Anti-vaccine book tied to politicians pulled from shelves in Estonia ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

The anti-vaccine movement exists in Estonia as well.
The anti-vaccine movement exists in Estonia as well. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

An Estonian translation of the Italian book "Vaccines: Yes or No?" was published in mid-December. The book includes a slew of claims considered questionable by scientists, which is why it attracted a lot of complaints and retail bookstore chain Rahva Raamat pulled the Estonian-language translation of the book from its shelves. Those involved in the publishing of the book and their supporters, however, have clearly expressed their outrage, and are continuing to sell the book elsewhere, including at Apollo bookstores and online.

"Vaccines: Yes or No" was coauthored primarily by Italy's Stefano Montanari and Antonietta Gatti and France's Serge Rader. In short, their research analysed 30 vaccines prevalent in Europe under electron microscope, finding in them various potentially harmful nanoparticles. The authors claim that this precisely is the reason and proof of why vaccines cause autism, allergies, multiple sclerosis, among other serious issues. As the authors work for universities, these allegations are serious, and have been presented as legitimate science.

If you look closer, however, a number of — to put it gently — strange details begin to emerge. For one thing, the results of the research were published in the International Journal of Vaccines and Vaccination. While the journal appears to have the name of a good scientific journal, it is published by a company called MedCrave, which is known for publishing research articles for money. This isn't a proper peer-reviewed scientific journal, but rather a publication that sells seeming credibility and will publish anything it is paid to. As a result, reputable research article databases such as PubMed do not recognise their articles at all.

Another interesting nuance involves the methodology used the conducted research. Namely, the research was done using an electron microscope, which is capable of finding minuscule parts of various matter. And so photomigrographs of aluminium and other elements are presented as evidence while totally ignoring the fact that when examining something with a sensitive device, you are supposed to be able to find such minuscule amounts. (A popular example is the fact that there is about 2mg of gold in every human body, but we are talking about truly microscopic amounts.) The European Medicines Agency and the British Medical Journal confirmed this February that when conducting research using this methodology, one should get these results, as such microscopic amounts are involved that they do not pose any sort of threat and rather prove vaccines' high degree of purity. The anti-vaccine community online, however, took the study as yet further proof of the Big Pharma conspiracy theory.

Politics get involved

Things get especially interesting, however, when you start looking into the political background of the undertaking. Namely, Drs Gatti and Montanari were previously connected to the University of Modena, which banned them from using the electronmicroscope belonging to the university for such research. Dr Gatti and Dr Montanari now found themselves an unexpected ally in Italian politician Beppe Grillo, who launched an online fundraiser allowing them to purchase their own personal electronmicroscope for some €375,000. In order to understand the context, one has to explain the kinds of shocking positions Mr Grillo and his fellow party members in the Five Star Movement espouse: vaccinating is very bad and should be done away with, HIV and AIDS are a pharmaceutical company fabrication, vaccinating can cause homosexuality, etc.

And so this is also an extremely political undertaking. The authors managed to fall out with Mr Grillo meanwhile, but have since become allies again. What really added fuel to the fire was that the Guardia di Finanza [Italy's economic police] in late February seized Dr Gatti and Dr Montanari's computers, and the parties involved complained everywhere that this was revenge on the part of pharmaceutical companies. There was also reference to unclear finances in connection with the purchase of the electron microscope, and so all kinds of conspiracy theories were given quite the boost.

Curious connections in Estonia

Things are just as exciting when you look at who is involved in publishing and promoting the book in Estonian. OÜ Südailm, which was listed as the publisher, was registered this spring, and its board chair is listed as Liis Ellert, who is also connected to the political movement Estonian Survival Community ("Eesti Ellujäämise Kogukond"), who earned 0.1% of the vote in Tallinn in the 2017 local government elections. She has on several occasions made statements on the online portal Telegram, and among other topics discussed the dangers of radiation from remote electric meters, the same reason she is against next-generation 5G mobile networks.

When the book was pulled from the shelves at Rahva Raamat by the end of its first day, it sparked immediate outrage on relevant social media pages. In addition to an article that appeared on Telegram, the issue was brought up on a number of pages dedicated to the anti-vaccination movement and alternative medicine, such as "Association of Parents of Children with Vaccine Injuries" and "Side Effects of Drugs and Vaccines."

It stands out that many of the people active on these pages have also been active in connection with MMS-related issues, and been in the news in relation to the latter as well. Some other political figures have also expressed outrage over the book being pulled from store shelves, such as activist Enn (Atma) Kalju of the newly-founded Biodiversity Party, who shares posts about how cancer is cured with papaya and sodium bicarbonate and diabetes with the drumstick tree [Moringa oleifera] while selling shilajit and explaining that leukemia is caused by vaccines.

Concerns have already begun to be expressed in some groups that their pages may be banned next, following what happened to MMS, and that they should begin backing up data. Also discussed, however, have been opportunities for finding money and labs to prove the dangers of vaccines used in Estonia.

And so we've had two fundamental questions pop up on the agenda — should books containing potentially dangerous claims in certain instances be pulled from shelves (and where is the line), and have the first political parties been established for whom anti-vaccine stances are part of the campaign platform? 

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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