Why would a tiny dose of estrogen derivative cause infertility, anyway?
August 9, 2015 11:48 PM   Subscribe

Catholic Bishops In Kenya Call For A Boycott Of Polio Vaccines Fearing a UN plot to sterilize the populace with vaccines containing estrogen derivatives, Bishop Philip Anyolo and others have been encouraging others not to immunize their children.

A few more details on the current boycott here from The Catholic Reporter.

The fiasco began last year when several Kenyan bishops thought it suspicious that a certain vaccine campaign was targeted at girls and not boys.
posted by Sleeper (47 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Will it work? I've done vaccinations in Kenya and the hardest thing was stopping parents bringing their children back for seconds thinking it would be twice as effective.

It probably helps that to get your child into school they need to have a proper vaccination register.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 12:01 AM on August 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Snopes has a good history of the various vaccine/sterilization scares going around the world.
posted by benzenedream at 12:23 AM on August 10, 2015


"We are not in conflict with the Ministry of Health, but we have an apostolic and moral duty to ensure Kenyans are getting safe vaccines,"

No, in fact, they don't. They're bishops, not shamans. There are telephones now in Kenya. They have a moral duty to pick one up and talk to the Pope about it. He'd set them straight. Apostolic duty? Pshaw.
posted by carping demon at 12:38 AM on August 10, 2015 [33 favorites]


This is extremely disappointing. The unscientific opinions of a single physician overrode the facts presented by the World Health Organization?
posted by sbutler at 12:44 AM on August 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Idiots gonna idiot. This is a particularly unhelpful variety of idiocy, though.
posted by jaduncan at 1:20 AM on August 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think Pope Francis is going to have a word with these folk.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:10 AM on August 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


Out of scientific curiosity: The second link says some vaccines were contaminated by paracetamol.
Has this been verified?
And, if this is the case, what are the medical consequences?
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 3:26 AM on August 10, 2015


Isn't paracetamol just an over the counter pain reliever?
posted by peppermind at 3:51 AM on August 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


They're bishops, not shamans

In as much as they care for their people and may play a significantly larger part in community leadership than their counterparts do in your part of the world, it makes sense. They're wrong, and hopefully someone sets them straight soon, but warning people about something they suspect as dangerous is not extraordinary behaviour.
posted by timdiggerm at 4:00 AM on August 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


peppermind: it is, but that doesn't excuse contamination if that's what has happened. And paracetamol is hardly a completely safe pain reliever, especially if you don't know how much you're taking. Hope the vaccine uptake doesn't drop anyway.
posted by edd at 4:08 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Paracetamol is also known as acetominophen, or Tylenol.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:08 AM on August 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


thegirlwiththehat: actually, it wasn't the vaccines with paracetamol in. It was an antimalarial.
posted by edd at 4:10 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Paracetamol can be administered by injection, so a mix-up could happen, but I've never heard (and a quick search does not reveal) paralysis being a side effect. And antimalarial drugs are almost all oral, so who know what actually happened.

The psychology of injections isn't simple: it's putting something into your body through an abnormal route, and a breach of your normal defences. If you see the world as having hostile psychic agents against whom you must defend yourself, then it makes perfect sense to see an injection as being another way for them to get in.
posted by Devonian at 4:26 AM on August 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


This story is saddening, but given the origin and prevalence of anti-vax hysteria in the West, and the verified existence of fake vaccination campaigns organized by foreign organizations having ulterior motives, I am prepared to refrain from calling the bishops 'idiots'. I hope they are as open to evidence of the vaccines' necessity and safety as the article suggests, and will revise their advice swiftly when presented with such evidence.
posted by Svejk at 4:35 AM on August 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


What an unfortunate mishmash of misinformation, disinformation, shamanism, political agendas, religious agendas and on and on--let's see we have tetanus inoculations, polio vaccines, antimalarial drugs, quinine, paracetamol and estrogen. How about letting UNICEF and WHO ( hardly to left/right wing activists) do what they do.
posted by rmhsinc at 4:39 AM on August 10, 2015


There is a new Papal physician who teaches Immunology and, if that doctor hasn't been shoved onto a plane to sort this out from on high, the Pope's rolodex is deep.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:53 AM on August 10, 2015 [17 favorites]


I am prepared to refrain from calling the bishops 'idiots'. I hope they are as open to evidence of the vaccines' necessity and safety as the article suggests, and will revise their advice swiftly when presented with such evidence.

Let me know how that works out.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:15 AM on August 10, 2015


The racism inherent in mocking African bishops by calling them "shamans" is pretty gross!
posted by ChuraChura at 5:24 AM on August 10, 2015 [48 favorites]


The racism inherent in mocking African bishops by calling them "shamans" is pretty gross!

I think it's less racism and more mocking the religious, but I've been wrong before.
posted by Wolof at 5:31 AM on August 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's interesting how people can read a story in different ways. If you are already suspicious of the Church, "a priest is a shaman" is a nice example, you see this as unenlightened clergy meddling in affairs that they know nothing about. That's not the only way to read this.

From the article:
"the country's Conference of Catholic Bishops declared a boycott of the World Health Organization's vaccination campaign, saying they needed to "test" whether ingredients contain a derivative of estrogen. Dr. Wahome Ngare of the Kenyan Catholic Doctor's Association alleged that the presence of the female hormone could sterilize children."

Notice the added emphasis. Another way to read this is that the Bishops are acting in accordance with the advice of the their medical expert. Which is what we want bishops to do. We want them to understand the limits of their knowledge, consult with experts and then differ to their expertise. In this case the right thing to do has led them astray. That sucks, but as some have already said, it's reasonable to assume that the Church will correct the Bishops soon.

It is, to us, in the comfort of our homes, as armchair analysts, hard to see how it could have gotten so far. It certainly seems like they should have reached out to the wider scientific community before taking an official stance. Hopefully they've learned a lesson. (Though the third link suggests a history of mistrust, with less than graceful responses by the health organizations.)

I suspect, that the Bishops would argue that, given the magnitude of (what they thought were) the consequences a strong stance was in order. Again, this is actually the right thing to do. If community leaders believe something very bad is going to happen, it is their moral obligation to take a very strong stand against it. Note that from the Bishops' perspective they are the ones acting to improve health, they are certainly not anti-vax " 'We are not in conflict with the Ministry of Health, but we have an apostolic and moral duty to ensure Kenyans are getting safe vaccines,' Bishop Philip Anyolo."

Sometimes good people, acting with good intentions, do bad things. There is little to learn or to gain from scathing responses. (And frankly none of us have offered a nuanced view of the trustworthiness and effectiveness of the health ministry in Kenya. It's possible that some skepticism on the Bishops' part is entirely reasonable.)
posted by oddman at 5:40 AM on August 10, 2015 [25 favorites]


On a day when we have a British government minister, the foreign fucking secretary no less, saying that the way to deal with African poverty is to make sure we can kick them out of Europe so they don't endanger our "standard of living", I find myself at least understanding why Africans might well feel a profound mistrust of the motives of Western aid. This is a mess, but let's not forget the fact that it is our policies that make it possible.
posted by howfar at 5:51 AM on August 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


As mentioned, their "expert," Dr. Ngare, is relatively infamous in Kenya for his previous anti-vax fearmongering. He was involved in suspiciously-similar claims last year over the tetanus vaccine.
posted by introp at 5:56 AM on August 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


"We are not in conflict with the Ministry of Health, but we have an apostolic and moral duty to ensure Kenyans are getting safe vaccines,"

No, in fact, they don't. They're bishops, not shamans.


What now? Of course they have a moral duty to try to keep their communities and congregations safe. In this case, there's no danger and they need to understand that, but they're not wrong to say that they have a duty to look out for Kenyans. Taking that duty seriously, in itself, is not the problem.
posted by clockzero at 5:57 AM on August 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I hope the UN can effectively and quickly respond to the bishops' concerns. As far as I can tell, medical infrastructure in rural Cote d'Ivoire is about as bad/worse than in much of Kenya. Every Friday, when they have the infant and children's vaccine clinic at the District Hospital and Dispensary, we see women walking with their babies - the closest village to here is 10 km, so women are coming from at least that far in order to vaccinate their babies against things like polio. There are a noticeable number of adults in the villages in this area who are severely disabled from polio. Some of them are able to get around on wheelchairs (to the extent that village roads and walkways allow wheelchair passage), some of them get around by crawling, and some of them spend their lives with legs that are too spindly to hold them up, sitting on their parents' doorstep watching the world pass them by. Diseases like polio place even greater limits on an already severely disenfranchised group of people, and vaccination campaigns are probably the best way to get around that.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:02 AM on August 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


[Comments deleted. Please don't derail by demanding people explain the difference between a shaman and a bishop. Please go ahead and refer to the bishops as bishops rather than making up another name and requiring people to defend using the actual titles of the people involved.]
posted by taz (staff) at 6:02 AM on August 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


Catholic Bishops have no duty or right to offer medical advice. If they want to start doing that I know a few doctors who'd like to give them a few pointers on certain parts of their theology.
posted by Segundus at 6:02 AM on August 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is nothing new, unfortunately. Recall a few years ago there was an archbishop in Africa spreading the lie that condoms were laced with HIV as part of an European plot to eradicate black people.

Worse, since the CIA actually did use a fake polio vaccination program to try and track bin Ladin, the conspiracy mongers have a real example they can point to and use to back up their claims about other programs. Thanks CIA.

But I don't expect Francis to do anything. Just like Ratzinger didn't do anything about thea rchbishop lying about condoms. the only growth area for the Church is Africa, the hierarchy doesn't want to risk that with petty concerns about a few people dying because the Church in Africa is telling dangerous lies. There's money er, souls to be extracted. Can't let little things like truth or lives to get in the way of that.
posted by sotonohito at 6:20 AM on August 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Catholic Bishops have no duty or right to offer medical advice.

I feel like many responses of this type are missing the fact that this isn't a debate about empirical validity, it's a public health situation: you make progress by ensuring that accurate, comprehensible information is being disseminated about the interventions in question, and you engage with the community, including high-profile leaders; you don't tell them they have no right to speak or be concerned.
posted by clockzero at 6:53 AM on August 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


More on this being nothing new: Here's a 2011 Wired article about the difficulties of eradicating polio amidst suspicion that the meds are actually doing something else.

It references the case that's the basis for The Constant Gardener, where Pfizer set up a drug trial right next to where Doctors w/o Borders was distributing meds for a meningitis epidemic, and (surprise) it didn't go well for the involved children.
posted by n. moon at 6:54 AM on August 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Remember that time the president of South Africa denied HIV caused AIDS for nine years? And caused the death of an estimated 300,000 people? Kenya is not South Africa, and polio is not AIDS, and Catholic Bishops are not Mbeki. But it's such an important challenge to convince large populations about the efficacy of modern science and medicine. And sometimes its set backwards.
posted by Nelson at 7:21 AM on August 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


If community leaders believe something very bad is going to happen, it is their moral obligation to take a very strong stand against it.

Like against satanic pre-school teachers? How about those corrupting role-playing games? Or the menace of GLBT people getting married?

It's easy for you to talk about moral obligation, because obviously you've never been on the receiving end of religious hysteria. And in this case, children are going to be crippled and die because of this "moral obligation".
posted by happyroach at 7:25 AM on August 10, 2015 [19 favorites]


children are going to be crippled and die because of this "moral obligation".

Because of moral obligation combined with ignorance. What's causing the ignorance?
posted by amtho at 8:26 AM on August 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


The CIA has so much to answer for, here. I know it's only 1 component of the distrust of vaccines, but it's just vile. It makes me so sad that people in the 1st world have generated this mistrust in vaccines, and that it has spread to places where polio is far more likely. Polio is a horrible disease.
posted by theora55 at 8:55 AM on August 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm sure it doesn't hurt that this is supposedly about fertility. The Church's continued fetishistic obsession with contraception continues.
posted by zarq at 9:10 AM on August 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Segundus: "Catholic Bishops have no duty or right to offer medical advice. If they want to start doing that I know a few doctors who'd like to give them a few pointers on certain parts of their theology."
You may have missed the part where it was doctors who started this mess by providing these bishops with the medical advice they are giving voice to.
happyroach: "It's easy for you to talk about moral obligation, because obviously you've never been on the receiving end of religious hysteria. And in this case, children are going to be crippled and die because of this "moral obligation"."
What a profoundly presumptuous and shitty thing to say about another mefite. But if you really need someone who has been on the receiving end of religious hysteria to oppose the nakedly racist musings about these Bishops' motivations in this thread as oddman has done, having been shunned by my church for my sexuality, let me step forward.

These Bishops do indeed have a duty to their community to use their voices to protect it, and to act on the advice of the experts they have access to in order to do so, they're doing exactly what they should be doing. This is not a religious problem, but a medical one centering around Dr. Ngare and his ilk. If anything, that these community leaders are Catholic Bishops will only make the problem more easy to solve, where Catholicism is centrally run and really into both orthodoxy and science.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:17 AM on August 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


You may have missed the part where it was doctors who started this mess by providing these bishops with the medical advice they are giving voice to...

This is not a religious problem, but a medical one centering around Dr. Ngare and his ilk.

Blasdeld

That's a bit disingenuous. The "part where it was doctors" refers to "Dr. Wahome Ngare of the Kenyan Catholic Doctor's Association alleged that the presence of the female hormone could sterilize children.

And notice that when oddman quotes that section above, they leave out the very next sentence: "Ngare is a practicing gynecologist with no infectious disease experience."

You make it sound like there was some secular, medical objection the vaccines that the bishops decided to heed. In reality, they used the objection by their own Catholic doctor's group, by a doctor who doesn't deal with vaccinations or infectious disease, as a cover to push their fertility agenda.

I doubt if some cigarette company CEOs were raising objections to smoking laws on the advice of the Philip Morris Doctor's Association you'd be saying they were just listening to the doctors.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:31 AM on August 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


At the center of the Venn diagram of AIDS conspiracy paranoia, public health in Africa, and anti-vaccine paranoia, there is the question of "How many HIV infections in Africa were caused by improper use of medical needles"?

Combine "a wide range of common symptoms such as colds, ear infections, fatigue and tonsillitis were treated with injections rather than oral medication." with "needles are reused without sterilization by medical clinics with few resources, and by street-corner "injection doctors" who provide vitamins and antibiotics", and this one doesn't actually sound like another paranoid conspiracy theory to me. I'm having trouble finding solid numbers, though. The study that got this theory into the news had estimates (35-65% of HIV cases in Africa?!) that seem to have been grossly overblown, but even the rebuttals I can find are citing "contaminated injections given in health care settings" causing 5% of new HIV infections, and pointing out that this number was probably higher during the beginning of the epidemic. Even five percent would put the associated death count into seven figures.
posted by roystgnr at 9:32 AM on August 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


From the link about the tetanus vaccine aimed at women:
According to the bishops, when the ordinary tetanus vaccine is combined with b-HCG and given in five doses every six months, the women develop immunity for both tetanus and HCG, a hormone necessary for pregnancy. Subsequently, the body rejects any pregnancy, causing repeated miscarriages and eventually sterility.
*facepalm* No. Just, no. In fact Wikipedia (yes, I know, not an ideal source, but I'm not an immunologist) suggests the opposite - hCG is used in fertility treatments.

That said... what the hell kind of tetanus vaccine is given in five doses every six months!?!?!?!?
posted by maryr at 9:40 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


If we are being charitable, no particular Machiavellian strategizing on the part of the Church is required to explain this situation. In addition to useful vaccines, the West also exports a huge miasma of anti-vax confusion cloaked in quasi-scientific terminology, based on a now-discredited paper actually published in a highly-regarded journal. A huge amount of the international aid/development community's discussion about Africa revolves around how to reduce birth rates. The fertility of Africans abroad is also the cause of concerned murmurs, and certain African immigrant groups in some countries may(!) have been enrolled in long-term contraceptive campaigns based on dubious consent. Disease transmission via contaminated needles is common. Now enter a religious group with a consistent long-standing opposition to artificial birth control.
posted by Svejk at 9:56 AM on August 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


the women develop immunity for both tetanus and HCG

hCG is used in fertility treatments.

The thing they are implying is that it creates an immunity to HCG, preventing pregnancy.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:56 AM on August 10, 2015


But I don't expect Francis to do anything. Just like Ratzinger didn't do anything about the archbishop lying about condoms. the only growth area for the Church is Africa, the hierarchy doesn't want to risk that with petty concerns about a few people dying because the Church in Africa is telling dangerous lies. There's money er, souls to be extracted. Can't let little things like truth or lives to get in the way of that.

Bro, do you even conspiracy theorize? We've gone back and forth on Catholic stuff in the past so I'd understand mere cynicism, but this is just nuts.
posted by resurrexit at 11:36 AM on August 10, 2015


What's causing the ignorance?

A Bishop who thinks he's a Minister

...of Health.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:10 PM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Despite my GRAR CHURCH comment, I do think the more important fact is that a) the USA is now in the business of exporting the very worst of American politics (raging homophobia, general conspiracy mongering, anti-vaccine lies, etc) to Africa, and b) that due to criminally short sighted and generally foolhardy and thoughtless action from the CIA and the government that empowered the CIA those conspiracies have basis in fact.

Anti-vaccine nonsense doesn't just spring up out of nowhere, and while its certainly possible that the various African nations involved in the latest bout of anti-vaxxing came up with it independently, I don't think we can discount the efforts by the American right to export their politics to the third world.

The question of how to deal effectively with anti-vaxxers is now more pressing than ever. In Africa several diseases are nearing extinction, and letting up the vaccine program will give those diseases an opportunity to return and spread.

I don't feel entirely wrong in bringing in my animosity to the Church because leaving powerful people spreading lies about vaccines in office so they can continue to spread those lies is certainly harmful. We may not be able to change the minds of those already converted to the anti-vaccine foolishness, but stopping it from being spread by high profile, well respected, authority figures is a good idea.

@resurrexit: well, so far two different Popes have steadfastly refused to remove African bishops and archbishops from office when those bishops and archbishops spread dangerous lies.

I don't think its conspiracy theorizing to identify a factual trend. Popes don't care, as evidenced by a total lack of real action, about the Church lying in Africa even if those lies can kill or injure millions. They have the power to remove those liars, and they refuse to do so. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that the don't care about the harm of the lies.

I'll concede that my speculation on the probable motive for the failure to give a shit about the lives of African children is speculative. I think it's reasonable speculation based on the facts, but it is certainly speculation.

The lack of Papal concern for the lives of African children, however, is not speculation. It is an unavoidable conclusion given the available facts. If Bergoglio cared about African kids, then the bishops and archbishops spreading anti-vaccine lies would no longer be in office and thus be denied a platform for those lies.
posted by sotonohito at 8:14 PM on August 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'd also like to see the whole chain of command who decided to let the CIA go ahead with a fake vaccine program brought up on criminal charges. The fact that the USA allowed them to get away with doing possibly irreparable harm to planetwide efforts to eradicate disease and never made even an attempt to punish the criminally incompetent buffoons who came up with the plan is obscene.

If Obama signed off on it, I could almost get behind a move to impeach him over that. What sort of short sighted, utterly self centered, asshole decided it was a good idea to sabotage all vaccine programs and endanger international aid workers by giving the plan the green light?
posted by sotonohito at 8:16 PM on August 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


This story is saddening, but given the origin and prevalence of anti-vax hysteria in the West, and the verified existence of fake vaccination campaigns organized by foreign organizations having ulterior motives, I am prepared to refrain from calling the bishops 'idiots'.

Oh, don't misunderstand me. I'm also very willing to call Western anti-vaxxers idiots.
posted by jaduncan at 2:23 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bad news on the Kenyan vaccine front:

Two children dead after measles vaccine
posted by ChuraChura at 10:53 AM on September 9, 2015


Well shit.
posted by maryr at 1:44 PM on September 9, 2015


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