SMELLS BAD: A Major Funder Of The Anti-Vaccine Movement Has Made Millions Selling Natural Health Products

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The nation’s oldest anti-vaccine advocacy group often emphasizes that it is supported primarily by small donations and concerned parents, describing its founder as the leader of a “national, grass roots movement.”

But over the past decade a single donor has contributed more than $2.9 million to the National Vaccine Information Center, accounting for about 40 percent of the organization’s funding, according to the most recent available tax records. That donor, osteopathic physician Joseph Mercola, has amassed a fortune selling natural health products, court records show, including vitamin supplements, some of which he claims are alternatives to vaccines.

In recent years, the center has been at the forefront of a movement that has led some parents to forgo or delay immunizing their children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles. Health officials say falling vaccination rates contributed to the infectious virus sickening more than 1,200 people in the United States this year, the largest number in more than 25 years. Measles outbreaks are surging worldwide, including in Samoa – where nearly 80 people have died since mid-October, the great majority of them young children and infants.

The Northern Virginia-based National Vaccine Information Center lists Mercola.com as a partner on its homepage and links to the website, where readers can learn about and purchase Mercola’s merchandise.

Last month, Mercola wrote on his website that measles “continues to be a Trojan Horse for increasing vaccine mandates.” A page that was recently removed said that “vitamin C supplementation is a viable option for measles prevention.” Elsewhere on the site, a page about vitamin D includes the headline, “Avoid Flu Shots With the One Vitamin that Will Stop Flu in Its Tracks.”

Mercola, whose claims about other products have drawn warnings from regulators, has also given at least $4 million to several groups that echo the anti-vaccine message. His net worth, derived largely from his network of private companies, has grown to “in excess of $100 million,” he said in a 2017 affidavit.

Mercola said in emails to The Washington Post that he contributes to the center because he believes in its mission. He said he offers “simple, inexpensive and safe alternatives to the conventional medical system, which is contributing to the premature death of millions and is causing needless pain and suffering in great part because multinational corporations want to increase their revenues.”

He declined to be interviewed and did not respond to questions about how much profit his vitamin D and C supplements generate relative to the rest of his wide-ranging merchandise, which includes organic cotton underwear and pet food. Supplements containing those vitamins are among Mercola’s “top products,” his website says.

In a statement, his media team said the claims on Mercola’s website relate to vitamin D and vitamin C generally and “do not mention Dr. Mercola’s products whatsoever.”

Earlier this month, Samoan anti-vaccine activist Edwin Tamasese, who touted vitamins as an alternative to vaccination, was arrested for allegedly claiming on social media that measles vaccinations would result in mass deaths.

“The anti-vaxxers unfortunately have been slowing us down,” government spokesman Afamasaga Rico Tupai said in an interview with a New Zealand television station after the arrest. “We’ve had children who have passed away after coming to the hospital as a last resort and then we find out the anti-vaccine message has got to their families and that’s why they’ve kept these kids at home.”

Vaccination rates plummeted on the tiny Pacific island in the past year after two infants died within hours of receiving the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine – fatalities that were highlighted by anti-vaccination activists. Two Samoan nurses were later convicted of manslaughter for improperly mixing the vaccine with a muscle relaxant instead of water.

The National Vaccine Information Center was founded in 1982 by Barbara Loe Fisher, who has said that her son was injured by a vaccine. The group claimed credit this year for helping to defeat legislation in a dozen states that would have made it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children.

At the beginning of last year’s flu season, Fisher and Mercola appeared in a YouTube video urging people to be skeptical about flu shots. Mercola claimed that vaccines have been associated with “deaths and permanent neurological complications,” and he said vitamin D supplements were among “far more effective, less expensive and less risky alternatives.”

Such claims are highly misleading, government health officials say. For example, they say, while on very rare occasions people have developed the neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome after receiving the flu shot, research suggests the disorder is more strongly associated with contracting the flu itself than with receiving the vaccine. In addition, while some studies have suggested that vitamin D might help prevent the flu, others have found no such benefit, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that the best way to protect against the infection is vaccination.

Mercola referred The Post to materials he said showed evidence that vaccines can be harmful, including some studies on vaccines no longer in use. Experts and government health officials say medical evidence overwhelmingly supports the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

“He mixes the boring, sensible health advice with pseudoscientific advice in such a way that it’s hard for someone without a medical background to figure out which is which,” said David Gorski, an oncologist and surgeon at Wayne State University who is widely regarded as a leading expert on the anti-vaccine movement.

Fisher said in an interview that Mercola has asked for nothing in exchange for his donations and that the National Vaccine Information Center does not sell or advertise Mercola’s products on its site.

“I do not take funding for a quid pro quo,” she said. “When [Mercola] called me, he said, ‘I admire your work. I’d like to help you.’ ”

The center’s homepage, which the group says was visited more than 1.2 million times last year, displays Mercola.com’s logo. An affiliated website run by Fisher’s group refers numerous times to Mercola.com as one of the most popular health and wellness websites.

Asked if his companies benefit from his donations to the anti-vaccine group, Mercola said in an email that “being an adversary to powerful industries is not a positive for a business like mine.”

– – –

Mercola, 65, started his website in 1997. He had been seeing patients for more than a decade as a licensed osteopath – a practitioner in a field of medicine that often uses joint manipulation to treat illness – and had became convinced that conventional medicine was part of the problem, not the solution, he said in an email.

Along with giving health advice, the website advertised services offered at Mercola’s medical clinic outside Chicago. Among them was a months-long program to help patients “heal mild to serious disease, lose weight” and “permanently abandon” addictions using a “natural-centered approach” for an average price of $2,000, the website said.

By the mid-2000s, Mercola’s focus was shifting to selling products. “I didn’t want to advertise products and businesses that I didn’t trust or believe in – so I formulated, tested, and sold my own brand of products to support the website,” he said in an email.

Susan Woller, then Mercola’s director of business development, described him in an interview as an “excellent marketer” and “voracious learner” who developed ideas on everything from new protein bars to safer cookware. She said his profit margin increased dramatically as he shifted to marketing products under his own brand. She declined to say by how much.

“He is doing all the research and delivering information to his readers,” Woller said. “When you do that and you marry that with a product that you’ve private-labeled, and people respond to that, you can’t help but make some money off it.”

But federal regulators had concerns.

In 2005 and again in 2006, the Food and Drug Administration warned Mercola that he was illegally claiming some of his products, including coconut oil, could help prevent or treat heart disease, cancer and other illnesses. The agency told him that many such products could be marketed as “dietary supplements” if claims about treating or preventing disease were removed. His website now includes the statement: “These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

Mercola said he stopped seeing patients in 2009. By the following year, the businesses were generating $3 million a month, according to records that surfaced in an unrelated lawsuit between Mercola and his financial advisers. He later shifted his businesses to an office building in Cape Coral, Fla.

In 2011, Mercola received another warning from the FDA, this time regarding his claims about thermography, a procedure in which an infrared camera detects patterns of heat and blood flow in the body. The agency wrote that he inaccurately claimed thermography was more sensitive than mammography in detecting diseases such as breast cancer and threatened to impose fines or take other action if those statements were not rescinded.

Mercola has since stopped offering thermography, according to former employees and business records. He said in an email that the warning was based on “political pressure.”

The FDA has taken no enforcement action against Mercola over his vaccine claims. The agency said in a statement that it has no role in approving dietary supplements or in evaluating claims about them – unless those products are purported to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure diseases and are reported to the agency as unapproved drugs. Agency officials did not answer questions about Mercola’s claims regarding vitamins C and D.

In 2016, in response to a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission, Mercola refunded nearly $2.6 million to more than 1,300 people who bought tanning beds that he claimed could reduce the risk of skin cancer. The FTC said the claims constituted a “deceptive act,” pointing out that the product could actually increase the risk of skin cancer.

“Defendants have been unjustly enriched as a result of their unlawful acts or practices,” the agency wrote in the complaint, which was settled when Mercola agreed to pay the refunds.

He stopped selling the tanning beds. Even so, he stood by his claims about their benefits and said in an email that the FTC’s action “was based on criticisms and political pressure” from dermatologists and public health officials, who he said were “wrong.”

– – –

Mercola and Fisher connected about a decade ago, they recalled in a recent video posted to his YouTube channel. In the video, Mercola said the National Vaccine Information Center was then “in transition and was almost ready to shut down.”

“That’s actually true,” Fisher responded.” You made a very big difference at a critical point in our history, and I will always be grateful.”

At the time, a key study that alleged a link between vaccines and autism was unraveling. The research paper, by British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield, was eventually retracted by prestigious medical journal the Lancet, and Wakefield was banned from practicing medicine in Britain.

The anti-vaccine movement began pivoting to a broader message blaming vaccines for numerous illnesses. That aligned with growing interest in alternative medicine and increasing skepticism about the government’s role in parental decision-making.

The resurgent movement found a handful of wealthy patrons, including hedge fund manager and philanthropist Bernard Selz and his wife, Lisa. The Selzes gave $200,000 to a legal fund for Wakefield in 2012, and they went on to give more than $3 million to anti-vaccine groups, including one that held forums this year in Brooklyn, the epicenter of the measles outbreak, The Post previously reported.

The $2.98 million Mercola has given to Fisher’s group since 2009 came from the Natural Health Research Foundation, a private foundation that is entirely funded by his business and that he leads as president, tax records show.

The foundation has also given more than $3.3 million to the Organic Consumers Association, a health and environmental advocacy group, tax records show. On its website, the organization advertises Mercola’s products and reposts some of his content about vaccines and other topics, as well as articles by prominent anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The group’s associate director, Katherine Paul, said that the website’s content is not linked to Mercola’s financial support, and that the organization had posted Mercola’s articles before he started contributing.

Mercola said he supports the Organic Consumers Association because of the group’s dedication to improving food and agriculture.

While Fisher emphasized that she does not promote any retailers’ products, she told potential sponsors of an anti-vaccine conference her group held in 2009 that the event could help them gain “access to both national and international markets” and “increase sales and visibility,” promotional material shows.

Mercola attended the conference and received an “NVIC visionary award.” Mercola did not respond to questions about whether he was a sponsor. He donated $20,000 that year to the National Vaccine Information Center through his foundation. Without elaborating, Fisher said the money “was not an earmarked donation.”

The following year, Fisher’s group and Mercola.com launched a website that tracks vaccine-related legislation in every state. The site provides activists with detailed information, including how to sign up for public comment to support or oppose legislation in their state, where to park to attend a public hearing and what color T-shirt to wear to rallies.

In 2011, Mercola co-sponsored a 15-second video ad on a Jumbotron in Times Square. The ad featured an image of a woman holding a baby with the message “Vaccines: Know the Risks.” Logos of both the National Vaccine Information Center and Mercola.com were prominently displayed.

The ad prompted a heated letter from the American Academy of Pediatrics to CBS Outdoor, then the owner of the Jumbotron. “By providing advertising space to an organization like the NVIC . . . you are putting the lives of children at risk, leaving them unprotected from vaccine-preventable diseases,” wrote O. Marion Burton, then the president of the medical group.

According to Fisher, most of the National Vaccine Information Center’s financial support comes from “individual donations, small foundation grants under $5,000 and in-kind donations.”

In addition to the large contributions from Mercola, Fisher’s group has received financial support from Focus for Health. That foundation, funded by wealthy New Jersey businessman Barry Segal, gave Fisher’s group more than $400,000 from 2011 to 2017, according to tax records.

In September of this year, as flu season approached, Mercola and the National Vaccine Information Center co-sponsored their 10th annual “vaccine awareness week.” Mercola offered to match all donations made to the center that week up to $100,000, according to a video posted to his YouTube channel.

In a video posted the following day, Fisher described her group’s recent successes in state legislatures across the country. Those states include Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon and Texas, Fisher said.

“I look forward to another 30 years of working with you,” she told Mercola.

(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Neena Satija, Lena H. Sun 

{Matzav.com}

32 COMMENTS

  1. Does’t come close to the amounts paid by drug companies to promote legislation promoting and mandating vaccinations and other required medical tests.

  2. Good news but how is it that Big Pharma hasn’t suicided him yet as they’ve been doing with hundreds of holistic (homeopathic) doctors. Over 60 have been suicided in the first half of 2016! and since then hundreds more.

    • 100% right. NEVER should the FDA be trusted. They have natural treatment for cancer but prefer chemotherapy where they can make money.

  3. When it comes to the corruption of the Clintons and the democrats matzav totally gets that. When it comes to the corruption of the pharmaceutical industry , matzav totally missed it. I’m one of those who take natural vitamins and I haven’t needed antibiotics in decades. I know many who get flu shots and they get the flu anyway. By the way, Matzav, Adam Schiff, the one trying to impeach trump was the one who sent messages to social media to cover up “anti-vax misinformation”. Does that smell bad??

  4. Doctors like Paul Offit make Joe Mercola look like small change. Paul Offit sat on the advisory board mandating a vaccine that he owned the patent on. The pharmaceutical company made 180 something million dollars of which 29 million went to Dr Offit, earning him the nickname Dr. Profit. Joe Mercola runs one of the most respected and responsible natural health websites. He delivers high quality information for free. He also advertises his products on his site as he is entitled to do. I have been receiving his excellent newsletter twice a week for over ten years for free and have never had to pay a cent for anything. To those out there condemning the non-vaxxers, have you read what they say their own selves? Or do you just listen to what pharmaceutical company employees or people parroting them have to say. No, I am not smarter than the rest of the world, but I have carefully, very carefully looked at both sides. Please do the same and if you feel for the good of yourself and family that vaccines are a good idea and the way to go then GOD BLESS YOU. You are entitled to do that. Kindly do not judge us without hearing both sides.

    http://vaccinationdecisions.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Paul-Offit-1306181.pdf

  5. I got my flu shot already so I’m good for this season. Nothing can happen to me now. I’m protected from all illnesses. It’s only you crazy whacky rodfim that should ne nervous and worried.

    • And nobody is trying to stop you from getting your flu shot. (please note that the government has started recommending 2nd flu shots, so keep your eye open because you might not want to miss on that added safety.)

  6. Quoting figures of money that vaccine companies spend on lobbyists doesn’t make you right.
    The FACT is that he makes alot of money on fake medicine, so he’s biased. That’s it. There’s really nothing left to say, except for that the world is brainwashed. Obviously. LOL

  7. The FDA approved a blood pressure medication that was made in China. Same as the vaccines. After a long time, the medicine was recalled because it causes cancer. Enough said

  8. BSD

    Clearly yet another hysterically tragic case of “kol ha’posel b’mumo posel”….

    How much money did it take Matzav to allow their arm$ to be twisted into sending out yet more destructive propaganda to harm more Yidden. It’s not yet enough???

    If you had authentic Yiras Shamayim vs your balogny krum “frumkeit” – you’d have the holy azus to set up an official study in the frum community of Vaxxed vs Nonvaxxed children & adults!

    This simple proof that vaccines have demonic roots & are so obviously designed for s l o w kill (except for the minimally tens of thousands of “coincidental” sudden deaths) would FREAK out the entire Jewish community and would put all the bought leaders – rabbis, doctors, & many others who profit off of vaccine “effects” to such humiliating shame…so it’s hard to see that you’d have the guts to arrange that.

    Nevertheless, it WILL be done, as it’s already done in thousands of families like my own. We ALL have “the study” and can describe with scientific accuracy the profound differences in the health & function of our vaxd vs nonvaxd children.

    It’s Chanukah! Let’s ALL be Maccabim! It’s time to do teshuvah from believing & following the doctor-priests of the false gods of franken-health & pseudo-science that revel in perverting Hashem’s perfectly brilliant intricate design of tevah of the niflaos of our anatomy & physiology & the nutrient dense resources He provides us with.

    Anyone who considers themselves moral, whether a yid or not – knows clearly that “the ends does NOT justify the means”. The vaccine “means” – how it was “invented”, its sordid history, how it’s made & promoted are ALL from Lavan’s bag of demonically tumadik tricks.

    The health ministries of many countries are beyond corrupted considering the bloated bribes they accept from the evil eugenisists like Bill Gates & co. To think that the Misrad Habriut should be the worst of them – allowing a deadly & sterilization causing vaccine – Gardasil to be pushed on our precious children should be way too much for anyone to keep quiet about!

    There are too many instances of girls going into menopause after receiving the vaccine. I just spoke to a father whose 14 year old son came home from yeshiva & collapsed with a heart attack. The boys were given this vaccine without parental knowledge or consent – HERE IN ISRAEL!!!!

    How do SOOOOO many Jews remain zombified to the destruction of our well being???? For money??? For power???? Do we have no sense of history????

    For those who are too afraid to wake up – eventually you’ll realize your mistake & you might cry as Eisav did when he realized his loss after his brother received “HIS” bracha…but it’ll just be too late! Jump in while you can! Do teshuvah for colluding with ignorant & arrogant pediatricians who are also too fearful to look into how vaccines are the tool of the pHARMafia…together you damaged brains & immune systems…you wreaked havoc on your children’s lives. Please!!!! Open your eyes as I did as well as the thousands of mothers who I taught to do 1 thing – QUESTION!!!! The mothers are accountable to their families’ health – we must learn HASHEM’S “science” to do that properly. Hashem does NOT require for us to poison & contaminate our children’s blood to keep them “healthy”. In fact – there are quite a few potent “לא תעשה” mitzvos that FORBID allowing vaccines to be injected into our sacred bodies.

    It is also a serious violation of the mitzvah of bitachon in Hashem to blindly allow mysterious substances to be injected into ourselves & our children. If our doctors really considered the ethics of vaccination since those who profit off of sickness MUST RECUSE themselves from interpreting the mitzvah of ״ונשמרתם מאוד לנפשותיכם״ to mean that G-d wants us to blind-trust doctors to inject mysterious filth that they themselves know zero about – into our most precious children.

    The light will shine for all who promote the emes – “מי לה׳ אלי” – we are here to grow. Growth only comes through discomfort. Fear of discomfort keeps us stuck. Trust Hashem – Now I REALLY do! I stopped vaccinating when I learned the truth from REAL doctors nearly 30 years ago & did REAL research (not from cdc, of course)! Listen to clips from Dr. Robert Mendelsohn. He recognized that doctors were being indoctrinated to “follow order” from pHARMa & NOT think critically for themselves. He wrote “ How to Hace a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor”.

    Hashem provides us perpetually for all we need to create wellness in a loving way. We do not need to fear Divinely designed “germs” or childhood illnesses that strengthen us & build resilience. FEAR itself creates exactly what we fear. PHARMA knows these truths – so they promote fear of cancer and now more people can expect to be diagnosed with it r”l – just because of the fear. Yes, there are other potent contributors to this condition.

    How cancer is viewed and handled through “conventional” medicine is a complete travesty of the truth. The truth is out on that – READ & share books & online summits about – the truth about cancer. Stop the laziness & we will stop the destruction of health & early mortality in our communities. Trust Hashem & HUMBLE educated doctors who are aligned with the fact that your body was designed to HEAL without ANY man-made poisons.

    ״כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה״ – we are ALL one. Calling people “anti-vaxxers” is meant to be divisive – so it is NOT ok! Refusing to hear someone’s pain that their family is suffering from vaccines’ effects is cruel. It is denying someone’s reality & called ‘gaslighting”. It is also the opposite of being “נושא בעול עם חבירו״. That furthers is from each other, from Hashem, & geulah.

    Everything Hashem allows to happen in His world has the koach to bring kiddush Hashem. Hashem has allowed countless horrific Molech-type avodah zarahs in the world – vaccination is only 1 form of this idolatrous procedure.

    By rejecting vaccines & embracing Hashem’s loving healing modalities that encompass body mind, & soul vs the reductionistic & superficial broken medical model – WE are creating a tremendous kiddush Shem Shamayim!

    For all the self-righteous mockers out there – we have faith in you! Consider the zechus you will have for sacrificing your ego and joining the winners….you cannot beat us anyway;)

    For more info on health truth, including vaccines – send an email to:

    [email protected]

    • Please leave the part about Bitachon to Gedolai Yisroel. Using religious reasons without rabbinical backing for personal reasons negates the Torah’s values.

    • Remain calm and no one gets hurt.
      Even though I am a frequent critic/free advice giver to Matzav, they are the only one from the heimishe websites that actually allow the anti vaxxers to express themselves freely.

  9. If we are basing our healthcare decisions on profits, no one would use pharmaceuticals. And if I have the choice between synthetic, toxic drugs that have a long list of side effects including death, and natural supplements with no side effects, I’ll take the supplements.
    This hit piece on Mercola only further exposes the pharma-funded media’s agenda to wipe out alternative treatments. New state bills being introduced to force vaccinate children AND adults. The FDA is threatening to eliminate homeopathy. The agenda is clear- pharma wants us all completely dependent on their products.

  10. The point is that both sides have ulterior motives pushing them. As long as we can be honest about this we can start having a conversation. It has been the position of those that oppose vaccines that they have no gain from it whatsoever, which this article disproves. If you do you own research you will find out that many that promote the anti vaccine agenda in the frum community also profit from selling natural remedies. Obviously, the pharmaceutical industry is also profiting from selling vaccinations. There are other emotional motivations that both sides also have. Once we realize that no one is pure, we can start having a civil conversation based on facts.

  11. The latest from The People’s Pharmacy website (peoplespharmacy.com):

    When Are Bad Drug Side Effects Worse Than Drug Benefits?
    Have you ever experienced bad drug side effects? If you watch TV commercials you know that death is not considered an obstacle to FDA drug approvals.

    The FDA approved vaccines. Vaccine approvals aren’t any different.

  12. The latest from The People’s Pharmacy website (peoplespharmacy.com):

    When Are Bad Drug Side Effects Worse Than Drug Benefits?
    Have you ever experienced bad drug side effects? If you watch TV commercials you know that death is not considered an obstacle to FDA drug approvals.

    The FDA approves vaccines. Vaccine approvals aren’t any different.

  13. That is utterly false. Many activists within the community with whom I have worked with personally haven’t made a dime for sharing the truth about vaccines. In fact, most of us lose out financially. We don’t have big pharma bucks or government money helping out cause. It’s incomparable. The non vaccinating activists are regular mothers and fathers who donate their time and money because it’s the emes- not because it’s profitable. I don’t see any regular citizens spending their hard earned money on promoting vaccines. That’s all done by doctors who stand to gain a handsome profit.

    • I personally know one of the main forces against vaccinations that profits from selling vitamins etc..
      I also wrote that many people have emotional reasons for their positions, these reasons can be as strong or stronger than money benefits.
      To reiterate, although I do vaccinate as per my Doctor, I do not deny that a conversation should be had and debated. But let us be real about our intentions.

  14. This movement is funded by the thousands or more of families who have vaccine-injured children and family members. We have nothing to gain from this.

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