Profile of a ‘Passionate Vaccine Advocate’

By Celeste McGovern

Meet David Hawkes, a classical modern Skeptic with a capital-S. He belongs to a small tribe of self-appointed defenders of medical pharmaceutical orthodoxy. Skeptics wage war on things like naturopathy, the use of homeopathic medicine and chiropractors which they see as a threat to health. “Dr. Dave” as he calls himself, has studied viruses and says he is “passionate about helping people rediscover their love of science.”

Like most capital-S Skeptics, Dr. Dave says he is also a “passionate advocate of vaccination” in his “spare time.” He devotes endless hours to letter-writing in defence of vaccination policies and his name pops up in numerous threads to berate anyone who is skeptical (with a lower case ‘s’) of the soundness of vaccine research conducted by companies who profit from vaccines. He has published a number of pro-vaccine papers and most recently a letter lambasting researchers from three countries who found worrisome signs of neurotoxicity in mice given an aluminum adjuvant that is also added to numerous vaccines (more on this to come).

Vaccine rabbit with a lot of tracks

Dr. Dave is even an administrator and frequent spokesman for the pro-vaccination group Stop Australian (Anti) Vaccination Network (SAVN) whose stated mission is to “relegate anti-vaccination campaigners to irrelevance.” The group measures its success by how often anti-vaxxers’ views are “cited in media” and “how they are treated.”  They must be doing a great job. Anti-vaxxers have become the media’s Public Enemy No. 1. This is the hallmark of a true Skeptic: they believe silencing and badly treating people with different views is a victory because it means that serious scientific debate about vaccine efficacy or safety is quashed. Jackboot Skepticism.

SAVN also supported the Aussie government’s policy implemented there last year that prevents any child from benefiting from a government family payment (such as a Child Care Rebate) unless they are given the 17 injections of the entire vaccine schedule before age five. “No Jabs/No Pay.” There’s the jackboot again.

What Dr. Dave doesn’t say is that “spare time” and “full-time” are a bit of a blur for him on the vaccine issue. That’s because Dr. Dave’s day job is working for an Australian $24 million per year tax-funded charity whose main tasks include supporting the national human papillomavirus vaccination program. Victorian Cytology Service Ltd (VCS) keeps a register on HPV vaccine uptake and sends out tens of thousands of harassing “reminder letters” to girls and young women as a dragnet for Merck’s “blockbuster” HPV vaccine, Gardasil. You may think that Merck, which raked in $2.17 billion last year from its HPV vaccine alone, would be able to afford its own vaccine fishing and data tracking registry, but that’s where tax dollars go to work – for the pharmaceutical companies who paid the lobbying bills before the election. That’s how they can afford to pay the CEO his $25million a year package.

Dr. Dave’s profits are much more humble, but not bad. The VCS spends a whopping 70 percent of its charity budget ($17.3 million Australian) on salaries to its 180 or so employees and he is a hotshot; he was recently promoted to “Molecular Microbiology Manager” and says that his “current focus is the transition to an HPV-based cervical screening program and he has been an active member on several advisory committees[ covering the implementation and safety of the new National Cervical Screening Program.”

Now that’s interesting, because as it happens, VCS is conducting a clinical trial called COMPASS which has taken funds from Roche Pharmaceuticals to test Roche’s new HPV screening test against traditional Pap smears.

VCS says Australia is already moving to Roche’s DNA test in 2017 for all Australian women, whether they have received HPV vaccination or not.  Roche’s test couldn’t be used before because of its high false positive rate that would see a lot of women unnecessarily stressed out and treated for cancer when they don’t have it. “This is because in an unvaccinated population of young women, infection with HPV (particularly the most oncogenic [cancerous] types, HPV 16 and 18) is common and would result in over-referral of women who test positive for HPV 16 or 18 to colposcopy for infections never destined to persist or cause disease,” explains the VCS. 

What they’re saying is that most HPV infection doesn’t lead to cancer. The World Health Organization also says 90% of infections with the  HPV virus clear up without any intervention within a few months to two years and the fraction of cases that progress to death are in those in poor countries where there is little screening and treatment available.

So screening for HPV infection is not very practical. But if the HPV vaccine is thought to reduce those HPV strains that are linked to the actual cancer mortality (the small minority of cases), then Roche has a green light to use its test. Presumably, fewer high-risk infections mean the test flags fewer false positives so fewer women are needlessly frightened and treated with invasive procedures. They don’t have to eliminate all of the false positives, just enough of them to be cost-effective.

Basically, if Merck’s vaccine is taken up by a lot of girls and perceived as “safe and effective” (perceptions, not reality, are what matters here) then Roche (VCS’s partner) can use its not-so-accurate test on every single woman over 25 in Australia. So you see, there’s a little money-go-round:  Merck makes money, Roche makes money, VCS makes money, Hawkes makes money… The only people who don’t make money are taxpayers. But people are used to that if it means their kids are “protected”; marketing can make it seem like a Win-Win.

What the marketing does not state is the astonishing CDC fact that the average age of a US woman diagnosed with HPV-associated cervical cancer is 49 years. FORTY-NINE. That’s 38 years from when your 11-year-old is supposed to be protected against the disease by the HPV vaccine. That’s more than a quarter century before you know if your 21-year-old was actually protected. And if the vaccine has only been on the market for a decade, please explain how they know it can protect against cervical cancer when the first teenagers who got the shot won’t reach the ripe old age of 49 for about another 20 years?

What’s more, those mostly post-reproductive women who get cervical cancer at age 49 are not very likely to die.  All said, cervical cancer claims somewhere between 1.4 to 2.3 per 100,000 women — but zero of them are teenagers.

It is the same story for boys:  One man in 100,000 is diagnosed with HPV-associated anal cancer at an average age of 60. It is truly a feat of marketing that Merck and GSK have got public health to sell parents a vaccine marketed to boys as young as nine years old to prevent an anal cancer diagnosis when they are sexagenarians, which they would be most at risk for if they engage in unprotected anal sex.

They don’t they say that in the vaccine commercials which try to guilt-wrench parents who question the HPV vaccine for their children – the ads featuring fictitious teenagers dying in hospital. Imagine the more truthful commercial:

“If you don’t inject your child with a vaccine that is loaded with a neurotoxin today and associated with strange premature teenage deaths such as cerebrovascular events and lupus disease in the clinical trials, they might be diagnosed with a mostly treatable cancer in 35 years, but we can’t possibly know if this vaccine will prevent it or not.” This is what Dr. Dave is selling.

‘Insidiously unsafe’?

So, now over to Dr. Dave’s latest letter criticizing a study that questions the safety of injected aluminum. In January this year, eleven scientists from seven research centres in three countries (France, UK and Canada) published a study in the highly-regarded journal, Toxicology, in which they injected three groups of mice with different doses of an aluminum salt commonly used in vaccines.

Aluminum is a known neurotoxin and because of this, it stokes the immune system into action. Vaccine makers use it in a tiny nanoparticle form to evoke a powerful response from the immune system in opposition to nature’s elegant and protective design which prevents out-of-control cytokine storms and attack of self-tissue. Aluminum is used in various forms in shots including tetanus, hepatitis, pneumococcal, meningococcal and HPV.

“The idea has emerged that aluminium adjuvants may be insidiously unsafe over the long-term in some predisposed individuals,” the authors of the study explained. Previous studies have shown that aluminum adjuvant injected in mice tissue is captured by phagocytic cells and carried off to lymph nodes and then throughout the body and to the brain.

In contrast to prevailing public health assurances that injected aluminum is safe and excreted, it has recently been shown to linger in immune cells in both the injected muscle and the draining lymph nodes and spleen, where it may be found up to nine months after injection.

In humans, aluminum has been demonstrated to cause lesions at the site of vaccine injection that can persist for longer than 12 years. It is associated in patients with a clinical condition called Macrophagic Myfasciitis which is marked by severe chronic fatigue, cognitive impairment and frequently, the onset of autoimmune disease.

Other researchers have injected aluminum in mice at low doses (100 μg Al/kg) and found it induced inflammation and motor deficits and cognitive alterations associated with motor neuron death.

The mouse study

In their Toxicology study, the researchers at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris and the National Veterinary School of Alfort, France gave adult mice injections of vaccine aluminum adjuvant Alhydrogel at differing higher doses — 200, 400, or 800 micrograms (μg) of aluminum per kilogram — the mouse equivalent of 2, 4 and 8 human doses of vaccine. They studied the effects on eight widely used behavioral tests performed six months later. Then they sacrificed the animals and sent tissue samples to a Keele University lab in England that specializes in detecting aluminum in biological samples to see where the aluminum went.

What the scientists found were “significant effects” on the animals exposed to the lowest dose of 200 micrograms of aluminum per kilogram. The animals showed decreased activity and reduced grip strength suggesting moderate motor weakness. They also demonstrated behaviors indicative of anxiety. For example, the mice spent more time than normal running in the middle of their rooms indicating a reduced protective aversion of rodents for open spaces. The post-mortems showed these animals had “mild cerebral innate immune activation” in a part of the brain previously linked to aversion/anxiety in mice. And they had aluminum in their brains.

In sharp contrast, mice who got the highest doses of 400 and 800 micrograms of aluminum per kilogram exhibited neither behavioral changes nor increased aluminum in their brains.  Instead, these animals all had “conspicuous granuloma formation” — globs of white blood cells called macrophages that had engulfed the aluminium and trapped it in localized pockets of inflamed tissue near the injection site. Two of the six animals even had masses of “pseudolymphomatous” cells in their forelimbs.

Most neurotoxic in small doses

“We conclude that Alhydrogel® injected at low dose in mouse muscle may selectively induce long-term [aluminum] cerebral accumulation and neurotoxic effects,” the researchers said.  

As for the unexpected “non-linear” dose-response (low doses having high effect, higher doses having lower effects), the researchers said this might have something to do with the size of the aluminum “agglomerates” or clumps – smaller doses may contain smaller agglomerates of the metal that are the right size for capture and transport, larger doses may produce larger agglomerates that the immune system traps in place. Further research is necessary.

“In any event,” they said, “the view that Alhydrogel® neurotoxicity obeys ‘the dose makes the poison’ rule of classical chemical toxicity appears overly simplistic.”

It certainly ruins the FDA assurance that “Federal Regulations for biological products (including vaccines) limit the amount of aluminum in the recommended individual dose of biological products, including vaccines, to not more than 0.85-1.25 mg.” Not so reassuring if a low dose is worse than a high dose, is it? Actually, it’s downright frightening when you consider that the current health protocol is to inject every baby in the United States with 250 micrograms of aluminum in the Hepatitis B shot on the day they are born.

After that, babies get repeated doses of aluminum nanoparticles capable of clumping together in their arm muscles or migrating off to their brains: 1225 micrograms separated (for maximal dose-response effect) in five separate injections by two months of age, followed by three more injections by age four months totalling 975 micrograms, and then by age six months another round of shots providing another 1225 micrograms of aluminum. Keep in mind, each of these rounds of shots provides doses of 74 to 245 micrograms of aluminum per kilogram – smack in the maximally neurotoxic low-dose range found in the study.* 

This is frightening. But Dr. Dave and his sidekick, Joanne Benhamu, defended the drugs in a letter to Toxicology opposing the mouse study. Dr. Dave identified his VCS job but did not mention his “spare time” passion for pro-vaccine campaigning or his role with SAVN. Benhamu said she was affiliated with Austin Health and the Monash Bioethics Centre. The latter had never heard of her. She’s not in their search engine. But when I called Austin Health they said she was a “Clinical Trials Team Leader.” Hmmm. Clinical trials usually means drugs. Or maybe a new HPV test? In any case, Benhamu didn’t mention in her letter that she is also vice president of a group called Australian Skeptics Inc. That’s a capital S. The kind that doesn’t like opposing views or medical choices. Jackboot Skepticism.

Dr. Dave and team leader Benhamu criticized the ethics of giving the mice the vaccines. While injecting animals with a neurotoxin does seem a bit cruel, the researchers were only doing it because it’s the same neurotoxin injected into babies about a dozen times before they are six months old.

Dr. Dave and Benhamu also complained that the dosing in the study wasn’t fair – it was too much aluminium to compare to what humans receive. Considering the findings of the study, they might not want to have a study that looks at much smaller doses. “[A]s the author’s[sic] point out, the mouse/ human comparison is more complicated and they present a conversion factor of 12.3 from human to mouse. This would mean that a mouse dose of 200 μg/kg would be equivalent to a dose for a 60 kg human of 967 μg – twice the dose clinically recommended, even considering the conversion factor,” they said.

Actually, it really doesn’t help Dr. Dave to bring up the numbers at all. Especially since the baby dose is 1,500 micrograms in a half dozen or so shots before she is two months old is beyond the 967 figure he is talking about. Obviously, so is the total 3,675 micrograms of aluminum babies get in 10 or so injections by the time they are six months old.  Plus, the study evaluated the dosing levels in adults.  Do Skeptics really want the public to start discussing the value and risks of a neurotoxic load on their babies’ immune and nervous systems? Or that each dose of Gardasil contains 500 micrograms of neurotoxic aluminum?

In reality, Skeptics don’t like independent research about vaccines at all. They hate the idea of using proper scientific controls in vaccine trials.  For instance, every HPV vaccine trial tested the vaccine against the neurotoxic immune-stimulating aluminum adjuvant or a cocktail of all the other ingredients or against another aluminum-containing vaccine. So all the outcomes looked pretty much the same and they could claim the vaccine is safe.

Dr. Dave opposes any legitimate study of vaccinated versus unvaccinated subjects, like the recent research that found a 30-fold risk of allergic rhinitis and a quadrupled risk of autism among vaccinated children. And a seven-fold higher risk of miscarrying a baby among women who received the flu vaccine. If the science isn’t going to find what you want it to find, don’t do it, say the Skeptics. And, for Richard Dawkins’ sake, NEVER compare children who have received 49 doses of the entire vaccine schedule to kids who never had a shot. Don’t even do it in monkeys. Skeptics like the kind of science that makes every ill outcome a “correlation” and not a cause – the way sex is just correlated to pregnancy.

Conflict, what conflict?

A chief criticism from Dr. Dave and Benhamu was that the research was partly funded by the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute, a non-profit that funds independent research by reputable scientists.  Research that is not financed by pharma. I wonder if Dr Dave would be willing to reject all science funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation?  The main difference between the two non-profits is that Gates held stock in the vaccine companies his foundation promotes.

Dr. Dave is not bothered by other conflicts of interest. In his review of HPV safety research, he concluded the vaccine was safe and lifesaving. But out of the 45 vaccine references that he cited, five were for studies funded by GlaxoSmithKline, which makes an HPV vaccine Cervarix. The rest — every single one of them — were either “designed, managed and analysed” by Merck, funded in part or totality by Merck, authored by the “named inventors” of the vaccine, Douglas Lowy and John Schiller, or written by someone who is a paid employee or consultant of Merck. That’s like Marlboro funding and authoring studies on the safety of smoking. Or Coca-Cola studying the impact of sugar on teeth.

Dr. Dave and his tribe think health practices like homeopathy are dangerous and should be marginalized because they are “scientifically unproven,” but they are bashing actual scientists for investigating the safety of a neurotoxin injected in children.

Dr. Dave claims that researchers who get money from an independent charity that isn’t tax-funded are “compromised” and have “conflicts of interests” while they take money from a government-funded “charity” that partners with pharmaceutical companies. And they cite safety research that comes from vaccines’ inventors, patent holders, manufacturers and distributors.

I asked the editor of Elsevier, Hans Marquardt, if he was aware of the vaccine advocacy positions of the letter-writers he published, or that Benhamu had misled readers to think she had some credentialed position at the Monash Bioethics Centre. Apparently, he was not.” I greatly appreciate your careful investigation. You are absolutely right: a response letter of the study authors is in print.”

In that letter, lead researcher Guillemette Crépeaux and three other researchers on the study wonder why usual publishing protocol – giving them right of reply before the letter was published wasn’t followed. “Peer review would have established that the criticisms relating to our science were unfounded and only reflected the inexperience of the writers of this letter in the field of aluminium adjuvants,” they added.


Scientists should be skeptical and criticize each other to raise the science bar. Why are Skeptics never skeptical of Merck or GSK science? Especially because virtually all vaccine science is industry science.

It would be laughable if it weren’t for all the girls who’ve died from the HPV vaccine and their grieving mothers. It would be funny if it weren’t for the cruel and permanent injuries done to thousands of girls and boys who’ve had the shots. These teenagers faced zero risk of dying of cervical cancer but were targets of fear-mongering. Even if they had encountered an HPV virus, as VCS said, they would most likely never have even known it and would have been just fine.

One day, if it is allowed to flourish, real science will make it clear that injecting children with immune stimulating toxins is as insane as using mercury to heal syphilis. It will also uncover why some people’s immune systems fail to fight a virus while others conquer it without even noticing it. That kind of scientific discovery will put to shame the idea of pumping everyone with neurotoxins and accepting the inevitable individual losses as a reasonable price for “herd” protection.  In the meantime, it is profiteers like Dr. Dave and his Skeptic friends who spout tobacco research while claiming to love science, are holding us back.




*These figures are from

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