Homeopaths are offering “alternative vaccinations” which doctors say could leave patients vulnerable to potentially fatal diseases, a BBC investigation has found.
Three practitioners admitted giving patients a homeopathic medicine designed to replace the MMR vaccine.
Inverness-based Katie Jarvis said she only offered “Homeopathic Prophylaxis” to patients who expressed an interest.
But the discovery has prompted a shocked reaction from doctors.
When asked about the practice, Ms Jarvis said: “The alternative that I would offer would be a homeopathic remedy made from diseased tissue, that comes from someone with that disease, and then made into potentised form so that is given in a homeopathic remedy.
“It can be given instead of, or as well as, the vaccination.
“I’m not advocating that they do not take the vaccination, I am providing support for those who choose not to by giving them an alternative.”
When asked if the homeopathic remedy offered the same protection as the MMR, she replied: “I’d like to say that they were safer, but I can’t prove that.”
However, the BMA’s director of science and ethics, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, said: “Replacing proven vaccines, tested vaccines, vaccines that are used globally and we know are effective with homeopathic alternatives where there is no evidence of efficacy, no evidence of effectiveness, is extremely worrying because it could persuade families that their children are safe and protected when they’re not.
“And some of those children will go on to get the illness, and some of those children may go on to get permanent life-threatening sequelae, or even to die, and that’s a tragedy when the family think they’ve protected their children.”
Hannah Poling has been involved in the vaccine-autism “controversy” for a while. Today we learn that she has been awarded $1.5 million, in damages from the vaccine court. Anti vaccine groups are jumping up and down for joy; they think this proves that vaccines do indeed cause autism. That is to be expected of them, however, in order to better understand the Poling case, we need to do a quick review of her story.
Hannah was developing normally until the age of 18 months, at which time, in July 2000, she received 5 vaccines, in accordance with the US Recommended Immunization Schedule. Two of the 5 vaccines she received, the MMR and the DTaP, protect against multiple diseases, and some web sites are breaking those down and claiming that she received 9 vaccines, which implies 9 injections, which is incorrect. Nevertheless, “right after” taking the vaccines, Hannah’s health deteriorated and she developed autism-like symptoms. Time.com reported the following:
Hannah, now 9, recovered from her acute illness but she lost her words, her eye contact and, in a matter of months, began exhibiting the repetitive behaviors and social withdrawal that typify autism. “Something happened after the vaccines,” says her mom, Terry Poling, who is a registered nurse and an attorney. “She just deteriorated and never came back.”
In 2002, Hannah’s parents filed an autism claim in federal vaccine court. In 2008, the government conceded that the vaccines aggravated a cell disorder nobody knew Hannah had, leaving her with permanent brain damage and autistic-like symptoms. According to the Time.com article I linked to above:
A panel of medical evaluators at the Department of Health and Human Services concluded that Hannah had been injured by vaccines — and recommended that her family be compensated for the injuries. The panel said that Hannah had an underlying cellular disorder that was aggravated by the vaccines, causing brain damage with features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
At the time, anti-vaccination groups hailed the story as indicative that the government was conceding that vaccines cause autism, which is, to say the least, quite a stretch. Hannah’s case is a very specific case; she has a cellular disorder which, the government panel concluded, was aggravated by the vaccine and resulted in her injury. This does not prove that vaccines cause autism. At best, it shows that vaccines may cause similar problems in children with this sort of cellular disorder. Nevertheless, even that is too big a claim to be settled by one case. The human body is too complex, and large-scale studies are necessary to determine if vaccines have an effect in all children with similar mitochondrial disorders, or if a combination of her disorder, plus other factors unique to Hannah, contributed to her injury. In fact, in the same Time article experts in mitochondrial disorders expressed surprise in the panel’s willingness to make the connections between the vaccine, the mitochondrial disorder and Hannah’s autism-like symptoms.
Vaccines are not absolutely safe, just like any other medicine we use. They do have rare side effects, and Hannah may have suffered from one such rare side effect. In fact, the Government has set up a special National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, to deal with cases of injury caused by vaccines. The CDC maintains a special web page where it lists the side effects of each vaccine in the schedule today. Systems such as the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) have been set up to monitor any adverse side effects that follow vaccination. Why is this important to know? Because, many anti-vaccine people claim, matter-of-fact, that doctors, the government, the medical establishment proclaim that vaccines are absolutely safe and no one couldn’t possibly be harmed from them, which they then follow with a story like Hannah’s in an effort to plant a seed of mistrust in the unsuspecting public; a seed which they will keep feeding with other false claims to help it grow into their preferred conspiracy theory.
Clearly, the “establishment” is quite open about the side effects of vaccines; they do not claim vaccines are perfectly safe, they have set up surveillance systems to gather data about possible injury caused by vaccines, and they have set up compensatory procedures for people injured by vaccines. They acknowledge real vaccine side effects, but they require satisfactory science-based evidence, whereas the anti-vaccine crowd seems happy to rely on hear-say to establish all sorts of causation between vaccines and various ailments.
Can we conclude, from this story, that the government has conceded that vaccines cause autism? Age of Autism seems to believe that to be the case. They say:
The government lawyers mumbled something Orwellian and incoherent about a pre-existing mitochondrial disorder and how vaccines didn’t cause Hannah’s autism — the condition just “resulted” from the vaccines. Translation: The medical industry’s wall of doublespeak, delay and denial is crumbling and today, at least, one child got justice. More, many more, to come.
Does it make sense to say the the vaccines didn’t cause the condition, but it resulted from their use? I can see how this can be seen as word play, but think of peanuts. Some people are allergic to peanuts; that is an existing condition and it is not known why some people are allergic to peanuts, they can have an allergic reaction and even die if untreated. So a person is allergic to peanuts, he comes in contact with peanuts and he has an allergic reaction. Can we then claim that peanuts cause allergies? No,as you can see from the link above, the cause of peanut allergies is not known; peanuts do not cause the allergies, the allergy manifests itself when the person comes in contact with peanuts, but it was there all along, even before the person’s first ever contact with peanuts.
The same kind of logic comes in play here: child has a mitochondrial disorder, she has some sort of reaction after a batch of vaccines and over a few months develops autistic symptoms. Can we say that vaccines cause autism? No, at most we can say that, possibly for children which have this cellular disorder, the combination of the vaccines and the disorder, and some other factor, may result in autistic-like symptoms. Even this though, is simply a hypothesis, when all we have is a single data point. We’d have to look at a large number of such children, and preferably compare the ones that received vaccines with the ones that didn’t and see if there was a higher rate of autism in the vaccinated children vs. the non-vaccinated ones.
Think of this another way: eggs are used in producing vaccines today. In fact, people who have ever had a serious allergic reaction to eggs are encouraged to talk to their doctor prior to getting a shot (page 2, it is highlighted in yellow). Now assume a person is allergic to eggs and they don’t know it. They take a shot and have an allergic reaction. Is it rational to say that vaccines cause egg allergies? No, the person was already allergic to eggs prior to getting the shot. The allergy was not caused by the vaccine, but the reaction was. The allergic reaction “resulted” from the vaccine BUT the allergy was not caused by it.
The same line of reasoning is being used here; the government is accepting the parent’s claim that Hannah was injured by the vaccine, but is saying that here autistic symptoms resulted, but were not caused, by the vaccines. After thinking through it, this claim doesn’t sound very “Orwellian” at all, does it?
What can we conclude from the Hannah Poling case? Well, we can conclude that the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is working as intended. The government panel has conceded that the “petitioners are entitled to compensation due to the significant aggravation of Child Doc/77’s pre-existing mitochondrial disorder” by an MMR vaccine. You can read the full, redacted, PDF of the court ruling here. Hannah was awarded $1.5M for life care expenses, lost earnings and pain and suffering, plus an additional $140,000 for past expenses, and a couple of other awards of smaller value.
What we cannot conclude is that this case proves, or that the government concedes, that vaccines cause autism, for the reasons I detailed above. Even the weaker hypothesis, that vaccines represent a higher risk for children with the same, or similar, cell disorders as Hannah, cannot be established through one case. Proper, large, randomized, double-blind, controlled, studies of such children are necessary to establish the causation. For example, it is quite possible that something else, specific to Hannah, in combination with her mitochondrial disorder, and the vaccine may have caused the injury, and that something else may not be present in other children with the same mitochondrial disorder. We just don’t know, and reaching conclusions either way, from one, or even a few, cases is unwarranted.
In its upcoming October 2010 issue, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending mandatory flu vaccinations for health care workers. Here is the current release from the AAP website:
Health-care associated influenza outbreaks are a common and serious public health problem that contribute significantly to patient morbidity and mortality and create a financial burden on health care systems. In a new policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all health care personnel should be required to receive an annual influenza vaccine. The policy, “Recommendation for Mandatory Influenza Immunization of All Health Care Personnel,” published in the October 2010 print issue of Pediatrics (published online Sept. 13), states that “despite the efforts of many organizations to improve influenza immunization rates with the use of voluntary campaigns, influenza coverage among health care personnel remains unacceptably low.” Annual influenza epidemics account for 610 660 life-years lost, 3.1 million days of hospitalization, and 31.4 million outpatient visits. Flu generates a cost burden of approximately $87 billion per year in the United States. Mandatory influenza immunization for all health care personnel is “ethically justified, necessary and long overdue to ensure patient safety,” according to the statement. The influenza vaccine is safe, effective, and cost-effective, so health care organizations must work to assuage common fears and misconceptions about the influenza virus and the vaccine.
Almost 100 million children will be vaccinated in China as part of a massive campaign to eradicate measles, running from September 11 through September 20, 2010. China accounts for 86% of all measles vaccinations in WHO’s Western Pacific region, and logged about 52,000 cases in 2009. Measles is a highly contagious viral disease, and while most people get over it fairly quickly, some suffer serious complications like blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea, pneumonia and ear infections. It is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths among young children, and it caused 164,000 deaths worldwide in 2008.
2 September 2010 – The United Nations is moving swiftly to vaccinate 1.5 million children after a polio case was detected in an area of north-eastern Afghanistan which had been free of the disease for more than a decade.
The polio case was identified in the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz province. It had been assumed that the source of the virus was in neighbouring Tajikistan, which is currently in the midst of a large outbreak, but now it appears that it may have been the result of cross-border population movement from Pakistan.
For three days starting this Sunday, 1.5 million children under the age of five will be vaccinated in five adjacent provinces: Badakhshan, Takhar, Kunduz, Baghlan and Balkh.
To ensure that no child is left unvaccinated, house-to-house visits will be carried out, mobile clinics will be set up, fixed teams will be established in hospitals and immunization posts will be created at border crossing points.
“Afghanistan’s northern regions have been polio-free for some 10 years, making it all the more important to contain possible spill-over effects from outbreaks in neighbouring areas,” said Peter Crowley, UNICEF Representative in the country.
Penn & Teller did an excellent job at voicing the anti-anti-vaccine message in the season finale of the 8th season of their Bullsh!t show. Here is their intro which makes an excellent point visually, that doesn’t come accross as strongly verbally.
Warning: NSFW due to use of profanities.
BEIRUT: “Amazing progress” has been made in reducing measles mortality rates and increasing vaccination coverage in the country, the United Nations said in an open letter sent to the Ministry of Public Health on Tuesday.
According to the letter from the UN Foundation, addressed to the Health Minister Mohammad Jawad Khalife, Lebanon has seen over a 90 percent reduction in measles deaths since 2000, falling in line with the regional average.
Lebanon is now nearing a 93 percent immunization coverage rate and is on target to reach 95 percent nationally in the near future, ministry officials said. This is up from an estimated 55 percent vaccination rate in 1997. The rise has been driven largely by extensive media campaigns, national school drives and increased partnership between the public and private sector.
The government also now offers free vaccinations to all children, including non-Lebanese nationals, but with the high cost of the vaccine – it retails at around $100 on the open market – the private sector is encouraged to take on a large chunk of the burden especially in better-off areas.
“We’ve seen a huge jump in vaccinating rates the last ten years,” Randa Hamadeh, immunization and essential medications program manager at the Ministry of Public Health said. “We have worked closely with UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to ensure that we only use the highest quality of vaccine and by purchasing through them we are also able to obtain vaccines at the best possible price.
“We have worked with municipalities and the lowest levels of local government to make sure that the message gets through to everyone. Our approach at working on the sub-national level is helping us reach the areas most in need.”
While national coverage may be high, regional inequality remains prevalent and the government, in partnership with various UN agencies and the Lebanese Order of Physicians, is now striving to make sure that even the peripheries obtain at least a 90 percent immunization coverage rate.
“We urge Lebanon to fully recommit to measles elimination by 2010 and to a possible eradication goal by 2020,” the UN letter read.
Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=1&article_id=117267#ixzz0xZH9E6fS
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)
Some great news come via a CDC press release. Teen vaccination rates have been steadily increasing across the US for 2009 the latest year they would have full data for. You can read the full press release at the CDC website. Here is a part of the press release:
The survey of more than 20,000 teens aged 13-17 found that in 2009 there were increases in the percentage of teens in this age group who had received vaccines routinely recommended for 11- and 12-year-olds. Specifically:
- For one dose of the tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap), coverage went up about 15 points to about 56 percent;
- For one dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine, coverage went up about 12 points to about 54 percent;
- For girls who received at least one dose of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, coverage increased 7 points to about 44 percent. However, for girls who received the recommended three doses of HPV vaccine, coverage was only about 27 percent (a 9 percent increase);
- For one dose of HPV vaccine, no differences were observed between racial/ethnic groups. However, coverage was higher among teens living in poverty compared with those living at or above the poverty level. For the recommended three doses of HPV vaccine, differences were observed between racial/ethnic groups, including significantly lower coverage for blacks and Hispanics compared to whites;
- There were no significant differences in coverage by racial/ethnic group or by poverty status for Tdap or meningococcal conjugate vaccine; and
- As in 2008, there was wide variation in adolescent vaccination coverage among state and local areas.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, an advisory to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is recommending that the Australian flu vaccine Fluvax (double-check the brand name, CSL also makes Afluria and it is not clear which one the ACIP is referring to, based on the article reporting the original problem with the vaccine, it appears to be Fluvax) produced by CSL Biotherapies, which was associated with highly increased instances of convulsions and fever in kids who got the shot in Australia and New Zealand, should not be used by US doctors unless no other brands of flu vaccine are available, and only with children aged 5 or higher. This is a precautionary measure, since investigations on the Australian phenomenon have not been able to explain what in the vaccine could cause these higher rates of side effects.
Committee members were concerned about the unexplained higher rate of fevers and related seizures seen in young children who got the vaccine earlier this year in Australia and New Zealand. In kids under 5, the rates were roughly 10 times that of other flu vaccines. No deaths have been linked to the problem.
This news shows that the government bodies are keeping a close eye on, and are opting for the safe approach with vaccines, contrary to what certain sources of information claim. It is important to keep in mind that the cautionary approach applies only to one specific brand of flu vaccine, not to flu vaccines in general. There is no indication that the other brands pose risks higher than any other year. You should still vaccinate your children for flu, however make a note to ask your doctor which vaccine she’ll be using, to ensure that your child, if under 5 years of age, does not receive the Australian brand, which has been linked to increased rates of seizures and fevers.
Update 08/12/10 – I have been able to verify that the vaccine this recommendation applies to is AFLURIA. For more details please read the official Centers for Disease Control update on the matter.
The NSW Health Care Complains Commission (HCCC) describes the information provided by the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) as “inaccurate and misleading”. However Meryl Dorey from the AVN claims that “all their information is accurate and fully referenced from medical literature”. Obviously someone is telling porkies, and it isn’t the HCCC.
There simply isn’t enough space on my server’s hard drive to detail all the inaccuracies and lies promulgated by the AVN, so I’ll just concentrate on the most obvious ones. Because if the AVN can’t get basic information correct, what hope do they have when the subject becomes more complicated?
The Immunisation Schedule
Surely for Australia’s self-appointed “vaccine safety watchdog”, this would be the most rudimentary knowledge. So can the AVN manage to give correct information on this basic topic? Let’s take a look. Here is what they claim is on the schedule:
Let’s check the real Australian Vaccination Schedule. Ignoring the fact that many of these vaccines are combined and that the AVN have included vaccines given after not by 12 months, their description of the schedule is far from accurate. The Chicken Pox (Varicella) vaccine is given at 18 months, not 12. There is one dose of Meningococcal (at 12 months), not three doses. Finally, there is no influenza vaccine on the schedule at all.
These may seem like minor errors, but let’s not forget that the AVN have claimed on their website that they provide “all the information you need” on vaccination. If they can’t get the schedule right, what hope is there for more complex information?
Another of the most basic vaccination subjects would be ingredients. After all, if they don’t know what’s in vaccines, how could the AVN be expected to offer advice on the purpose and effect of those ingredients? Let’s look at the statement on their Diphtheria page:
The “mercury” they are referring to is Thiomersal, a preservative used in some vaccines since the 1930s which contains about 1 molecule of mercury per dose. So does “every diphtheria vaccine used in Australia” contain it? No. In fact, it’s not in any currently used diphtheria vaccines, let alone all of them. The first thiomersal-free diphtheria vaccine was licensed for use in Australia in 1997, more than a decade before the AVN wrote this article, and every childhood vaccine used in Australia is thiomersal-free.
Again, one must ask: If the AVN cannot get such basic advice correct, what is the chance that the rest of their information is accurate?