I have also completed the course run by Tetyana Obukhanych, Ph.D. These courses run 6 weeks and 4 weeks each, respectively, and I will do a week by week summary comparing the differences between them.
Dr. Offit developed a rotavirus vaccine, the R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and a Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania, and has also written several books.
Dr. Obukhanych has a Ph.D. in immunology, wrote the Vaccine Illusion, worked in laboratory research at Harvard Medical School and Stanford University School of Medicine.
Week 1 of Dr. Offit’s course
This is supposed to be covering the history of vaccines in 4 separate lectures for a total of roughly 1 hour of video. He explains the different phases vaccines have gone through starting in the 1700’s, though he does explain that the root concept came from variolation and the difference between them. Additionally he covers a couple of technical points on how viruses are cultured and attenuated(weakened their infectious capacity for humans), along with different types of vaccines. Overall his coverage is brief and not overly detailed. Well suited to the absolute novice for the topic.
Week 1 of Dr. Obukhanych’s course
The first week starts off with discussing vaccines in the context of public health and puts a good historical perspective on it. From early in the lecture Dr. Obukhanych gives direct examples from scientific literature on efficacy and walks the student through the information, empowering them to be able to effectively begin independent reading. Throughout the class she stops to see if the participants have questions to ensure they have grasped the material already covered.
As we continue through the hour and a half class, studies are brought up and discussed in detail to give an excellent working understanding of the information within context of the set topic.
The class had clear points that appear to be consistent from one group to the next but she allows the content to flex in between these points to meet the needs of the participants. Her patience with answering even basic questions is an exemplary example of her professionalism and desire to teach.
Week 2 of Dr. Offit’s course
Covers “common questions” and vaccine schedules. He flat out states that the CDC schedule has been studied in it’s entirety. He also states that any deviation from the CDC schedule is harmful and dismisses any concerns in a casual manner. I’m still wondering where the study is that covers the entire schedule… I would like to read it for myself but he doesn’t cite it.
Week 2 of Dr. Obukhanych’s course
At this point the topic we move into is properties of vaccines with a specific focus on aluminium.
The format from the previous week carries over to this week. As we begin, she explains the difference between Th1 and Th2 responses in the immune system and how they function. Within the first 15 minutes we launch into very technical, in depth information. Her enthusiasm is clear from the energy she has while speaking, however that enthusiasm also means that her vocabulary expands quite a bit and for a beginner that would make it challenging to absorb the material. This is easily fixed with a basic write up on terminology given out during the first session.
During this session a student asked about some of the other ingredients such as formaldehyde and soy peptone, Dr. Obukhanych explains the purpose of these ingredients in the production of the vaccine clearly and succinctly. The level of depth in which we cover aluminium gives a distinct and clear image of the effects in the human body, thus equipping the student to continue researching their own.
Week 3 of Dr. Offit’s course
This week covers the media’s role in the portrayal of vaccines. Only 2 short videos attempting to explain how he feels that vaccines are only portrayed in a negative manner by the media and how the “Anti vaccine movement” started in 1998 with Dr. Wakefield’s paper. The “Anti vaccine movement” has been going since the first smallpox vaccine. You can see this on the History of Vaccines website run by the same college of physicians he is supposed to be a member of.
Week 3 of Dr. Obukhanych’s course
For week 3 we start off with an explanation that the immune system needs to be taken care of just like any other system in the body. She also explains the difference between immunity and the immune system. We go into a very detailed explanation on the importance of macrophages and their role in the proper functioning of the immune system, including what can deplete macrophage counts. As we continue she details the immunomodulating effects of different primary vitamins and the synergistic importance of the gut flora in our capacity to absorb and utilize nutrients. Moving forward we finish off with the importance and function of glutathione in detail, including how to increase your body’s production.
Week 4 of Dr. Offit’s course
This week was aimed at being a “case study” on how a vaccine is developed. Dr. Offit chooses to use the vaccine he helped to develop, which makes sense since he can give a much more detailed account considering his first hand experience. He goes on to explain some of the technical aspects but in very shallow depth. If you lack the underlying vocabulary then the 30 minutes of video may need to be viewed a few times to look up terminology. He also talks about the first rotavirus (Rotashield) vaccine that was withdrawn from the market.
Week 4 of Dr. Obukhanych’s course
In the last session we focus on infant immunity. The different types of antibodies that are transferred through the placenta and breastmilk are essential to understanding how an infant immune system works. We cover the importance of different specific nutrients and how they impact disease outcomes and how infant immune systems react to bacterial or viral infections.
Further we cover specifically how bacterial meningitis is a first world issue because of the low breastfeeding rates and it’s protective capacities for breastfeeding.
Week 5 of Dr. Offit’s course
In week 5 he covers vaccine exemptions. In the first lecture he briefly skips over a few examples of adverse effects associated with specific vaccines. Dr. Offit then goes on to dismiss the possibility of other adverse effects as “spreading fear” and claims that many studies have been done to disprove any links but fails to cite any of these studies. The Jenny Mccarthy argument is covered again as well as dismissing professionals such as Dr. Sears with his “Vaccine Book”.
The second lecture opens immediately with the question of whether or not people should be “allowed” to get exemptions, to which Dr. Offit flately states “No”. He then moves on to separating the semantics of “Compulsory” and “Mandatory” vaccines, saying that a “compulsory vaccine” would mean you were pinned down and force vaccinated, and a “mandatory vaccine” is a request that comes with a consequence if the request is denied. He then argues that American’s have no “constitutional right” to exemption.
To explain his view of the risks of exemptions he falls back on the herd immunity argument, one I have examined in detail in the article “Herd Immunity - Vaccine Induced vs. Naturally Derived”.
Week 6 of Dr. Offit’s course
This week he covers “updates in the world of vaccines”. Measles outbreaks, new vaccines, ect… He repeatedly blames unvaccinated children for spreading measles while neglecting to be mindful of outbreaks that have happened in fully vaccinated populations (see the herd immunity article for examples). In the second lecture he talks about the new meningococcal vaccines, the graph he shows compares decline of the disease measured against introduction of the vaccines. No major shift has been seen in the decline, all types of meningococcal disease were declining naturally including serotype B which only had vaccines developed and licensed for a little over a year. He goes on to explain that he feels the decline in smoking is actually why the disease has declined. To his credit he finally covers in depth information, unfortunately this is in contrast to the previous weeks and leaves a novice student out of their depth in a sudden manner.
In conclusion, Dr. Offit’s course is lacking in depth and the student will need to verify each major point made in the course since he neglects to do it himself on a consistent basis.
Additionally the short quizzes for each week are 12 or less questions and contain questions that have much more advanced terminology than the lectures provide. This gives the feeling of the course being much more challenging than it actually is.
Dr. Obukhanych’s course covers a great deal more information in fewer sessions and she makes herself available to answer student questions until they have fully grasped the material.
In order to take her classes we had to work out a solution because I could not attend the sessions live due to the Operating System my computer uses (ChromeBook). I watched recordings, which still contained a lot of information, however it did mean I missed out on the live chat sessions at the end of the class each week.
A couple of points to keep in mind is that Dr. Obukhanych’s first language is not english so her speech patterns can differ from what a north american listener is accustomed to, and her accent is very mild but if another student also learned english as a second language they will need to make sure to participate in the chat at the end.
I encourage you to take both courses and decide for yourself.
Dr. Tetyana’s course is no longer available for live sessions, however she is working with another individual to make a pre-recorded course available so more people can take it. At this time there is no set launch date but they are continuously working on making it the best they possibly can.