B (MenB) is based on clinical discretion.
From birth to 15 months the CDC recommends just 11 vaccines. On its websites it clearly mentions the schedule and the number of doses per child. The 11 vaccines are — 1) Hepatitis B, 2) Rotavirus, 3) Diphtheria, tetanus, & acellular pertussis, 4) Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), 5) Pneumococcal conjugate, 6) Inactivated poliovirus (IPV), 7) Influenza, 8) Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), 9) Varicella, 10) Hepatatis A and 11) Pneumococcal polysaccharide.
For children aged 18 months to 18 years, CDC recommends just two additional vaccines, of which one is based on clinical discretion — 1) Human papillomavirus (HPV), and 2) Meningococcal B (MenB), which based on clinical discretion.
Peddling dangerous misinformation on flu
With a disclaimer that he is not a medical expert, Jaggi Vasudev goes on to say what a non-medical person should refrain from saying. “I thought some of the things they were giving vaccines for were just absurd. If a child catches a flu, or something like this, it is all right to go through some of these illnesses when you are growing up.”
This is precisely the kind of misinformation that is spread on social media and the reason why we see so many influenza cases and deaths each year. As on October 27, 2019, there have been 28,050 H1N1 cases and 1,201 deaths this year in India.
Jaggi Vasudev has confused common cold with flu, also known as influenza. About flu, the CDC says: “Flu illness is more dangerous than the common cold for children.”
Children below five years are one of the high-risk groups for influenza and are recommended to be vaccinated each year. The CDC says “influenza can be dangerous for children”. On its website, the CDC says: “A flu vaccine offers the best defence against flu and its potentially serious consequences… Getting vaccinated has been shown to reduce flu illnesses… reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalisation and death in children.”
Unsolicited, misinformed advice to WHO
He then goes on to say: “… Now they are giving vaccines for a whole lot of things which may not be necessary… I feel the World Health Organisation should tell them that “this much is not needed – these vaccines are compulsory, and the rest are by choice.”
Dr. Swaminathan, whose discomfort at listening to the unscientific things being said clearly clarifies where the WHO stands on the issue of recommending vaccines. She says: “As far as the WHO is concerned, we have absolutely very clear guidelines on vaccination. There is very clear guidance both for public and for practitioners on which vaccines are absolutely essential for all children.”
I am now waiting to see when he would delete the tweet and remove the misinformation posted on the website.