When someone feels the need to remind you of their Ph.D. credentials over and over again, this should give you cautious pause. The evidence is what matters.
Dr. Christina Parks, a popular icon in the antivaccine/vaccine hesitancy movement, appeared to testify with regard to the bill (HB4471) in Michigan which would outlaw employers from requiring the flu, Tdap, and COVID-19 vaccines in the workplace. Dr. Parks took her time at the mic to spread a copious amount of legerdemain, half-truths, mistruths, egregious misunderstandings, and straight-up conspiracy non-sense. Sadly, her rant is now being shared across social media, possibly increasing vaccine hesitancy among the black community where it is already quite low. I respect Dr. Parks as being a black female Ph.D. in the sciences. We need so many more. I do not respect her abuse of authority via credentials and the spread of misinformation, whether intentional or not. If you are at this page you have probably already seen the video, but here it is again for those of you that may have not.
Addressing The Claims:
I have addressed her many claims that are false and/or assumptive and the good stuff that I have time to address below:
1. "The "media" is simplifying the complex technology to take away our freedoms."
Science communicators always simplify the science because the general public doesn't usually understand. The information is not clandestine or secret though, it is readily available for the public to attempt to consume.
2. She argues that all public health policies surrounding vaccines and masks are due to the false idea that they "prevent" disease.
This is not quite accurate. The percentage of the population that is needed to be vaccinated to prevent spread has been hammered over and over again. We just haven't met this mark. Mutations, poor human decisions, and a lack of science and public health understanding don't help. If we were using proper masks, physically distancing, and if more people were vaccinated, we could actually prevent spread as there wouldn't be enough hosts to transmit to sufficiently. Even if that's not feasible, we could at least prevent most deaths due to infection through vaccines.
3. "The virus doesn't infect the blood, only the mucosa"
Confused? You should be. First, what is a mucosa? This is the upper cellular lining of tissues. These are the cells that line the mouth(1), salivary glands, nasal tissue, lung tissue, and intestinal tissue. Now, we have all heard or read stories about the Covid virus impacting heart tissues directly(2), so they must have traveled there somehow, right? Indeed, via the blood. So, she's not saying that the virus doesn't enter the bloodstream, as some have argued after watching the video. What is true is that SARS-Cov-2 doesn't appear to set up shop in the blood or require it for infection to cause death. Measles, however, does(3). In other words, measles use blood components (immune cells) to be more infectious, SARS-Cov-2 doesn't, mostly.
Okay, with that out of the way. What Dr. Parks is getting at here is that the current Covid vaccines are NOT sterilizing because of this fact(4). That is, the immune response to SARS-COV-2 doesn't completely prohibit infection or transmission. Here's the problem though, the vaccines don't need to be 100% sterilizing and most vaccines aren't(5). Measles vaccines produce sterilizing immunity because of the virus' primary mode of infectivity but also because it mutates very slowly(6). It is true that SARS impacts chiefly the mucosa, but this doesn't mean that the vaccines aren't effective, they are(7).
4. "You don't produce any IgA to neutralize Covid in the mucosa."
Dr. Parks may have misspoken here. This study appears to show that it does.
5. More vaccinated people ended up in the hospital in Massachusetts.
She brings up the Massachusetts event to bolster her point, failing to mention that 90% of the cases were the Delta variant, not the wild type. She also fails to consider that if 75% of Bay Staters are vaccinated(1), then you'd actually expect to have more vaccinated than unvaccinated in the hospital after an event. You must consider the ratio of unvaxxed vs vaxxed to their respective populations. In other words, how many vaccinated people at the event, compared to the city's total vaccinated population, are hospitalized? You also do the same for the unvaccinated. Percentage-wise, the unvaccinated always suffer more severe illness and death. In every single instance, as documented by hospital data, the unvaccinated are the most ill and dying at much higher frequencies than the vaccinated(2). So, epidemiologists don't look at just the cases as Dr. Parks did here.
6. Acellular Pertussis vaccine does not prevent pertussis infection.
I agree with her mostly. It is true that the acellular pertusses vaccine doesn't fully prevent transmission (most vaccines don't). But it does provide between 64-85% percent protection against pertussis within the 1st-year but wanes significantly after that(1,2); so, I do agree that a new vaccine is needed to establish long-term efficacy. I also agree that public health information should be more transparent and comprehensible to the general public. This doesn't mean that children shouldn't be vaccinated though just because it's not 100%, yet. Neither are wearing seat belts. I'm glad she agreed that the vaccine does prevent severe illness. In fact, lower rates of illness generally tend to lead to less transmissibility among a population. If the virus has a harder time taking hold, there is less chance of spread.
7. Flu vaccines in multiple years cause worse outcomes.
This is based on some studies I have read before but they are contradictory(1,2). Unfortunately, this is not settled as much as she'd like to believe(3).
8. Referred to paper "this week" that reported that our immune system is helping Delta infect "the cells".
Not quite, she is probably talking about antibody-dependent enhancement(1,2,3). ADE is indeed a process by which macrophages (a type of white blood cell) may inadvertently give a virus access to itself(4). In feline enteric coronaviruses as well as in MERS researchers noticed that improper neutralization may cause macrophages to not destroy the virus and they can instead become infected themselves(1,4). This has been a concern with SARS-Cov-2. Evidence to date, however, has not shown definitively that this is occurring in Covid patients(5). Petri dish studies have shown that SARS-Cov-2 can infect macrophages. Recovered lung tissue in Covid pneumonia patients has revealed the presence of SARS-Cov-2 in the cells(6). However, it is not known if this was due to infection, or normal cleanup processes.
I want to be clear here. The vaccines are NOT causing the cells to become infected as some viewers have interpreted her remarks. ADE can and does occur in naturally recovered individuals with antibodies to some viruses.
The pre-print she is probably referencing discusses that Delta is not being efficiently neutralized(7). This is true! Neutralization could be far better. Luckily, even though there isn't 100% protection, vaccines like Comirnaty are doing a good job at mitigating severe disease. If ADE is occurring, you'd expect much more severe cases as ADE causes a stronger immune reaction such as producing excess cytokines which can exacerbate illness(4). This doesn't appear to be happening (however, I will concede that better treatments could be masking this effect). The paper asserts that Delta is four mutations away from complete escape. At that point, it will be like a "new virus", as Dr. Parks mentioned. It appears that Dr. Parks took this information about escape and attached it to the ADE phenomenon. Escape is a huge concern and newer vaccines may need to be developed to control this. This doesn't mean, however, that we shouldn't mandate masks or vaccines. The CDC has been clear that vaccinated people need to mask up too(8). All-in-all, there is no concrete evidence that the antibodies generated for the wild-type SARS-Cov-2 virus are, "... taking the virus (Delta strain) and helping it infect the cells". Even if it were, 65% neutralization is better than none.
Note: If a research article has shown that ADE is occurring, I will update the record to show this. Science is about building upon prior knowledge.
9. PHDs are the most unvaccinated group!
She mentioned that PHDs are the most unvaccinated(1). So what? A Ph.D. in Management, Curriculum, Accounting, Marketing, or BasketWeaving doesn't grant one immediate scientific and health knowledge. How many MDs and Ph.D.s in Health and Medicine are vaccinated? Almost all of them(2)!
10. The Tuskegee Experiment
Dr. Parks mentioned the Tuskegee experiment. Insinuating that we are still being experimented upon. This is an important historical note, but a non sequitur(1).
Random Fact: The investigators didn't give the participants syphilis. This is a popular myth. They did watch the disease progress in black patients that thought they were receiving treatment(1). Yes, I know, it's still absolutely horrific.
11. Autism, Black Children, and Vaccines.
The autism and vaccination claims were disheartening and the most disturbing. Dr. Parks' insinuation that vaccines are causing higher rates of autism in black children is not supported by the evidence(1,2,3,4). Citing Thompson during her testimony was particularly damning(5). It's just not true.
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett
A black female scientist that actually worked on the mRNA Moderna vaccine is Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett. Perhaps we should celebrate competent scientists actually working in the field and not spread pseudoscience and pseudohealth claims. Let's make Dr. Corbett go viral instead.