MMR doctor links 170 cases of autism to vaccine
By Lorraine Fraser, Medical Correspondent
THE consultant who first raised concerns about MMR vaccinations has disclosed to The Telegraph that he has identified nearly 170 cases of a new syndrome of autism and bowel disease in children who have had the triple-dose injection.
Andrew Wakefield, a consultant gastroenterologist at the Royal Free Hospital in London, said that in the "majority" of cases parents had documentary evidence that their child's physical and mental decline had followed the vaccination. Professor Wakefield said: "Last week in our clinic we saw nine or 10 new children with exactly the same story, referred by jobbing paediatricians from around the country who said, 'This child developed normally, had a reaction to MMR and is now autistic'".
In his first public comments since the row erupted in 1998, when he reported on 12 cases, Professor Wakefield said that he remained seriously concerned by the safety of the vaccine, despite reassurances from the Department of Health. He said: "The department says that the safety of MMR has been proven. The argument is untenable. It cannot be substantiated by the science. That is not only my opinion but increasingly the view of healthcare professionals and the public.
He said: "Tests have revealed time and time again that we are dealing with a new phenomenon. The Department of Health's contention that MMR has been proven to be safe by study after study after study just doesn't hold up. Frankly, it is not an honest appraisal of the science and it relegates the scientific issues to the bottom of the barrel in favour of winning a propaganda war."
The doctor, who was fiercely attacked by health officials for voicing his doubts three years ago, said in an exclusive interview that he felt driven to break his silence because of the accumulating evidence. His remarks will infuriate the Government and sharpen the dilemma of parents over whether to have children innoculated with MMR.
It emerged last month that a rising number of doctors and nurses were worried about giving second doses of the vaccine, and pressure is growing for its separation into its three component vaccinations, spread over three years. In his 1998 article in The Lancet, Professor Wakefield reported finding a devastating combination of bowel disease and autism in 12 children.
His revelation that that figure has reached almost 170 cases will shock parents and doctors and add pressure on the Government to justify its vaccination policy. This month Dr David Salisbury, the head of the Government's immunisation programme, insisted that MMR was safe.
The vaccine, which contains live measles, mumps and rubella virus, has been given to millions of children in the UK since its introduction in 1988 but the take-up rate has fallen sharply since Dr Wakefield made his original claims.
Ten days ago health chiefs warned parents that Britain could face a measles outbreak unless more had their children vaccinated with MMR. Professor Wakefield said, however, that if an outbreak were to erupt it would be the fault of the health department, which had "failed to address the safety issues".
The doctor and his colleagues are testing the hypothesis that the measles virus from the vaccine can lodge in the gut of susceptible children, damaging the bowel and causing autism, and that the addition of the mumps virus makes that more likely.
Were all of these children killed by the triple MMR jab?
13/1/02 Sunday Express
Focus By Lucy Johnston
AT LEAST 26 families claim their children died as a result of the controversial measles, mumps and rubella jab, the Sunday Express can reveal.
In some cases the Government has awarded parents up to £100,000 under its 1979 Vaccine Damage Payment Act. In others, post mortem reports concluded the jab was the most likely cause of death. Despite this, the Department of Health insists no child has ever died from MMR.
This assertion is a key aspect of its £3 million publicity drive to persuade parents the vaccine is entirely safe.
It contradicts the view of the US Government, which accepts children die from MMR and awards compensation as a result. Most children do not react to the jab, but medical literature supports the view that MMR can occasionally kill. The parents are now demanding an official inquiry into the deaths. Julie Roberts, 40, whose daughter Stacey died, said: "The Government should take responsibility. It has never given proper warnings of the risk and still doesn't despite the evidence. Tony Blair can see his children at home. I have to visit my daughter at her grave."
Experts writing in the Journal of Pediatrics concluded that of 48 children who reacted to the measles component of the jab, eight died and the rest had seizures or brain damage. And a recent study on 1.8 million children by the Finnish Health Board linked neurological reactions, allergic attacks, epilepsy and meningitis to the vaccine. Our research follows speculation over whether Tony Blair's 19-month-old son Leo has had the MMR jab. The Prime Minister has said he fully supports the vaccine but will not say if Leo has had it.
Many of the families of children who have died have taken legal action. Richard Barr, of solicitors Alexander Harris, has details of 24 cases. He said: "It is widely acknowledged in medical literature and by the American government that the triple vaccine can, on rare occasions, kill, yet this Government won't accept it."
Jackie Fletcher, of the pressure group Jabs, which is trying to highlight the potential dangers, said: "The Government should be giving people full and accurate information about health risks."
But a Department of Health spokesman insisted: "Parents who received payments after their children died following MMR would not get the money now as science has moved on. MMR protects against death and we stand by the fact that no child has died as a result of MMR."
Wendy Francis's son, Robert, began behaving abnormally two years after he had MMR in January 1990. He lost control of his movements and slept for 18 hours at a time. Within months he fell into a coma and died in December. Robert, then seven, had developed a degeneratative brain condition called SSPE (sub-acute sclerosis pan encephalitis), linked to the measles component.
The disease can have a long incubation period and Mrs Francis, 40, an auxillary nurse and Robert's consultant think the vaccine was the only way Robert could have developed it. The family, from Easington, north Yorkshire, are taking legal action against the vaccine's manufacturer.
Ashley Shipman was born in 1985 and was a healthy three-year-old when he received the MMR vaccine. When he was nine his parents Elaine and Andrew of Eastwood, Nottingham, noticed he was having problems with his balance and co-ordination. He too was diagnosed with SSPE and died in June 1999, aged 14. They received £30,000 compensation.
His father, a lorry driver, said: "We took Ashley into hospital in October 1994 and by Christmas he was in a wheelchair. We were told by the consultant who treated him that his condition was caused by his vaccination."
In 1995 the Government's vaccine damage tribunal paid £30,000 compensation to James Smith, of Gateshead, for brain damage after he was given MMR at the age of four. James died nine years later aged 13. Biopsy material taken from his brain and intestines will form a central plank of the scientific evidence in support of a legal case due to be heard in October next year. Up to 300 cases relate to this brand of vaccine - Pluserix - which was banned by the Department of Health in 1992 after being linked with meningitis. This was two years after an identical vaccine was banned in Canada.
John and Faye Smith say the jab transformed their healthy, intelligent son into a child needing round-the-clock care. It took them six years and four hearings, however, to persuade the vaccine damage tribunal of this.
Faye, 59, said: "It's not about money, but truth. It's diabolical that the Government refuses to acknowledge the risks of MMR."
Judith Dwyer, 45, of Tongwynlaif, near Cardiff, received a payment after her four-year-old daughter Chloe died following a "booster" jab in 1989. She too was given a version later banned because of its dangerous side effects. Chloe developed pins and needles in her legs, then paralysis and problems breathing. She was rushed to hospital but it was too late.
After an eight-year fight Judith, an intensive care technician, persuaded a tribunal the jab was the likely cause of Chloe's death. In September 1996 it accepted this and paid out.
Mother of two Judith said: "Health visitors called me a scare mongerer and laughed. But we fought to raise the profile of vaccine damage." Stacey Berry, of Atherton, Manchester was 13 when she had a booster jab in November 1994. Days later she started having fits, "stopped smiling, and stared into space." She was diagnosed with the brain disease SSPE and given two years to live. She died in November 2000, aged 19. A post mortem examination concluded the disease was a "rare complication" of the vaccine".
Christopher Coulter was 15 when he suffered a fit and died in his sleep 10 days after being vaccinated. He had an unblemished health record and no history of epilepsy but no explanation has been offered other than the statement on his death certificate - "asphyxiation due to severe epileptic seizure". His mother Anne of Hillsborough, northern Ireland said: "Nothing would replace Christopher, but I want answers. I want peace of mind for my daughters should they ever have children."
Hannah Buxton was 18 months old when she reacted to her first MMR jab. She started having fits and died 18 months later in February 1992. Parents Carol and Tony of Towcester, Northants, did not know Hannah had been given the strain of vaccine later withdrawn after it was deemed unsafe. In March that year a tribunal blamed the vaccine for her death. Nicola Gentle, 29, of Plymouth, Devon, is convinced her 15-month-old baby Emma Jane died because of the triple vaccine she was given in September 1998. Within six hours she was on a life-support machine. Three days later she was brain dead but a coroner said he could not say for certain whether or not MMR had killed her.
Shirley Fitzgerald's son Kieren was given the MMR jab in June 1991 when he was 14 months. He reacted within days. "He stopped smiling, laughing and crying and became frightened of his toys," said Shirley. Kieren also developed bowel problems - linked to MMR by some scientists. In July 1992, he died, aged two. Toddler Harriet Moore died following an MMR vaccination in 1998. Six weeks later she suffered fits and died in her parents arms. Sarah and Pat Moore, of Peasedown St John, near Bath, took the case to tribunal.
Jade Scrimger was vaccinated with MMR at 17 months and died from meningitis three days later in October 1998. Her mother Sheena has since discovered the drug used on her daughter was later banned by the Department of Health because it caused meningitis. She has abandoned the idea of taking legal action against the vaccine manufacturers, however, because lawyers say it is not worth it. In Britain the maximum award for a child's death is £7,500. Five days after Elaine Adam's 16-month-old son Stevie was given the MMR vaccine 1991 he too developed meningitis and died. Elaine and her husband Robert, of East Kilbride, were convinced MMR was to blame but their fears were dismissed by doctors. Mrs Adam has refused to allow her second child, Terry, six, to have the jab.
13/1/02 Sunday Express
WE REPORT today on the families who have lost babies, they believe, due to the MMR vaccination. Their claims add further confusion to the debate about this injection, yet Tony Blair has still not offered reassurance on the matter by telling us that his son Leo has had this vaccination. It means thousands of parents are paying doctors to give their child these three inoculations separately. Mr Blair must explain where he stands on this. Only then will parents feel more confident.
9/1/02 Private Eye
MMR: A STAB IN THE DARK
The government and medical establishment have only themselves to blame for the reports last weekend of an "alarming" and "dangerous" drop in the take-up of the MMR vaccine. The BSE scandal is still too fresh in everybody's mind for the public to accept that something is safe just because government scientific and health advisers and an expensive advertising campaign say it is. Last month's Medical Research Council (MRC) review of autism, which again declared that there was no evidence to support a link between the triple jab and autism, is just more of the same. In fact no has yet said there is a definite link. What Dr Andrew Wakefield and now other researchers here and abroad have uncovered is the possibility of link. The response of the medical establishment has been to force Wakefield out of his job rather than undertake meaningful research which might prove him wrong - for example, by initiating an international study comparing vaccinated with unvaccinated children. Nor does the MRC report recommend such a study. Given public alarm in Britain, fuelled by the Blair family's claims to privacy, another major disappointment is the MRC paper's failure to recommend proper monitoring and recording of autism rates in the UK. It suggests, from what figures are available, that the rate among children is now one in every 166. That is a huge leap from the official figure published in the Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry in 1988, which suggested the figure was one per 2,200 of the population.
What the MRC paper does suggest is that methodological differences between studies, changes in diagnostic practice and public and professional awareness are likely causes of the apparent increase. This begs a question, if diagnosis is better, why hasn't a huge increase in diagnosis in the adult population also been noticed or recorded? The report states only that the prevalence in the adult population is "not known", but doesn't suggest we find it out.
Yet in Shetland and the Scottish isles, for example, every diagnosed autistic child is now aged 13 or under. In fact in some areas where autism rates have been monitored, the figures are even more alarming. Cambridge researchers have found one autistic child per 100. A similar figure emerges from the local education authority in East Surry. Among boys the figure rises to one in 69.
Similar increases are reported in Europe: in Sweden, one in 141 in children with IQs of over 70; in Finland a four-fold increase from 1979 to 1994 among five to seven year olds. In the US, New Jersey reports an increase of 876 percent in eight years. Illinois a 627 percent increase in six years and a 1,200 percent increase in Miami.
Can this explosion - one US researcher, Edward Yazbak, now refers to it as "a silent epidemic" - really simply be better diagnosis? Or is it, as more and more scientists appear to believe, the result of some kind of external trigger or triggers perhaps acting on a genetic predisposition: exposure to drugs, viral infection, heavy metals... or MMR vaccine.
Autism Epidemic-----US Department of Education figures
Total Total % Increase
12,222 34,354 181%
Total Total % Increase
12,222 42,487 248%
Total Total % Increase
12,222 53,561 339%
Total Total % Increase
12,222 65,396 435%
Total Total % Increase
12,222 78,717 544%
Note: Total reflects 50 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico
Latest figures for year 2000/2001
http://www.IDEAdata.org/tables/ar_aa2.htm year 1999/2000
http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/OSEP/Research/ Data tables before
Note: 1992/1993 AA2 numbers are from hard copy I have from the US
Department of Education
Scientists have found new evidence to support fears that the MMR vaccine is causing children to develop autism and bowel disease, The Telegraph can reveal today. Specialists from Trinity College, Dublin, have detected the strain of measles virus used in the MMR jab in tissue samples from the inflamed intestines of 12 children, who each developed autism after receiving the injection. The results will add further weight to claims that MMR may be responsible for a rapid rise in autism in children over the past decade. The Department of Health has repeatedly dismissed concerns about its safety, saying epidemiological studies have failed to find a link to autism. It has infuriated worried parents by refusing to allow the alternative of single vaccines to be prescribed on the NHS. The work was carried out by Prof John O'Leary, a pathologist with a record of important discoveries in the field of virology. Although the finding does not prove that the MRR jab caused autism and bowel disease in the children, it raises urgent questions about the vaccine's role in their condition. None of the children concerned had shown any sign of disease beforehand. The discovery comes days after the Government seized on a new study to bolster its claims that the MMR vaccine is safe. The review, from a commercial company which lists the Department of Health as one of its clients, did not, however, consider work published since 1998 by scientists concerned about MMR. Prof O'Leary's results have been made public in a precis of a scientific presentation released ahead of a meeting of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland next month. It was greeted with alarm by parents last night.
Jackie Fletcher, of the parents' group JABS, said the findings had profound implications and must be taken seriously. "We have parents shouting that these problems are occurring and what do the Government and health chiefs do - they keep their heads buried in old reports not designed to identify these problems," she said. "No one is listening. Why?" Ann Hewitt, whose son Thomas, eight, has severe autism and bowel problems, learned earlier this year that Dr O'Leary had found measles virus in the boy's gut. She and scores of others who received the same news now want to know what is going on.
The new results follow a study by Prof O'Leary and his colleagues, reported in February, in which they found measles virus of unknown origin in gut biopsies from 75 of 91 autistic children with bowel problems. Measles virus was found in only five of 70 normal youngsters. The team now claims that the new study corroborates their earlier work linking measles virus with the condition and "indicates the origins of the virus to be vaccine strain".
Last night Visceral, a charity set up to fund research into autism and bowel disease, called for MMR to be suspended until studies establish just what the vaccine-strain virus is doing. MMR, which contains live measles mumps and rubella virus, was launched in the UK in 1988 and is given to infants at 12-15 months and four years. The samples tested in Dublin were from some of nearly 200 youngsters diagnosed with developmental disorder and "new variant inflammatory bowel disease" by doctors at the Royal Free Hospital, in London, where Dr Andrew Wakefield worked until he was ousted last December.
The controversy over MMR and autism began four years ago when Dr Wakefield and his colleagues reported in The Lancet on 12 children with autistic problems and bowel disease and revealed that the parents of eight of them had said their children regressed developmentally after receiving the MMR jab.
While the genetic code of the strain of measles virus used in MMR differs only minutely from that of the virus responsible for natural infections, Prof O'Leary and his colleagues were able to use a commercially produced molecular probe to distinguish the two. The probe was designed to detect a single difference in the genetic code of the viruses and to give off a fluorescent signal when it does so. The MMR row became so heated this year that Tony Blair, the Prime Minister - who has refused to say whether his two-year-old son Leo has had the MMR jab - accused Dr Wakefield and the media of "scaremongering" on the issue.
The chief medical officer, Professor Liam Donaldson, has indicated he would rather resign than abandon official policy on the three-in-one vaccine. Dr Wakefield said last night: "Prof O'Leary and colleagues have now provided what may prove to be the most important piece of evidence to date in the case against the MMR vaccine. Parents must at the very least be given a choice of single vaccines. "Not to do so in the face of these data and all the other evidence we have now published would be negligent in the extreme. It is not acceptable to assume that this vaccine virus is an innocent bystander if your concern is for the safety of the children." The Department of Health said that it had no plans to review the use of MMR. "This study, if true, does not prove that MMR causes the condition of autism just because the virus is present in the gut. Critical will be independent testing of the teams' samples, which has long been awaited," said a spokesman Scientists have found new evidence to support fears that the MMR vaccine is causing children to develop autism and bowel disease, The Telegraph can reveal today. Specialists from Trinity College, Dublin, have detected the strain of measles virus used in the MMR jab in tissue samples from the inflamed intestines of 12 children, who each developed autism after receiving the injection.
The results will add further weight to claims that MMR may be responsible for a rapid rise in autism in children over the past decade. The Department of Health has repeatedly dismissed concerns about its safety, saying epidemiological studies have failed to find a link to autism. It has infuriated worried parents by refusing to allow the alternative of single vaccines to be prescribed on the NHS. The work was carried out by Prof John O'Leary, a pathologist with a record of important discoveries in the field of virology. Although the finding does not prove that the MRR jab caused autism and bowel disease in the children, it raises urgent questions about the vaccine's role in their condition.
None of the children concerned had shown any sign of disease beforehand. The discovery comes days after the Government seized on a new study to bolster its claims that the MMR vaccine is safe. The review, from a commercial company which lists the Department of Health as one of its clients, did not, however, consider work published since 1998 by scientists concerned about MMR.
Prof O'Leary's results have been made public in a precis of a scientific presentation released ahead of a meeting of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland next month. It was greeted with alarm by parents last night. Jackie Fletcher, of the parents' group JABS, said the findings had profound implications and must be taken seriously. "We have parents shouting that these problems are occuring and what do the Government and health chiefs do - they keep their heads buried in old reports not designed to identify these problems," she said. "No one is listening. Why?"
Ann Hewitt, whose son Thomas, eight, has severe autism and bowel problems, learned earlier this year that Dr O'Leary had found measles virus in the boy's gut. She and scores of others who received the same news now want to know what is going on. The new results follow a study by Prof O'Leary and his colleagues, reported in February, in which they found measles virus of unknown origin in gut biopsies from 75 of 91 autistic children with bowel problems.
Measles virus was found in only five of 70 normal youngsters. The team now claims that the new study corroborates their earlier work linking measles virus with the condition and "indicates the origins of the virus to be vaccine strain". Last night Visceral, a charity set up to fund research into autism and bowel disease, called for MMR to be suspended until studies establish just what the vaccine-strain virus is doing. MMR, which contains live measles mumps and rubella virus, was launched in the UK in 1988 and is given to infants at 12-15 months and four years.
The samples tested in Dublin were from some of nearly 200 youngsters diagnosed with developmental disorder and "new variant inflammatory bowel disease" by doctors at the Royal Free Hospital, in London, where Dr Andrew Wakefield worked until he was ousted last December. The controversy over MMR and autism began four years ago when Dr Wakefield and his colleagues reported in The Lancet on 12 children with autistic problems and bowel disease and revealed that the parents of eight of them had said their children regressed developmentally after receiving the MMR jab.
While the genetic code of the strain of measles virus used in MMR differs only minutely from that of the virus responsible for natural infections, Prof O'Leary and his colleagues were able to use a commercially produced molecular probe to distinguish the two. The probe was designed to detect a single difference in the genetic code of the viruses and to give off a fluorescent signal when it does so. The MMR row became so heated this year that Tony Blair, the Prime Minister - who has refused to say whether his two-year-old son Leo has had the MMR jab - accused Dr Wakefield and the media of "scaremongering" on the issue.
The chief medical officer, Professor Liam Donaldson, has indicated he would rather resign than abandon official policy on the three-in-one vaccine. Dr Wakefield said last night: "Prof O'Leary and colleagues have now provided what may prove to be the most important piece of evidence to date in the case against the MMR vaccine. Parents must at the very least be given a choice of single vaccines.
"Not to do so in the face of these data and all the other evidence we have now published would be negligent in the extreme. It is not acceptable to assume that this vaccine virus is an innocent bystander if your concern is for the safety of the children." The Department of Health said that it had no plans to review the use of MMR. "This study, if true, does not prove that MMR causes the condition of autism just because the virus is present in the gut. Critical will be independent testing of the teams' samples, which has long been awaited," said a spokesman.
MMR: Are you reassured the vaccine is safe?
The most in-depth analysis to date has cleared the controversial MMR vaccine of any link to autism or bowel disease. The researchers say their findings provide clear reassurance for patients and health professionals that the combined jab for measles, mumps and rubella is safe. There has been a sharp drop in the number of parents prepared to give their children the MMR vaccination because they're worried about a possible link with autism and inflammatory bowel disease.
But a team led by Dr Anna Donald and Dr Vivek Muthu have examined research into MMR from 180 countries around the world and now claim the vaccine is completely safe. Are you reassured about the safety of the MMR vaccine? Has the latest evidence changed your mind? Would you give your child the vaccine?
The finger of suspicion has been pointed at MMR
It is good news that researchers have found no link between MMR and autism but the research cannot end there. Parents will not be reassured until a valid reason for the sharp rise in cases of autism is found. The finger of suspicion has been pointed at MMR. Without any alternative suspect it will stay there. Steve Cahill, England Safe is a relative term in the healthcare field. One must weigh the benefits vs the possible side effects. In the case of MMR, its usage in millions of patients in many countries has proved its safety. TFB, USA
How can the authors of this latest report claim that it proves anything, if, as they claim, the research that it reviews is flawed? Such an approach only demonstrates they found the current evidence for the MMR/autism link hypothesis unpersuasive.
So, it's safe again is it? Verified safe by a set of DoH doctors. Are these the same doctors who are the shareholders of the company that manufacturers this vaccine then I wonder? After all, as long as the drug company is profitable, what does it really matter if my son becomes autistic? Sorry Mr Blair, the damage is done.
Geoff Hirst, Scotland
The original so-called research that 'proved' a problem with MMR does not stand up to scrutiny by anyone other than the media and a few stupid parents who believe what they see in print. The rise in autism is acknowledged to be in a large part due to better and different ways of diagnosis.
Barry P, England
Why should anyone believe it is safe?
If the vaccine is so safe, when will Tony confirm that Leo has had the jab? By refusing to comment it seems like he has something to hide - and if the Prime Minister is refusing the jab that his government is trying to force on everyone else, why should anyone believe it is safe?
No one believes the Government any more, especially when business interests are put on the line. The reason the MMR is being pushed as 'safe' is to save money for the drug companies who have invested in a product and want to see a profit. It is unfair, and immoral, to take the decision away from parents how they will protect their children.
Peter Finch, UK
There is overwhelming evidence this vaccine is safe. In my opinion, it is far more likely that the rise is autism and other similar childhood problems are down to women who refuse to breastfeed (for whatever reason), as well as smoking, drinking, poor diet and taking medicines, which may have unknown, but subtle, side effects on unborn
children. The care of a baby needs to start way before it is born!!!
Chris Chitty, UK
Mail on Sunday 19th May 2002
Blair still silent over Leo as parents refusing jab face having medical notes scrutinized
Labour accused of double standards on MMR rules
By Rachel Ellis, Medical Correspondent
The Tories accused Tony Blair of double standards last night over new rules which could let the Government identify parents who will not allow their children to have the controversial MMR jab. The Prime Minister has refused to reveal whether his son Leo , who will be two tomorrow, has received the triple measles, mumps and rubella jab which has been linked to autism and bowel disease.
He claims under patient confidentiality rules that he has no obligation to reveal his family's private medical details. But regulations expected to be approved in the House of Lords this week mean that Ministers will be able to access patient's medical records without their consent. If the number given MMR continues to fall and there is a measles epidemic, for example, the Health Secretary could demand patient records to identify areas of low uptake. If doctors, nurses or other health workers refused, they could be fined £5,000.
Last night Tory health spokesman Dr Liam Fox accused Mr Blair of hiding behind patient confidentiality when it suited him.
'It's bizarre that the Prime Minister should say that the common-law defence of confidentiality is one which he thinks is suitable and necessary in the case of his own family and then to come forward with legislation which will effectively abolish it,' Dr Fox said. He warned that the move could mean that the Blair's medical records were accessed too. And he condemned the fact that the Health Secretary would be able to decide who should have access to private medical records and to punish doctors who failed to hand them over.
'Absolutely no justification has been given for taking these wide powers,' he said. 'The Secretary of State will be prosecutor, judge and jury.'
The Department of Health stressed that patient information will be kept strictly confidential and only health organisations will be able to access it for research or monitoring immunisation programmes, outbreaks of infectious diseases and adverse reactions to vaccines and medicines. Private companies - including pharmaceutical and insurance companies - will not be allowed the data, it said. A spokeswoman added: 'Who can have this information will be very restricted. It will be available only in limited circumstances to protect public health and sustain essential NHS activity and for research. 'If there was a severe problem with the uptake of MMR and their was a risk of an epidemic, that could be an example. There is no way the records will be made public'. Organisations who want access to patient records will have to apply to the Patient Information Advisory Group - an independent, statutory watchdog whose members represent patient's groups, healthcare professionals and regulatory bodies.
However, the regulations raise concerns that confidential information will be passed between Government departments. A poll of 1,000 people for the Patients' Association revealed that 95 per cent of patients do not wantcivil servants to have access to their records without their consent.
Simon Williams, of the Association, said: ' We all have to be confident that if we discuss matters of great personal detail with a health professional, this remains private. We are not confident at the safeguards introduced to ensure patient information is not misused.' Meanwhile, a former Government scientific adviser had condemned Labour's handling of the MMR crisis. Latest figures show that only 70 per cent of toddlers due to have the jab in March did so - down six per cent since the end of last year and well below the target of 95 per cent.
Lord May said the current crisis was caused by the 'excessively confident assertion that there is no risk attached to MMR rather than what I believe to be correct, that there may be a small risk'.
Who will stop Big Brother delving into our private lives?
This Government tell us very little about itself. It claims that its privacy is infringed whenever any Minister is accused of hypocrisy. Yet it seeks to know more and more about us, now seeking access to our detailed and confidential medical records, without our knowledge or consent. What an odd contrast this makes with the Prime Minister's continued refusal to tell us if his youngest son has been given the controversial MMR injection which his Government actively urges on every parent of a small child. We may not know if Leo Blair has received the MMR, but Tony Blair and his Ministers may be told if your child has had the jab.
Of course, the state needs to know specific things about us for specific purposes. But increasingly, our rulers seem to want to amass private information, perhaps because of the increased power it gives them over our lives. They are already talking about using the benefit system to discipline people whose behaviour they do not like. It is only a short step from this to withdrawing benefits, school places or driving licences from those who refuse to give their children the MMR vaccine.
We know that they would like us to be registered and issued with identity tags. We know that they want Government agencies to be able to share their files with each other, giving thousands of petty officials unwarranted knowledge about the intimate details of the lives of law-abiding citizens.
Either there is such a thing as privacy or there is not. It is outrageous that Mr Blair should piously invoke his right to privacy when faced with an inconvenient question, while compelling us to answer the same question without any control over what is done with the information. Why should we trust Government officials with the most secret details of our lives when the head of the Government will not even say if he is following his own advice on immunisation? The word 'minister' actually means 'servant', not boss. This Big Brother behaviour is better suited to a dictatorship than a democracy. Luckily, we still have a House of Lords that can stand up to Downing Street. They should do so on this issue.
Telegraph Magazine 8 June 2002
MMR: who to believe?
The whistleblower, the medical establishment and the parents put their case One in 86 primary-school children in the UK has autism, compared with one in 2,200 in 1988. Dr Andrew Wakefield is among those who believe that this rise is linked with the MMR vaccine, yet the Government is convinced of its safety. Who are we to believe?
Special report by Justine Picardie
On a quiet suburban road in south-west London, not far from the Thames, there is a neat, white-painted detached house, behind a clipped laurel hedge. It is a comfortable family home, with children''s bicycles at the front, and a barbeque in the back garden; the kind of place where you assume ordinary life goes on, undisturbed by the occasional roar of aircraft in the sky overhead, as they make their descent towards Heathrow.
In this house, lives Dr Andrew Wakefield, his wife, Carmel, who is also a doctor, and their four children: a likeable, lively family, the kind you would be happy to have as friends. But in the past year, their lives have been turned upside down, and this summer they are leaving their home and moving to the States, because Dr Wakefield can no longer continue his work in this country. His crime? To question the safety of the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
Now, you've probably read something about this subject before: the front-page newspaper reports earlier this year, asking questions about the links between MMR and autism; and the replies from the Department of Health, damning Dr Wakefield as a lone, maverick doctor whose research could not be replicated. You've thought about your own children, perhaps, or grandchildren, and maybe wondered why you never used to hear about autism 15 or 20 years ago, and why now everyone seems to know someone with an autistic child. Then you probably turn the page, because the story seems so unlikely - how can a vaccine designed to promote good health, in fact damage a child? - and anyway, news moves on, as we do. But as is so often the case, there is a longer, more intriguing story behind the headlines. Why, for instance, has Dr Wakefield's telephone been tapped? (An intercept on his home number was discovered last year by a telecom engineer, who had been trying to work out why the Wakefield's BT burglar alarm kept going off for no apparent reason.) Why, too, do his supporters in the medical establishment fear speaking out openly on the issue, preferring secret meetings and off-the-record briefings? And why do so many parents of autistic children believe there has been a concerted cover-up of evidence suggesting a possible link between the vaccine and their children''s condition?
Dr Wakefield himself (a 45-year-old surgeon and consultant gastroenterologist whose research at the Royal Free Hospital in London was formerly commended for its ''elegance'' - before he made his controversial mention of MMR) believes that money lies at the heart of the matter. After all, he points out, a court case involving more than 1,000 children whose parents believe they have been damaged by the vaccine will be heard against the vaccine manufacturers in this country at the end of next year; and similar actions are proceeding in America. If these court actions are successful, he says (and the drug companies have not yet managed to have them struck out, despite repeated efforts to do so), ''There is potentially a massive liability, that would bankrupt the vaccine manufacturers. In California last year, there were 3,000 new diagnoses of autism; the great majority of those MMR-related. If it can be shown that the drug companies knew there were problems [with the vaccine] but had done nothing, then the awards increase astronomically. We could be talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.'' (Already in the US more vaccine damage payments are made after MMR than any other vaccine, and the total payments to date are close to $1 billion.) As he speaks, you can hear the tiredness in his voice, and his face is grey with exhaustion. The phone rings constantly, for Dr Wakefield has become a pivotal figure for many in the parents'' campaign; a handsome, glossy-haired charismatic hero to families of autistic children, in this country and America, yet a heretic to those scientists and civil servants who disagree with him. The one thing he cannot be described as is 'lone': not that this was ever the case, given that his original paper in the Lancet, published in 1998, that raised the possibility of a connection between MMR and autism, was co-authored by 12 other Royal Free researchers, including Professor John Walker-Smith, one of the most distinguished paediatric gastroenterologists in the country. (Prof Walker-Smith, who has now retired from his chair at the Royal Free, refused to comment to the press when the paper was published; but in a letter earlier this year to the Lancet, he wrote, ''I continue to support the MMR vaccine (but) I am also concerned that further urgent research is needed to resolve the genuine concerns of parents who associate MMR with the onset of autism and to try to identify whether there are factors that may place a very small but important group of children at risk of such a disorder.'') In fact, serious concerns about the jab had already been raised over the years - in Japan, after an outbreak of vaccine-related meningitis (MMR has now been completely withdrawn in Japan in favour of single shots); and in Canada (where it is still administered, in a different form), for the same reason.
Dr Wakefield, the son of a neurologist and a GP - had spent some time working in Canada, before returning here to research the link between Crohn's disease (a chronic inflammatory bowel disorder) and the measles vaccine. In 1997, after he, along with several other researchers, published a paper in the Lancet on the subject, he was contacted by the mother of an autistic child, Rosemary Kessick, who had been told about his work by another mother, Jackie Fletcher, who had read about it on the internet. Both women had strong suspicions that their sons'' autism had been caused by MMR vaccinations; and Kessick, a former business analyst, decided that Wakefield''s research might provide more of a clue. ''In the week after the paper was published, I got another five calls from different mothers, all saying the same thing.'' says Dr Wakefield. ''These were not rabid, anti-vaccine crazies, but highly articulate, professional people saying, ''This is what happened, my child was normal, then they had MMR, and then they lost all their skills, they became autistic, and they got bowel symptoms - bloating, pains, diarrhoea, weight loss.''
When Dr Wakefield and his colleagues at the Royal Free began to examine the children, ''we didn''t necessarily expect to find anything, but when we looked, we did, and we were very, very surprised.'' As more children were seen, Dr Wakefield developed a hypothesis that the measles virus in the MMR vaccine, perhaps given impetus by its combination with two other live viruses, was somehow damaging the gut of certain, susceptible children, allowing toxins to escape from the leaky gut and into the brain. In February 1998, the Royal Free team therefore published their paper in the Lancet, describing 12 children they had examined who appeared to suffer from a new form of bowel disease, possibly triggered by the MMR vaccine, that could be linked with autism. At a press conference to launch their study, Dr Wakefield also announced his belief that the Government should give parents the choice of single mumps, measles and rubella vaccines, in case the combination of live viruses in MMR was contributing to the problem. ''And then there was uproar,'' he recalls, ''and some of my other Royal Free colleagues said, ''Why did you mention MMR?'' And I said, ''I'm not in the business of censoring the parents'' story.'' It would have been taking a vital component out of the story, and removing it for the sake of convenience.'' In the months that followed, and as the arguments became more polarised, Dr Wakefield could not ignore the parents'' belief that MMR was implicated in their children's autism. ''We never pretended to have all the answers,'' he says, ''We're just beginning to understand. But at every step, the parents have proved to be right, and proven vastly superior to the medical dogma in terms of its reliability and trustworthiness.''
In fact, it was the father of an autistic boy - a lecturer in pharmacy at Sunderland University named Paul Shattock - who was one of the first to develop a theory that autism might be linked to the gut, long before the doctors at Royal Free became involved. Shattock - a charming, silver-haired man with a nice line in wry self-deprecation - now runs the Autism Research Unit out of a tiny office at the university, on a shoestring budget. (''Funnily enough, the drug companies don't seem to want to give us any research grants,'' he says dryly.) Unlike the new generation of autistic children seen at the Royal Free (who have 'regressive' or 'late-onset autism'), his son, born in 1970, had 'classic autism', present from birth; but as part of Shattock's long-term campaign to provide better recognition and services for his child and many others, he began to become interested in the issue as to whether diet (specifically excluding gluten and dairy products) might help. ''I was told I wasn't objective, as the parent of an autistic child,'' he explains, ''yet without parents, there would be no services, no research in this country. It was parents who fought the original orthodoxy that autism is caused by bad mothers, 'the refrigerator mother' who causes the autistic child to reject contact with others.''
(He is referring, here, to the theories advanced by Leo Kanner, a child psychiatrist who identified a group of 11 children in 1943 as having what he saw as a new mental illness, characterised by self-absorbed detachment from others. Kanner coined the phrase 'autistic', from the Greek word 'auto', meaning self.) Shattock had set up a database on autism in the early Eighties, ''I didn't believe the stuff other parents were saying about diet, to begin with - but I checked it out, and discovered yes, it made sense: the incomplete digestion of gluten and casein produced these morphine-like compounds.'' He then began to explore the possibility that the compounds - known as opioids - got into the blood, and crossed into the brain, where they disrupted the central nervous system. Similarly, he says, with characteristic candour, ''I didn't believe the stories about MMR when I first heard about them - I'm a very orthodox pharmacist.'' But as he painstakingly logged more and more case histories - 7,000 in total, now - it seemed to him that perhaps 10 per cent were occurring after MMR vaccination. ''These kids appear to have different symptoms to classic autism'' - for a start, they were developing completely normally, with no sign of neurological problems until vaccination - and so in 1996, I said to the Department of Health, 'There''s something in this, can we talk?' They refused.'' The Department of Health's lack of interest is, perhaps, surprising: not only because of the alarming rise in the incidence of autism (one in 86 primary-school children now has autism, according to a report by the National Autistic Society, compared with one in 2,200 in 1988), but also given that there had already proved to be problems with MMR.
The vaccine was launched in this country in 1988, just as doctors in Canada had raised alarms that there could be a problem with a version of MMR that contained a particular strain of the mumps virus, known as the Urabe strain. By February 1988, the Canadians had identified eight suspicious cases of meningitis in children who had recently received MMR vaccinations; as a result, the Urabe strain vaccine was withdrawn in Canada, pending further investigations. Despite that, in October 1988, public health officials in the UK Department of Health went ahead with an MMR campaign using two vaccines - Pluserix and Immravax - which each contained the Urabe mumps virus, alongside live measles and rubella. Even when the Canadian ban on Urabe was made permanent in May 1990, Britain did not follow suit until September 1992. Jackie Fletcher's son Robert was one of those vaccinated with Immravax -and he received his MMR injection in November 1992, more than two months after it should have been withdrawn. ''Up until then,'' she says, ''he was fine, very healthy. Then he had his MMR at 13 months, along with a Hib (meningitis) jab, and 10 days later, he went into a huge fit. His eyes rolled into his head, his little arms and legs were twitching, he was very hot, so I stripped him off, but he was even worse after he stopped the fit - shallow, rasping breathing. I thought he was dying.'' In casualty, as Robert lay unconscious and covered in blotches, ''I said something to a doctor about the vaccinations, and he said, 'Oh nonsense'. He just shrugged it off. I raised it again the next day with doctors on the ward round, and they said his ears were slightly pink, so it was a possible ear infection.'' But as time went on, Robert had more and more fits, and was eventually diagnosed with epilepsy the following year. Now, at 10, he has autistic traits, and a mental age of 14 months. The Fletcher's were not prepared to accept the repeated assurances that Robert's problems were nothing to do with the vaccination, and Jackie, a former bank clerk with a meticulous approach to research, started to find out more. During the course of many more emergency hospital admissions for Robert, they met other families in casualty who said that their children had just had fits after receiving MMR. Still, the consultant neurologists denied that the vaccination might be implicated, ''and then one of our friends downloaded some information from the vaccine manufacturer on the internet, and lo and behold, the drug company itself mentioned the possibility of seizures and neurological damage.'' Eventually, Jackie and her husband, a transport engineer for Cheshire County Council, managed to track down the batch number for the vaccine that Robert had received, as well as discovering for themselves what no doctor had thought to tell them: that it contained the Urabe mumps strain, and should have never have been injected into their son. By then, they were in touch with five other families who also believed their children had reacted to the vaccine, and after a short paragraph appeared in the local free paper about their experiences, they were contacted by another 30 families in the same small local catchment area. ''They all repeated what the people we had met in the hospital had said - their children had had fits eight, nine, 10 days after the jab. They had speech problems, learning difficulties.'' On the advice of their local MP, Ian McCartney - then shadow health minister - an action group was set up, called Jabs. Jackie, and others involved, continued with their research, discovering that MMR had been banned in Japan in 1993 owing to reported neurological problems; and that a Finnish study, widely quoted by the Department of Health in support of MMR safety, had been partly funded by one of the vaccine manufacturers, Merck. As more and more letters and emails and phone calls flooded into Jabs, ''we noticed a number of families coming to us, saying that their autistic children had also been suffering from long-term 'toddler diarrhoea'.'' Given that this was usually dismissed by doctors as unimportant or irrelevant, Jackie Fletcher seized on Andrew Wakefield as someone who might be able to help these children. ''Our own experience with different consultants involved with Robert''s complex problems was that each specialist was only interested in one aspect of our child''s health. The ear, nose and throat specialist was not interested in his immune system problems or epilepsy; the neurologist dealing with his epilepsy wasn''t interested in his repeated ear infections. Andrew Wakefield was like a breath of fresh air after being in a stagnant, air-conditioned room.'' It's an account you hear echoed over and over again by other parents, such as Vivian McKelvey, whose son Alec received the same brand of MMR vaccine as Jackie''s child. ''Other doctors had told me that the fact my son developed autism and bowel problems after MMR was purely coincidental, that I was just desperately searching for any cause, that in fact he had no real bowel problems at all. It took a year for him to be seen at the Royal Free, where they discovered he had colitis and inflammatory bowel disease. Until then, no one had listened to me. Since then, he''s been getting treatment, which has made a huge difference to our lives.'' To his exasperated employers at the Royal Free, however, Dr Wakefield was an embarrassment, held by them, (not to mention the Department of Health) to be largely responsible for the falling uptake of MMR vaccine in the UK. According to Brent Taylor, Professor of Community Child Health at the Royal Free, and co-author of several epidemiological studies that have found no link between MMR, autism, and bowel disease, ''Everyone has always known that children with developmental problems - cerebral palsy, Down's Syndrome, and particularly autism - have bowel problems.'' He believes that this is caused by 'funny nervous systems', possibly exacerbated by what he describes as 'abnormal diets': whether of their own choosing (''I heard about one child who was eating sawdust or sand, in quite large quantities'') or of their parent's making. ''There''s not a shred of scientific evidence that the gluten- and casein-free diets has any direct therapeutic effect,'' he says. ''These restricted diets need to be very carefully supervised by a dietician, and often they''re not, and we really don¹t know what side effects they might be causing.'' As for the apparent rise in cases of autism: Professor Taylor thinks this is the result of better diagnosis; while the widespread concern expressed by parents that vaccination may have triggered their children''s autism is down to the irrational belief ''that there must be something that has caused it. We listen to what parents say, but it does have to be interpreted, based on wider experience or different understandings.''
Thus it was that by the beginning of the year Dr Wakefield's work was held to be ''no longer in line with the department of medicine's research strategy'' at the Royal Free. But at the same time he published further research, in conjunction with Professor John O'Leary at Trinity College, Dublin, revealing the presence of the measles virus in the gut of 75 of 91 autistic children with bowel disease. No mention was made by Professor O'Leary in the paper of whether or not the children had received the MMR vaccine (in fact, as Dr Wakefield now reveals, ''more than 95 per cent of those who had the virus in their gut had MMR as their only documented exposure to measles''), because it was simply too controversial. ''As soon as you include vaccination in there,'' says Dr Wakefield, ''you raise hackles, and people treat the paper differently.''
None the less, David Salisbury, head of immunisation policy at the Department of Health, and Sir Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer, continue to emphasise the safety of MMR, while pouring scorn on the research of anyone who disagrees. As for the past problems with Pluserix and Immravax, Salisbury (who was instrumental in the introduction of MMR in 1988) accepts that the Urabe vaccine did cause some cases of meningitis, but points out that ''These particular children had a viral meningitis. Viral meningitis is usually mild, self-limiting, and gets better on its own''. He is as scathing about the latest O''Leary paper as he was about Dr Wakefield''s earlier work: ''I''ve seen far more published work that says they cannot find the measles virus [in the gut]''; and, like Prof Taylor, believes Dr Wakefield found no real evidence of inflammatory bowel disease in autistic children. He describes their symptoms, somewhat dismissively, as 'constipation and diarrhoea'; as to the cause, ''If you ask people who look after children with autism, they will tell you these children have bizarre eating habits''.
Which is leaves us where, exactly? Well, each side continues to attack the other''s methods of research (Dr Wakefield's suuporter''s for example, have any number of detailed criticisms of Prof Taylor's reports); but aside from the arcane scientific and medical disputes, this is when the story gets even more murky, and doctors at a very senior level insist on talking off the record (''We've all seen what happened to Andrew Wakefield, and we don't want our careers destroyed'', they say, with understandable caution). As the inevitable conspiracy theories emerge, you start hearing dark tales of the bugging devices found in surgeries that continue to offer single vaccines; about apparently inexplicable burglaries, where cash and computer equipment is left untouched, but records containing names of parents'' groups go missing. These occurrences, which are now under police investigation, may of course be entirely coincidental; and as for all the conspiracy theories -perhaps they are no more than the overheated product of too many viewings of Hollywood films such as The Insider and Erin Brockovitch. (It's not hard to imagine Russell Crowe playing Dr Wakefield, opposite Julia Roberts as a feisty single mother fighting for justice for her child.) But if we put the conspiracy theories aside, what begins to emerge, through all the claims and counter-claims, and the statistics that seem to prove both sides of the MMR battle, is an undercurrent of unease about the way the debate is being conducted. According to one senior paediatrician I spoke to, ''You can still appreciate the benefits of MMR for the majority of children, whilst accepting that there are a minority who may well be damaged by it.'' Yet that position, she says, is increasingly difficult to maintain in a profession where so much medical research is paid for by drug companies. ''The older and wiser I get, the more I realise that these companies are hugely wealthy, and therefore hugely powerful''. She, like others, points out that Dr Wakefield and O'Leary are unusual in not having their research funded by vaccine manufacturers; indeed, Dr Elizabeth Miller, of the Public Health Laboratory Service, Brent Taylor's co-author, and a government advisor on vaccination policy, has received funding in the past from a number of companies, including SmithKline Beecham (one of the manufacturers of the Urabe strain of MMR), though this money goes to her department rather than to her directly. Taylor - who has remained independent from the vaccine manufacturers - admits this situation may 'raise concerns'. Nevertheless, he says, laughing heartily, ''I don't believe drug companies are in the business of promoting medicines that will damage children. It cannot be to their advantage.''
Why, then, asks Jackie Fletcher, and several doctors who prefer to remain anonymous, did SmithKline Beecham go on to sell its Urabe strain of MMR vaccines to Brazil, after they were withdrawn in Canada and the UK? (A paper in the American Journal of Epidemiology documents the resulting outbreak of aseptic meningitis following a mass immunisation day in Brazil in 1997.) A spokesman for SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline) says that it was pointed out to the health authorities in Brazil that the Urabe vaccine had been withdrawn elsewhere, but ''they chose to use it because they felt the health benefits outweighed the risks''. Similar concerns have been raised by Dr Richard Nicholson, editor of the Bulletin of Medical Ethics, who has also drawn attention to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). This is a little known yet immensely powerful quango made up of a select group of doctors and scientists who provide advice to the Department of Health - many of whom have professional and personal links with the vaccine manufacturers, including SmithKline shareholdings and consultancy fees.
It is, yet again, the parents of autistic children who have drawn attention to these facts - one man in particular: David Thrower, whose son Oliver received a single measles vaccine at 14 months, and the MMR at the age of 4. Oliver, ''a very advanced little boy until the vaccination'', is now 15,doubly incontinent, and chronically sleepless. ''It's like defusing a bomb each day,'' says Thrower, who gave up his work as a transport planner in Warrington to care for his son. Despite the exhaustion, however, Thrower has also found time to amass an enormous amount of information on the MMR/autism issue, including some of the potential conflict of interests held by members of the JCVI, as well as that of another influential Government quango, the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM). In one of Thrower''s detailed reports that he has submitted to anyone who might listen, he points out that ''37 members of the CSM have a total of 188 separate financial links with the pharmaceuticals industry, including 82 separate personal declared links. These include shares, fees, consultancies, research grants and non-executive directorships.'' As for the JCVI: in 1999 four members had SmithKline Beecham interests, while others had links with Glaxo Wellcome (the two companies subsequently merged to become GlaxoSmithKline). These links range from research grants to shareholdings. Dr Nicholson has also pointed out that the equally influential Medical Research Council committee, which decided that no further research was needed into the links between MMR and autism, included three members (out of 14) who are paid consultants for the vaccine manufacturers in the forthcoming legal case; while the committee''s chairman is a Glaxo-Wellcome shareholder. He remains concerned about the continuing financial links between the vaccine manufacturers and Government advisers on the CSM and the JCVI. Yet when I put these points to Yvette Cooper, the health minister responsible for immunisation policy, she says with the conviction that has made her a New Labour star, ''I find it astonishing that any of it should cast doubt on the integrity of their review.'' She remains convinced of the safety of MMR, and its continuing benefit to children''s health: ''I am not a medical scientist, but when you get the MRC and independent bodies saying there is no evidence to show a link [between MMR and autism], that''s the conclusion, based on the science, that I have to respect.'' So, the vaccination programme will continue, but it seems unlikely that the doubts will disappear. As I talked to David Thrower in his study, surrounded by the papers he has painstakingly compiled - and will continue to amass he points out of the window, across another neat suburban garden. ''Two autistic girls live over there,'' he says, ''which means there are three autistic children within 50 yards. It used to be so rare when we were growing up - no one knew anyone with autism, but now everyone knows someone. Of course, the Department of Health says it's just better recognition, better diagnosis, but that can't be the whole picture.'' He clicks on his computer, and opens yet another document emailed to him from the US, revealing increases of 644 per cent in new cases of autism across America (in California the numbers have risen from 1,605 autistic children in 1992-3 to 10,557 in 2000-2001). ''Not that anyone will pay any attention to this,'' he says, bitterly. ''We're given a very comforting lullaby, that if a child has a minor reaction after the MMR, well, it might have been caused by the vaccine - but if it's serious, the vaccine can't possibly be to blame. So now the Department of Health has put together this nice little jigsaw saying, MMR is completely safe - but there is an extra piece, which the Department of Health can''t explain away, and that''s our children. And they''re not going to go away.''
Sunday Times 23/6/02
The Sunday Times - Britain
June 23, 2002
Stars join Hornby in MMR crusade Adam Nathan and Rosie Waterhouse ONE of Britain's leading authors and several Hollywood stars have grouped together to fund research into possible links between the MMR vaccine and the reported rise in the incidence of autism. Nick Hornby, whose books Fever Pitch and High Fidelity won him international fame, has given £11,000 to the British charity Visceral, which is funding research into the controversial triple jab.
The author, who has an autistic eight-year-old son, has been joined by film stars including John Travolta, Clint Eastwood, Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis. Travolta, the star of Pulp Fiction and Saturday Night Fever, and his wife Kelly Preston helped to raise more than £30,000 for Visceral through a sponsored walk and a dinner in Florida last September by the Autism Autoimmunity Project. His Hollywood colleagues donated signed pictures of themselves that were auctioned at similar events, raising £15,000.
Visceral is investigating alleged links between the MMR vaccine, which gives protection against measles, mumps and rubella, and autism. The reported incidence of autism has risen sharply in the West in recent years, with 60 out of every 10,000 children under eight in Britain now being diagnosed with an "autistic spectrum disorder".
While some experts argue that it is changes in the definition of autism to include people with quite mild learning difficulties that has led to the increase, others suspect the measles component of the MMR vaccine.
Visceral's medical director is Dr Andrew Wakefield, the British consultant who, in a paper published in The Lancet in 1998, first suggested an association between MMR, bowel disorders and autism. Vilified for his work at the Royal Free hospital in London, Wakefield now lives in America where autism has become the latest cause to be taken up by Hollywood.
Last week Wakefield presented a paper to a congressional hearing in Washington that he claimed supported a link between MMR and autism. The research by his colleague Dr John O'Leary, professor of pathology at Trinity College Dublin, was part-funded by Visceral and covered 12 children. It suggests that the same measles strain used in the MMR vaccine is present in the gut of some autistic children.
The hearing was examining whether the MMR jab and the presence of mercury in some vaccines may be to blame. Dr Arthur Krigsman, a paediatric gastro-intestinal consultant at Lenox Hill hospital, New York, told the hearing he had conducted tests on 43 autistic children and found 90% of them had the same inflammatory bowel diseases as Wakefield reported in children he examined at the Royal Free hospital in London four years ago.
His findings are significant because they are the first independent corroboration of much of Wakefield's work.
However, the Dublin research by O'Leary has been rapidly dismissed by an expert from the World Health Organisation. He claimed that the technique used by O'Leary was flawed. The Department of Health vigorously denies any link between the MMR jab and autism. It points to a study published in the British Medical Journal two weeks ago which reviewed all published evidence and concluded that there was no link.
The department also points out that concern about MMR has led to falling take-up rates of the vaccine, which has led to several potentially fatal outbreaks of measles. Visceral said last week that fundraising would continue. Robert Sawyer, its chief executive, confirmed that US money had been the key to the continuation of Wakefield's work.
In September, Medical Interventions for Autism, an American charity that funds Visceral, will stage a celebrity golf tournament with the Detroit Red Wings, the champion ice-hockey team, which it hopes will raise more than £300,000.
The charity plans to raise more than £5m to research the effects of MMR on the brain over the next three years. To achieve this it is targeting celebrities known for their support of children's illnesses.
For example, Neil Young, the rock star whose son suffers from cerebral palsy, has been approached to stage a charity concert in Chicago next year that could raise £200,000. Autism campaigners hope that Young's most famous song, The Needle and the Damage Done, could become their anthem. However, Young has not yet agreed to the concert.
Hornby could not be contacted for comment on his donation to Visceral. Virginia Bovell, the author's former wife, is a close friend of Lyndsey Booth, Cherie Blair's sister and a former lawyer who now works as a homeopath and is a campaigner for the rights of autistic children. Tony Blair stoked rumours last year that his youngest son, Leo, had not had the MMR jab by refusing to confirm - on grounds of privacy - that he had. This further fuelled public anxiety over the safety of the triple vaccine.
Serological Detection of Measles Virus in Relation to Autoimmunity in Autism
102nd General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology
May 19-23, 2002, Salt Lake City, Utah, Presentation V-5
V.K. Singh, R.L. Jensen, J. J. Bradstreet
Utah State University and the International Child Development Resource Center
Abstract: Autoimmunity to brain myelin protein (MBP) secondary to a measles infection may cause autistic regression in some children with this neurodevelopmental disorder. We hypothesized that measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) immunization is a source of measles infection; hence the serological link between MMR and MBP antibodies might exist in autistic children. To test the hypothesis, we conducted a serological study of MBP, MMR and neuron-axon filament protein (NAFP) in serum and cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) of autistic children. Antibodies were assayed by immunoblotting with MBP, NAFP and MMR as antigens. We found that a significant number of autistic children had antibodies to MBP (up to 88% positive) and antibodies to MMR (up to 65% positive), but not to NAFP. Normal children did not harbor these antibodies. Moreover, the analysis of paired samples (serum and CSF) from 7 autistic children also revealed a high degree of serological association between MMR and MBP: 50% of CSF had MMR antibodies, 86% of CSF had MBP antibodies, 75% of sera had MMR antibodies and 100% of sera had MBP antibodies. Therefore, as indicated by paired analysis of serum and CSF samples, there is a strong correlation between MMR antibodies and MBP autoantibodies in autism. By using monoclonal antibodies, we characterized that the MMR antibodies are due to the measles subunit, but not due to mumps or rubella subunits, of the polyvalent vaccine. Furthermore, the MMR and MBP antibodies are not cross-reactive because the pre-incubation of MBP with MMR did not block the binding of MBP antibodies. In light of the new evidence presented here, we suggest that the MMR vaccine in some cases of autism might cause autoimmunity and it might do so by bringing on an atypical measles infection that does not produce a typical measles rash but manifests neurological symptoms upon immunization.
Note: The MMR antibody has been previously reported to be the hemaggluttin protein of the vaccine measles virus (MV-HA). “Immunoblotting analysis showed the presence of an unusual MMR antibody in 60% (75 of 125) of autistic children, but none of the 92 normal children had this antibody. Moreover, by using MMR blots and monoclonal antibodies, we found that the specific increase of MV antibodies or “MMR” antibodies was related to measles hemagglutinin antigen (MV-HA)” (Singh, VK. Abnormal Measles Serology and Autoimmunity in Autistic Children, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 109, no. 1, page S232, Jan. 2002.) It is confirmed here (in an additional population) that this antibody is not typically produced during normal immune response to the vaccine.
Private Eye (NO URL)
A POTENTIALLY devastating rebuttal of the government's persistent claim that there is no possible link between the measles, mumps and rubella triple vaccine and autism has emerged from a new study at Trinity College, Dublin. The study has found that the measles virus lodged in the intestines of 12 children with gut disease and autism has come from vaccination and not from exposure to wild or natural measles.
According to an abstract of the study, gut biopsies were taken from the intestines of 12 out of 75 autistic children who had already been found to have persistent measles virus. As a control the researchers used brain tissue from patients with SSPE, the rare degenerative brain disease associated with persistent measles infection. They confirmed vaccine strain measles in the guts of all 12 children, compared with wild measles in the control group.
"This pilot study further corroborates our previous findings of an association between the presence of measles virus and gut abnormalities in children with developmental disorder, and indicates the origins of the virus to be vaccine strain," say the researchers. Although they do not say how many of the 12 children had had MMR, it is known that 95 percent of the autistic children in the earlier tests had had the triple vaccine.
By now, the department of health might have been expected to have at least niggling doubts about claims that vaccine strain measles is 100 percent safe when it seems at the very least it is acting aberrantly in the guts of these children. Health chiefs and ministers might also have been expected to have adopted the "precautionary principle" they adhered to in other vaccine cases until the MMR question is properly answered. But no. Ever since gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield first raised doubts in 1998, the government and health chiefs have consistently refused to undertake meaningful research to answer the questions and have continually moved the goalposts.
Reacting to the latest Dublin study, a department of health spokesman said: "We look at all new research very carefully. The earlier work by this team was reviewed by experts including the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, and there were no concerns." Before the Eye published its special report, MMR: The story so far, last month, we asked the department if it would take action were vaccine strain measles ever to be found in the guts of autistic children.
Then a spokesman said: "Demonstrating the presence in specific tissue would not prove causality. With no excess of autistic children with bowel problems post MMR [This is heavily disputed between experts. Ed] even a confirmed presence of measles vaccine virus could mean that autism or bowel disease causes it to be present, not that the virus causes these conditions."
Private Eye Special Report - MMR We were saddened (although not entirely surprised), to read the news item about our review, for the British Medical Journal, of the Eye special report. The comment that our report was scathing "...but they would say that, wouldn't they" could be taken to imply that our critical comments were primarily a result of receiving reimbursement from vaccine manufacturers for attending educational meetings or conducting research. It is a pity that the Eye consider this to be an appropriate response, but then they would say that wouldn't they? While it is correct to say that we would be critical, it is because we have taken the time to look at ALL the scientific evidence on this issue, not just that provided by a select very vocal group. We would be the first to highlight any manipulation of the truth on the part of drug companies or the Department of Health and are very offended that it is implied that this is not the case.
We would like to point out that the Eye knows that the BMJ omitted to mention the above funding because we have been assiduous in declaring this in the past and it was only an oversight on the part of the BMJ that it did not happened on this occasion. Any funding we receive from vaccine manufacturers does not go into our own pockets. Indeed since we are aware that some people would consider receiving any such funds to be tantamount to being the mouthpiece of the manufacturers, we donate any payments other than funding for research, to charitable organisations. In this instance our fee from the BMJ was donated to the National Autistic Society. What, we wonder will the Eye make of that?
We look forward to reading a more considered review of your comments.
Lecturer in Child Health, Institute of Child Health, London.
Consultant in Community Child Health, St George's
11 July 2002
Conflicting evidence and studies emerging on both sides of the Atlantic on the MMR/autism controversy in the past few days have left parents even more confused. Last Wednesday Dr Arthur Krigsman, a pediatric gastroenterologist from the New York University School of Medicine, told a US congressional committee on autism that he had found an identical pattern of inflammatory bowel disease in 90 per cent of his 43 young autistic patients, to that reported by Dr Andrew Wakefield four years ago when he first raised questions over MMR.
As the Eye reported in its special report MMR: The Story So Far, Krigsman's work is one of a handful of small clinical studies which gives the lie to government claims that Wakefield's work has not been replicated. It is understood that Krigsman is now going to look for measles virus in his patients' guts.
The committee also heard that measles virus had been found in the spinal fluid of two autistic children. This means it would have direct access to the brain. Dr Jeff Bradstreet, medical director of the International Child Development Resource Centre, told the committee that spinal taps on his own autistic child and another had revealed measles virus; and that research work was now underway with other autistic children and normal control children to explore the significance of the discovery.
Dr Wakefield, the London gastroenterologist who first sounded alarm bells about the MMR vaccine, told the same hearing that preliminary studies had shown that 25 autistic children who had had a second dose of MMR, compared to those who had received only one, had suffered a worsening of their physical and behavioural symptoms, suggesting evidence of a link between their condition and the jab.
He said research by his group and collaborators and other small pockets of researchers in the US had now found that children with regressive autism had a novel form of inflammatory bowel disease not found in normal children and consistent with a viral cause; that the measles virus had been found in the diseased intestine where it would be expected if it were the cause; that the measles virus had been found in only a small minority of developmentally normal children; and, referring to the latest study from Prof John O'Leary's team from Trinity College, Dublin, that in 12 autistic children it had been identified as vaccine strain.
Meanwhile, in the UK, a study billed as ''the most in-depth analysis of the scientific literature to date'' published in Clinical Evidence concluded that ''there is no evidence that MMR or single measles vaccines are associated with autism or inflammatory bowel disease''. The work was yet another review of the same body of work which others have trawled over before and it would be surprising if it had come up with any other conclusion. The trouble is, as a similar review carried out by the American Institute of Medicine (IOM) acknowledged, ''the epidemiological evidence lacks the precision to assess rare occurances of a response to MMR leading to autism''. The IOM called for more research comparing MMR-vaccinated children with non-vaccinated children and investigating whether vaccine strain measles was present in autistic children.
The UK review not only had no new research work, but it excluded the whole body of research that Wakefield was referring to - about 20 papers in total - includng that which revealed the vaccine strain virus. Independent researchers from Bazian, a company promoting evidence-based health care, who carried out the review, said they followed strict research criteria and ruled out all small clinical studies which were open to bias. But it is the small clinical studies, which are actually looking at what is happening to these children, that are causing alarm.
One such study is that of Prof O'Leary. Though he himself declared last week that he still advocated immunisation and his new work showing the presence of vaccine strain measles virus in the guts of autistic children does not prove any link between MMR and autism, his work does raise serious questions.
What is the virus doing in the guts of these children? Is it causing the damage or is it there because autism and bowel disease mean the children can't clear it from their systems? Could it be elsewhere in their bodies?
News from the US that the virus has also been found in the spinal fluid - albeit only in two children - has alarmed parents even more. Julie Loch, a pharmacist whose son Oliver is severely autistic said, ''Many like my son are awaiting MRI scans due to further increasing and alarming neurological problems. The measles virus has now been found in cerebro spinal fluid in others, suggesting its presence in the brain. Are our children sitting time bombs, that will at some point develop the fatal brain condition SSPE?''
Instead of relying on reviews of old research and studies, the case for new research to answer these questions one way or another is overwhelming. Why won't the government embark on it?
Scots Study On Autism Poses New Question of MMR Link
[By Vicky Collins.]
A scientist in Scotland yesterday revealed new research which could indicate a link between autism and the MMR vaccine by showing that autistic children have abnormally high levels of toxins in their bodies. The study by Gordon Bell, of Stirling University, also raises hopes that autism may not be genetic and instead be a physical, and therefore potentially treatable, condition. Lead, aluminium and antimony (similar to arsenic but more toxic) were found to be present in children suffering from autism at a significantly higher level than other children.
All three toxins weaken the immune system and, when present in high levels, Dr Bell believes they could affect the body's response to the MMR jab. He suggests the immune system could be too weak to react properly to the triple vaccine, triggering the onset of autism. "These toxins could increase the likelihood of a reaction to viral change because they are all immune suppressants," he said. "Autism is all about putting too much of a burden on the body, and high levels of heavy metals may lead to other catastrophic events in the body which may then lead to autism. "All these metals or elements are at toxic levels so the body may not react appropriately to a immune change such as that caused by the MMR vaccine."
Dr Bell, whose own son developed autism at the age of two after having the MMR jab, believes children susceptible to autism may have a problem getting rid of toxins from their bodies. He called for more research, both to test his results and establish whether it was possible to develop a treatment for the problem. "This is just a small-scale study, but it is very relevant. I simply do not have the resources to do the large-scale studies that are needed," he said.
"I am saying: look at this, it is a real result, and if it is the reality in a majority, or even a significant minority, of people with autism then it is something we should be looking into." Action Against Autism said the research undermined the traditional model of the disease as "psychiatric, genetic, lifelong, and incurable". Bill Welsh, chairman, called for a large-scale study. "Clinical examination of autistic children should now be a priority. Dr Bell's findings further confirm that these unfortunate children are just plain sick and probably in distress." David Potter, head of policy at the National Autistic Society, confirmed the toxins found by Dr Bell had never previously been detected. "The medical establishment see this as a gen-etic condition, but this type of research shows there are other factors involved. We would be very keen to
see this type of research furthered."
Dr Bell, a lecturer in marine biology at Stirling, has a PhD in biochemistry and became heavily involved in autism research since it affected his own family six years ago. He is a member of the Scottish Executive's cross-party group on the condition. With funds provided by the Autism Research Trust, Dr Bell tested 37 children for toxic elements, taking hair samples which were then sent to a laboratory in America for analysis. Levels of antimony in autistic children were five times above the normal maximum range and levels of lead and aluminium were three times higher. Antimony can cause fatigue, hypotension, angina, and immune dysfunction.
All 24 children with autism who took part in the study were found to have antimony present above the recommended maximum values, compared to 50% of the eight non-autistic children tested, and 40% of the five children with Asperger's Syndrome. Lead, an excess of which can lead to severe gastro-intestinal problems, loss of appetite, insomnia, and nervousness, was present above the normal maximum range in 92% of autistic children, compared to only 25% of non-autistic children, and 20% with Asperger's Syndrome. High levels of aluminium, which have been implicated in the onset of dementia, were present in 54% of autistic children, compared to only 12.5% of the control group, and none in the Asperger's group.
Experts differ while children continue to suffer autism
OVER the past couple of years, we have seen medical authorities and medical correspondents reaching a not guilty verdict on the MMR causing autism. They justify this on the basis of scientific evidence. Maybe it’s time the public understood this term. Scientific evidence is 100% evidence. Does the public realise that, by this definition, we cannot be sure that smoking causes lung cancer?
Maybe it’s time to note that there are other types of evidence:
First, there is laboratory evidence. For example, there’s the fact that our leading cell pathologist has discovered that a virus is causing a new type of ulceration in the bowels of children that regressed into autism, that the offending virus is a measles virus and that the sequenced DNA of this virus is that of the vaccine strain of measles, not wild measles.There is clinical evidence, that of physicians treating these children. Physicians who, because they recognise and treat the viral, heavy metal, and fungal overloads experienced by these children, are successfully improving these childrens’ lives.
Then there is anecdotal evidence. For example, on the Hope Project Helpline, we have heard hundreds of autism onset stories from parents and the vast majority of these implicate the MMR and others the DPT vaccine in autism. Lastly, there is the eyewitness evidence of frightened parents who have watched their beautiful children slip away into the quagmire of autism within weeks of the MMR.
It is a sad fact that the only evidence that seems acceptable in this debate (can you call something as lopsided as the MMR controversy in Ireland a debate?) is 100% scientific evidence. Hard and damning laboratory evidence seems to be ignored, clinical evidence is excused, anecdotal evidence ridiculed as scare-mongering and parental eyewitness evidence cannot be accepted by our guardians of drug safety, the Irish Medicines Board. So what will happen? For the time being, susceptible children and teenagers will continue to develop Autistic Spectrum disorders, bowel disease, eating disorders and bipolar, to name but a few, in ever increasing numbers.
Eventually, the decision will be taken out of the hands of our medical guardians and Minister for Health and Children. A High Court judge will listen to all the types of evidence and he or she will make a legal decision on the balance of probability, 51% that the MMR caused the plaintiff to become autistic. Following a number of these decisions, a tribunal will be held and we will finally be able to understand how medical authority, money and politics allowed thousands of Irish children to be sacrificed to the requirements of 100% “scientific evidence”.
Hope Project Secretary,
News Mum claims new MMR autism link Sep 5 2002
Madeleine Brindley Health Correspondent
The Western Mail
FRESH evidence emerged last night to suggest that the MMR vaccine is linked to autism.
The parents of Welsh schoolboy Oliver Loch have discovered that his blood and digestive organs are infected with the same strain of measles used in the triple vaccine. And they fear his condition will get worse if the disease has spread to his brain. Oliver, six, was diagnosed with autism and a severe bowel disorder when he was two, soon after having the MMR jab to protect him against measles, mumps and rubella. Last night his mother Julie, who lives near Newport, said she believed there was no other way he could have been infected by measles except through the jab he was given as a toddler.
"We more or less knew this was the case because to my knowledge Oliver has never been exposed to this strain of measles except through the vaccine," said Mrs Loch. The discovery of the virus consistent with a strain of measles used in the MMR vaccine was made after specialist tests. Now Oliver's condition is certain to cause concern among other parents being asked to give their children the triple jab. Mrs Loch has always maintained that her son's illness was caused by an adverse reaction to the MMR vaccine, possibly as a result of a compromised immune system.
"Over the past three years or so I have been in correspondence with countless medics and politicians who have refused to accept that my son may be vaccine-damaged," she said. "It is accepted that something happened during his second year of life that irreversibly damaged both his brain and bowel, but not one person has been able to offer an alternative explanation, despite my persistence." Mrs Loch and her husband Peter now face the agonising decision of putting Oliver through more tests to determine whether the strain of measles has also infected his brain.
His condition is deteriorating and he is experiencing other neurological problems, including epilepsy. Mrs Loch said, "Time is ticking away and we're getting scared for Oliver. If measles is in his brain it could be doing untold damage." The results of the tests will be used in a forthcoming High Court case against MMR manufacturers Glaxo-SmithKline, Aventis Pasteur MSD and Merck & Co, in which the Loch family is involved.
The discovery of measles in Oliver's body also appears to lend evidence to a link between MMR, autism and bowel disease that was first raised by Dr Andrew Wakefield in 1998 and has been blamed for the slump in the number of children being given the MMR jab. Mrs Loch said, "I'm not anti-vaccines - I believe it is safe for the majority - but clearly there is a substantial group of children who have experienced adverse effects and research now needs to be done to find out why they reacted to the vaccine and what can be done to help them."
Worried parents in Britain are already paying for single-vaccine jabs privately or allowing their children to run the risk of catching the diseases rather than allow them to be given MMR on the NHS. They are increasingly turning their backs on MMR despite doctors' warnings that Wales is heading for a potentially lethal out-break of measles. Health officials have set a 95pc target rate for the take-up of MMR to ensure that an outbreak cannot happen but the average take-up in Wales has fallen to 82.5pc. In some areas a quarter of children go unprotected.
The chairman of the British Medical Association's Welsh GP committee, Dr Andrew Dearden, said a measles outbreak in Wales was almost inevitable. "If the number of vaccinated babies drops below 80pc measles can escape into the community and epidemics break out," he said. Last night the Government said its advice on MMR was that it was safe and there was no proven link between the vaccine and autism. Its advice to parents was unchanged: they should allow their children to have the jab.
Department of Immunology, WHO Collaborative Center for Measles, Laboratoire National de Sante, P.O. Box 1102, L-1011, Luxembourg. email@example.com
Life attenuated measles vaccines have dramatically reduced measles morbidity and mortality world-wide. Despite high vaccination coverage, measles outbreaks continue to occur both in developed and developing countries. While secondary vaccine failure may be responsible for disease in some seroconverted individuals, evidence suggests that many more vaccinees who are protected against disease may not be fully protected against virus infection. In low-income developing countries protection by maternal antibodies seems to erode faster than previously estimated especially in infants who were born to vaccinated mothers. Problems of infectivity and susceptibility of vaccinees will be compounded in case wild-type viruses become less sensitive to vaccine induced immunity. These observations suggest that elimination may be more easily achieved as long as large proportions of populations are protected by wild-type virus-induced immunity.
PMID: 11257344 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Autism, An Extreme Challenge To Integrative Medicine
Part: 1: The knowledge base.
ds=12197782&dopt=Abstract Kidd PM.
Parris Kidd, PhD (Cell Biology, University of California at Berkeley) -Contributing Editor, Alternative Medicine Review; Health educator and biomedical consultant to the supplement industry.
Correspondence address: 847 Elm Street, El Cerrito, CA 94530.
Autism, archetype of the autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by socially aloof behavior and impairment of language and social interaction. Its prevalence has surged in recent years Advanced functional brain imaging has confirmed pervasive neurologic involvement. Parent involvement in autism management has accelerated understanding and treatment. Often accompanied by epilepsy, cognitive deficits, or other neurologic impairment, autism manifests in the first three years of life and persists into adulthood.
Its etiopathology is poorly defined but likely multifactorial with heritability playing a major role. Prenatal toxic exposures (teratogens) are consistent with autism spectrum symptomatology. Frequent vaccinations with live virus and toxic mercurial content (thimerosal) are a plausible etiologic factor. Autistic children frequently have abnormalities of sulfoxidation and sulfation that compromise liver detoxification, which may contribute to the high body burden of xenobiotics frequently found. Frequent copper-zinc imbalance implies metallothionein impairment that could compound the negative impact of sulfur metabolism impairments on detoxification and on intestinal lining integrity. Intestinal hyperpermeability manifests in autistic children as dysbiosis, food intolerances, and exorphin (opioid) intoxication, most frequently from casein and gluten. Immune system abnormalities encompass derangement of antibody production, skewing of T cell subsets, aberrant cytokine profiles, and other impairments consistent with chronic inflammation and autoimmunity. Coagulation abnormalities have been reported. Part 2 of this review will attempt to consolidate progress in integrative management of autism, aimed at improving independence and lifespan for people with the disorder.
PMID: 12197782 [PubMed - in process]
Re: The effects of toxic metals in autistic children 13 September 2004
Dr Ellen C G Grant,
physician and medical gynaecologist
20 Coombe Ridings, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, KT2 7JU, UK,
Dr John McLaren-Howard, Laboratory Director, Biolab Medical Unit, 9
Weymouth Street, London W1W 6DB, UK
Send response to journal:
Re: Re: The effects of toxic metals in autistic children
Email Dr Ellen C G Grant, et al.
John Stone is concerned that expensive epidemiological investigations may mislead by failing to investigate the biochemistry of either "healthy" or autistic children.
Our studies in 1981 and 1989 found significantly higher concentrations of copper and cadmium in hair in dyslexic children compared with matched controls.1,2 Sweat zinc was severely deficient in the dyslexic children,
being 66% lower than that for control children. However, the control children in 1989 had much lower average zinc level than the children tested for laboratory reference range purposes 10 years before in 1979.2,3 Zinc
deficiency allows accumulation of toxic metals which may be important causes of the increase in autism, asthma, dyslexia and hyperactivity in the past few decades.4,5
Biolab Medical Unit offers analyses of all toxic metal levels in blood, metal sensitivity tests and the effects of toxic metal substitution on proteins and some binding sites.6,7 Dr John McLaren- Howard presented the
results of testing 61 autistic children at a Biolab Workshop for Doctors in June 2004, as he was attempting to find out which nutritional tests should be recommended. Among the 42 boys and 19 girls most were deficient in zinc and magnesium. Many were also deficient in copper, chromium, manganese, molybdenum and B vitamins. Therefore, essential fatty acids were also likely to be deficient. 16 children had DNA-adducts in leucocytes to
malondialdehyde, 12 to cadmium, 9 to nickel. Three of the 61 children had DNA-adducts to mercury and one had DNA- adducts to lead. 37 children had antigliadin IgG antibodies, while 30 children had malabsorption detected by a D-xylose test. Malabsorption was most common in those with Asperger's type syndrome, 16 out of 18 children.
The zinc and magnesium lowering effects of maternal use of progesterones and oestrogens, parental smoking and alcohol use and parental dental mercury and other dental metal levels like nickel and tin, need to be
looked at in larger studies. Mercury is a toxic metal whether it is in dental amalgams or in vaccines. If 5% of autistic children show evidence of signs of mercury exposures, this still means large numbers of children have
been adversely affected. Clearly the increasing incidence of childhood diseases needs proper biochemical scientific investigations.
1 Capel ID, Pinnock MH, Dorrell HM, Williams DC, Grant ECG. Comparison of
concentrations of some trace, bulk and toxic metals in the hair of normal
and dyslexic children. Clinical chemistry 1981; 27: 879-81
2 Grant ECG, Howard JM ,Davies S, Chasty H, Hornsby B, Galbraith J. Zinc
deficiency in children with dyslexia: concentrations of zinc and other
minerals in sweat and hair. BMJ 1989;296:607-9.
3 Howard JM. Serum, leucocyte, sweat and hair zinc levels – a correlation
study. J Nutr Environ Med 1990; 1:119-126.
4 Grant ECG. Autism, epidemiology and toxic metals
http://bmj.com/cgi/eletters/327/7428/1411#43876, 17 Dec 2003
5 Grant ECG. Zinc and essential fatty acids in asthma
http://bmj.com/cgi/eletters/329/7464/489#72650, 31 Aug 2004
6 McLaren Howard J. The Detection of DNA Adducts (Risk Factors for DNA
Damage). A Method for Genomic DNA, the Results and Some Effects of
Nutritional Intervention. J. Nutr. & Env. Medicine. 2002; 12: 19-31.
7 McLaren Howard J. DNA adducts in smokers. BMJ Rapid Responses, 14/1/2004
Competing interests: None declared
Evidence - chaos or Chaos? 14 September 2004
Lisa C Blakemore-Brown,
Send response to journal:
Re: Evidence - chaos or Chaos?
Email Lisa C Blakemore-Brown
It's time for that paradigm shift that we've been leaping toward for some time now. But we are stuck, and it's anyone's guess what will sneak up on us to trigger that leap. Scientific 'evidence' has been sold to the public and the Press as solely and only epidemiology. This is, of course, absurd, and well known by those of us 'at the coal face'.
It is our duty as clinicians to use our clinical judgement, taking various 'threads' or variables, into account, as well as the canvas or context, simplistically speaking, to explain the particular tapestry (1) which is
presented to us in order to help us with the decisions we must make about the individual we are in the job to help. Then if and when we see many examples of 'unusual' presentations, it is our duty to inform and disseminate this information through seminars, articles etc. and in some cases, through alerts to Government departments and our own professional bodies if it seems that there are unethical restrictions preventing such open discourse.
It has become increasingly astonishing to me, that there is no room or place for any discourse on 'unusual' presentations if the following tapestry applies:
1. They appear to be temporarily associated with vaccines 2. There appears to be a pattern with other 'unusual cases' 3. The clinician actually writes and says that. Unusual presentations can be written about, of course, and we are allowed to discuss and write about the fascinating aspects of autism, the joy an Autistic child can bring, and it's even OK now to discuss genetics. But woe betide the professional who dares to mention ... vaccines as a possible causal factor in some cases and clusters.
The blindingly obvious reactions to any triple vaccines - including both the DPT and the MMR (2)in many children are tossed aside along with the children themselves.
The ensuing chaos, based on ignoring these individuals and clusters, continually citing epidemiology as the only 'evidence' is palpable,(3) both in terms of the destruction of those children and their families and in the
cost to the State of educating and looking after them for the rest of their lives.(4) There is a further process of destruction taking place - that of science itself. The Canadian cardiologist, VS Rambihar, discusses the multiple valid perspectives in Chaos Theory, in which even one individual's experience is and must be regarded as valid. In a personal communication he said 'I share your concern that individuals and subgroups become submerged into the averaging in epidemiological studies'. We both recognise that 'even the tightest epidemiology may be completely wrong in any individual'. (5)
My 'tapestry' metaphor, at one level of explanation, aims to allow for that individuality to be interwoven into any given person's 'tapestry'. The threads/variables may appear to be exactly the same as another person, but
there may be subtle differences which will entirely alter the ultimate emergent weave. This is how we can each be so individual. If the similar component parts were the sum total of who we were as people - we would all be clones! Of course we are not, our individual rich tapestries define us, and are respectful of us. Years ago, the indigenous American descendant of a Medicine Man, right down in the Grand Canyon, after swapping his petroglyphs for my Tapestry book,told me a story about how his great grandmother would gather all the children around her feet as she wove a basket. He was one of those children.
She had pulled the strands of plant from the edges of the Canyon. When she finished weaving the basket, she handed it round to show the children and said:
'This is a living thing. Respect it'.
I said `Thats just like one way of looking at the 'tapestry' metaphor -it's about recognising and respecting individuality. But there are other similarities, for instance, it's also about how weaving itself (like the to
and fro of reciprocal interaction, tragically missing in autism) promotes mutual respect as we engage with other'. He said `I know, thats why I want the book and that's why I told you the story'. His second name was
Whatoname and I will never forget his wisdom, especially as it is so disappearingly scarce nowadays.
How can we ever address the experiences of individuals if we are not allowed to and must always and only turn our heads toward epidemiology? How can we ever learn? How can science move on if political interference
prevents honest and open debate? How can we ever respect people? 'Epidemiology works on average for a population and can say nothing about the individual except in a probabilistic fashion. And in this regard
unlikely things do happen' (6)
If we want to descend even more into chaos and moral oblivion, we can ignore individuals, ignore Chaos and complexity in practice and evidence - and kiss goodbye to ethical scientific practice and to any chance of
advancement in science and society.
1. Blakemore-Brown LC Reweaving the Autistic Tapestry Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2002
2. Blakemore-Brown LC A Case Study - Read it then tell me there's no connection bmj.com 6th September 2004
3. California's experience: 'Chaos' Bucks County Courier
4. High Cost Education Bucks County Courier Times
5. Personal communication with VS Rambihar 2004
6. VS Rambihar MD Cardiologist Evidence Based Practice IN CONTEXT 2003
Competing interests: Expert in Autistic Spectrum Disorders
Re: The effects of toxic metals in autistic children 14 September 2004
Send response to journal:
Re: Re: The effects of toxic metals in autistic children
Email John Stone
Ellen Grant and John McClaren-Howard's Response is very interesting. Their answer suggests a complex of issues, and if it is right opens up an array of questions about the relation between neural impairment and environmental factors. Of course, it does not directly answer the question what the impact of an entirely unwanted dose of ethyl mercury might be on an 8 week old baby, but it does help to suggest that when it comes to autism such environmental factors could be hugely influential.
It remains the case that the idea that you could show by epidemiology that subjecting small infants to significant amonts of known toxins is safe is deeply suspect - this is surely the strategy of people trying get
themselves off the hook after the event. And those that argue that it is, or ever was safe also endorse the safety of the rest of the immunology programme.
Competing interests: Parent of an autistic child
Re: Extremists 14 September 2004
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Re: Re: Extremists
Email Carol Johnston
Thought I'd do a quick reply whilst waiting for the paint to dry on my placard - ready for the next demo - whilst sipping my herbal tea. When intelligent argument fails why not resort to name calling like "anti-vaccinists" and "extremists". This somewhat primitive, yet effective method, creates diversion whilst getting a reaction.
As a child, when called names, I would respond "sticks and stones". Why is it anyone who questions vaccination is termed an "extremist"? How frustrating for the professionals when parents like myself ask "What
happened, why did my son/daughter go into massive developmental regression in the wake of a vaccine?
Because I question, seek answers I am termed an "extremist".
For the record some of the most cutting comments I have seen have been from professionals in defence of these vaccines. In response to a benign almost polite statement questioning the safety of a vaccine!
Just what is it that causes intelligent professionals to respond in such a way. Perhaps, maybe somewhere, deep down, there is recognition of truth and to openly admit - even to themselves the damage they have caused thousands of children - cannot be a comfortable thought.
The tactic adopted - denial at all costs - backed up by pointless epidemilogical studies, hoping that parents like myself will run out of the will to question and just put-up and shut-up, knowing that due to the demands of caring for our damaged children parents are fighting with one hand tied behind their backs.
However, even though some days I do think what is the point - one look at my kids and energy and hope springs eternal. A parent fighting for their child is a formidable force. Even if the whole world tells me that there is no proof this will not change what I saw happen with my own eyes. The government know that the welfare of our children stops us from taking more extreme action. But nonetheless the sense of outrage and anger is there. My children have been hurt by the MMR vaccine and they have been treated diabolically by those who should have listened when the first study by Andrew Wakefield first highlighted concerns regarding the role of combined vaccines in autism and PDDs.
No matter what anyone calls me - fact is that my children regressed after MMR.
As Madga says, "Surely we all share a common goal - good health!! ......Health is the best immunity - good nutrition, exercise, fresh air, clean water, reasonable living conditions, emotional stability etc. " As Joe Public becomes more informed and starts to turn away from vaccines and the numerous drugs to treat the conditions resulting from this damage - this will effect the profits of the drugs companies.
Many parents have turned away vaccines because the whole issue is becoming too politicised with spin from the government. The more studies like this seek to re-assure worried parents, the more many question 'just why the need to time and time again, deny the role vaccines in autism and reassure parents into accepting vaccines?' - "no smoke without fire" - there has to be something for the debate to have been raging as long as it has - they are not prepared to gamble the health of their children on spin from a government which has proved time and time again that it is more than capable of misleading the public.
I was never one for conspiracy theories - but the way in these children who
have regressed have been ignored, raises the question(s) - why dont the MRC
commission a study to clinically examine and look at these children to
ascertain what exactly happened to them? Just what is it they are afraid of
finding - perhaps the truth?
If it was not the vaccines that triggered autism in my children then what
was it? Perhaps it is because parental anecdotal evidence points to
vaccines as a trigger. Is that why the research is not being carried out on
I for one would welcome conclusive proof that I could not have prevented
the damage my children have suffered.
Until then studies such as this that just seek to deny the roles vaccines
play in regressive autism without offering an alternative credible cause,
are spin and a complete waste of taxpayers money! They serve a purpose in
that for a time it diverts energies away from pressure to find a reason why
this has happened to so many children. If study after study produced points
to there being no link, then perhaps people will eventually stop listening
to the voices of parents like myself and begin to believe the spin.
However, one factor is that whilst more children are vaccinated then more
will join the ever growing ranks of children damaged and their parents,
once having come to terms with what they have seen will join the fight for
justice and recognition for their damaged children.
These studies are a delaying tactic at best. Eventually the truth of what children like mine have suffered will become apparent to the world. I may be an extremist to you but with all due respect, I am not the one who
is commiting bio-terrorism on the immature immune system of infants. What if there is a link? The benefits outweigh the risks argument does not apply here. A vaccine given to a healthy child then causes irreparable
damage (which we all know they can do) but on a scale never before equaled in human history.
Mine is the voice of one parent. One way or another the truth will become apparent. It would be best for the government to be involved in finding that truth. It would be a good for later damage limitation, because they could always point to a positive response to parental concerns like mine. However, it seems that successive governments have not learnt from the mistakes of the past, like thalidomide and BSE (apologies, I can imagine
the groans at the same old examples highlighted but history teaches us that we need to listen in order to arrive at truth).
Best go now, my placard is dry and my herbal tea is cold. Time for my medication, opps meditation - and to commune with the shrubs in my garden - we dont have any trees!
Vegetable rights and peace!
Competing interests: Parent of 2 ASD children post-MMR
Re: Re: Re: Health officials can believe anything they like 14 September 2004
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Re: Re: Re: Re: Health officials can believe anything they like
Email eamonn clarke
But I believe I did. And I don't believe epidemiology is useless in this debate. I think that large epidemiological studies are very useful to people who believe in that sort of thing (me, for instance). Likewise, I think that observational and recall studies are useful to people whobelieve in them. After all it was that form of study that 'proved' that breast cancer was caused by trauma to the breast.
The point I was trying to make in my previously deleted posts was that people believe what they believe and that there are closed minds on both sides of the argument. Calls for the one definitive study 'to rule them
all' are useless. We both know that any such study will be torn to shreds by its opponent.
Having said that, I will defend the Medical Research Council and point out that they are funding a study into MMR and autism. (1) Also, an earlier paper suggests to me that perhaps we should be turning our attention away from mercury and on to lithium? (2)
Finally, I am happy to see our previous correspondence has been restored. (3) I was beginning to wonder if I was the BMJ impostor, and if so how I would know? I had recently dreamt of electric sheep.
2. Wecker,L., Miller,S.B., Cochran,S.R., Dugger,D.L. & Johnson,W.D.Trace
element concentrations in hair from autistic children. J. Ment. Defic. Res.
29 ( Pt 1), 15-22 (1985).
3. Responses to http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/328/7442/773
Competing interests: GP and parent who is happy to have his children vaccinated.
Little empirical observation 14 September 2004
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Re: Little empirical observation
Email C Johnson
I don't know whether toxins like thiomersal in vaccines cause neurological damage; but my first common-or-garden layman's question would be, why on earth wouldn't they? I have three children, and all have been through the full UK mass vaccination programme so far. The eldest, who has had both MMR and the
booster, was floored by chicken pox last year. My mother - in her sixties and worked all her life in medicine - says she's never seen a case like it. His younger brother, who has been exposed to less of the programme, faired
a bit better. His younger sister, who has been exposed to even less, sailed through the disease like it wasn't there.
My little empirical observation tells me that the mass vaccine programme scuppers my children's natural immunity to diseases which, if well nourished and otherwise healthy, they could deal with better themselves. I
can't find out if my hunch is right because research into the possibility will not get funding in the present political climate. The political industry's answer might be to add a mass chicken pox vaccine programme...to protect the children, you understand; and then yet more vaccines for yet more common diseases which the growing vaccinated population can no longer cope with by themselves. I wonder if we'll look back in twenty years and
rue the destruction of the population's ability to fight disease?
My children will not be having any more vaccines from this blind programme. We will treat them as individuals and vaccinate accordingly. E.g. I won't stick Hepatitis B into them as I don't expect them to engage in unprotected sex or intravenous drug abuse any time soon. I'll talk to them about such dangers instead.
Competing interests: None declared
Health officials can believe anything they like - and so can Eamonn Clarke
14 September 2004
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Re: Health officials can believe anything they like - and so can Eamonn Clarke
Email John Stone
It would be a misunderstanding of my present concern to assume that I believe the rise in autism is necessarily entirely bound up with vaccination. However, I cannot accept that a programme which systematically injected millions of infants with substantial doses of mercury was being responsibly implemented. For years it was just blithely implemented without the least concern and any government sponsored investigation showing that
it was all safe after the event is self- evidently compromised and suspect. Who are they to tell us?
Likewise any government sponsored investigation into MMR which systematically excludes the evidence of parents (Carol Johnston is the obvious present example) is also self-evidently compromised and suspect.
Competing interests: Parent of an autistic child
The Herald- United Kingdom
July 22, 2002
Scots study on autism poses new question of MMR link
A SCIENTIST in Scotland yesterday revealed new research which could indicate a link between autism and the MMR vaccine by showing that autistic children have abnormally high levels of toxins in their bodies. The study by Gordon Bell, of Stirling University, also raises hopes that autism may not be genetic and instead be a physical, and therefore potentially treatable, condition. Lead, aluminium and antimony (similar to arsenic but more toxic) were found to be present in children suffering from autism at a significantly higher level than other children.
All three toxins weaken the immune system and, when present in high levels, Dr Bell believes they could affect the body's response to the MMR jab. He suggests the immune system could be too weak to react properly to the triple vaccine, triggering the onset of autism.
"These toxins could increase the likelihood of a reaction to viral change because they are all immune suppressants," he said. "Autism is all about putting too much of a burden on the body, and high levels of heavy metals may lead to other catastrophic events in the body which may then lead to autism. "All these metals or elements are at toxic levels so the body may not react appropriately to a immune change such as that caused by the MMR vaccine." Dr Bell, whose own son developed autism at the age of two after having the MMR jab, believes children susceptible to autism may have a problem getting rid of toxins from their bodies. He called for more research, both to test his results and establish whether it was possible to develop a treatment for the problem.
"This is just a small-scale study, but it is very relevant. I simply do not have the resources to do the large-scale studies that are needed," he said. "I am saying: look at this, it is a real result, and if it is the reality in a majority, or even a significant minority, of people with autism then it is something we should be looking into." Action Against Autism said the research undermined the traditional model of the disease as "psychiatric, genetic, lifelong, and incurable". Bill Welsh, chairman, called for a large-scale study. "Clinical examination of autistic children should now be a priority. Dr Bell's findings further confirm that these unfortunate children are just plain sick and probably in distress."
David Potter, head of policy at the National Autistic Society, confirmed the toxins found by Dr Bell had never previously been detected. "The medical establishment see this as a gen-etic condition, but this type of research shows there are other factors involved. We would be very keen to see this type of research furthered." Dr Bell, a lecturer in marine biology at Stirling, has a PhD in biochemistry and became heavily involved in autism research since it affected his own family six years ago. He is a member of the Scottish Executive's cross-party group on the condition.
With funds provided by the Autism Research Trust, Dr Bell tested 37 children for toxic elements, taking hair samples which were then sent to a laboratory in America for analysis. Levels of antimony in autistic children were five times above the normal maximum range and levels of lead and aluminium were three times higher. Antimony can cause fatigue, hypotension, angina, and immune dysfunction. All 24 children with autism who took part in the study were found to have antimony present above the recommended maximum values, compared to 50% of the eight non-autistic children tested, and 40% of the five children with Asperger's Syndrome.
Lead, an excess of which can lead to severe gastro-intestinal problems, loss of appetite, insomnia, and nervousness, was present above the normal maximum range in 92% of autistic children, compared to only 25% of non-autistic children, and 20% with Asperger's Syndrome. High levels of aluminium, which have been implicated in the onset of dementia, were present in 54% of autistic children, compared to only 12.5% of the control group, and none in the Asperger's group.
Measles In The Vaccination Age: Is It Now Deadlier?
One of the statistics that is bandied about these days is that 1-3 out of 1000 die of measles in developed countries like the United States. If that is the case, however, it begs the question, "Why?" Because, in the past, at least in the United States, the death rate from measles was considerably lower. The Washington Post and others have reported that measles has become more deadly because the epidemiology has shifted to infants and adults, for whom the disease is more serious. As I stated in my 1993 testimony to the Institute of Medicine: "We also cannot ignore the impact of vaccines on changing epidemiology when considering their risks and benefits. For instance, measles may have been made a more serious disease because of measles vaccination. Prior to widespread vaccination, once a population had been exposed to measles, few adults or infants contracted it, adults due to lifelong immunity and infants due to maternal antibodies. (For more, read this Scandals) Now, adults AND infants are getting the measles, with serious consequences. I would like to include reference to a recent Washington Post article entitled: 'Measles Still Menace to Infants: Vaccinated Moms Pass Less Immunity to Babies'. In this article it was noted that although in 1976 3% of measles cases occurred in children less than one, today more than 25% do. The author also indicated that prior to vaccination, 3 to 4 million measles cases occurred with around 500 deaths. This would make the case-fatality ratio for that period between 1 to 2 per 10,000. In the years 1989, 1990 and 1991 combined, however, it was reported that around 55,000 people got the measles and 166 died, making the case-fatality ratio dramatically higher at 3 out of 1,000. At this rate, fewer than 175,000 cases per year would be necessary to result in the same number of deaths which used to occur when there were millions of cases." While as reported by Elisabeth Rosenthal, in the New York Times in 1991, "Officials at the Centers for Disease Control note that the death rates may be somewhat inflated because mild cases of measles are probably not being reported.
Such underreporting would make death rates artificially high. Atkinson (of the CDC) said there may be twice as many cases nationally as have been reported." She went on to write: "But many doctors still believe the trend is real and alarming. 'The death rates are clearly much higher this time around, and the hospitalization rate is extraordinary.' said Dr. Samuel Katz, professor of pediatrics at Duke University Medical School who is a measles expert." And as I wrote in an open letter to the producers and sponsors of NBC's "ER", which garnered many hundreds of signatures:
"An example of an unexamined 'fact' you presented to your viewers was the statement that 1 out of 500 measles cases die. Perhaps your sources did not explain this to you, but the U.S. measles death rate used to be far lower prior to vaccination. So if this statistic is correct, one should ask what is the likely reason for this increased measles death rate. The probable cause is that adults and infants, for whom measles can be quite serious, now get the measles, rather than children, for whom it is generally benign. (Please bear in mind that the greater risk for adults and infants is not our opinion, but the opinion of many, including Dr. Sam Katz, one of the developers of the measles vaccine. In a chapter on measles vaccine in the Third Edition of 'Vaccines', he writes with two others: 'The risk of serious complications and death is increased in infants and adults.' And later, 'The highest risk of death was in children younger than 1 year and adults.')* *It is interesting to note that in a 1990 article on measles vaccine, written by Drs. Walter Orenstein, Director of the National Immunization Program at the CDC, and Lauri Markowitz, one of the co-authors of both the 1990 article and the Katz article and formerly of the CDC, it was stated: 'From 1950 to 1959, an annual average of more than 500,000 cases and 500 deaths were reported. However, the true number of infections was estimated to be 10 times as high.' In other words, if only reported cases are considered, the death rate appears to be 1/1000. If you factor in the number of unreported cases, quite high during the era when measles was common, the death rate drops to 1/10,000. In the more recent Katz 'Vaccines' article, co-written with Redd and Markowitz, it says that the death rate is 1 to 3 in 1000 cases (pg.223), even though later in the article they say that there used to be, 'in the prevaccine era' (pg. 229), around 500 deaths among 4,000,000 cases (actually 1.25/10,000 cases). Either they are exaggerating the current death rate, or it has gone up. We submit that if the death rate has risen, measles vaccine is the cause, having changed measles epidemiology so that high-risk groups now more often get the measles. " Thus it would appear that the measles death rate post-vaccination has indeed become higher. Are we to take the fact that measles appears to have become more deadly to mean a higher death rate is a benefit of vaccination? Or are we to acknowledge it as a risk? If measles vaccine fails to control measles over time, i.e., the vaccine wanes and revaccination does not work, and at the same time the disease fails to be eradicated, is our future to be filled with large outbreaks and high death rates because measles vaccine has changed the epidemiology of measles in such a way that increased incidence among infants and adults is the result? Wouldn't it be a good idea for us take our heads out of the sand and thoroughly investigate the benefits and risks of vaccination without presuppositions, preconditions, or the influence of those who seek to gain financially from their use?
Measles epidemic fear as MMR boycotted
By Alison Powell
READING could be facing a measles epidemic because controversy over the MMR vaccine means the immunisation rate has sunk to a record low. Parents of pre-school children influenced by the adverse publicity have been boycotting their MMR booster jabs and doctors warn they could be storing up trouble.
Three cases of measles - two adults and one child - have been confirmed in Reading.
And so far this year across Berkshire a total of five adults and nine children - none of whom had been immunised - have been positively diagnosed. Two of them were admitted to hospital and four were examined in casualty departments. To prevent outbreaks of measles there needs to be a take-up rate of the controversial MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine of 95 per cent.
In West Berkshire the number of children receiving the initial jab just after their first birthdays has fallen to 70 per cent, and the number of pre-schoolers receiving the booster at the age of four years has slumped alarmingly to just 50 per cent.
Reading-based Dr Muhammad Abid, consultant in communicable disease control for Berkshire, urged parents to ensure their children receive the MMR vaccine.
He said: "We have not had a single case of measles in Berkshire for five years and now this year we have had 14. Of those 14 only three were children below the age to be immunised." Dr Abid added: "We are hearing of outbreaks of measles in other areas and we need to ensure children are immunised - both the first injection and the booster - to prevent this from spreading further." He blames reports and studies linking the vaccine with autism and Crohn's Disease for the fall in immunisation levels. He said: "Misleading information about the safety of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine means that some parents are worried about immunising their children. Measles can be a serious illness that the vaccine prevents.
"There are often complications from measles, such as pneumonia, convulsions, meningitis, brain damage and even resulting in death." Dr Abid warned: "We need at least 95 per cent of the population to be immunised to stop measles spreading within a community. By making the decision not to immunise, you are putting yourself, your children and others in the community at risk." Pro-active measures to control the outbreak in Berkshire have included encouraging those in close contact with patients affected to get themselves immunised, and alerting GPs to make early diagnosis and notification. GPs are also being asked to offer patients who have not been immunised the MMR jab if they visit a surgery with another complaint.
NHS Direct has launched an MMR information pack for parents which can be obtained by calling 0845 4647.
Measles Virus Found In Boy's
Brain After MMR Vaccine
By Lorraine Fraser
The Telegraph - UK
A child who developed severe epilepsy after receiving the MMR jab has been found to have measles virus from the vaccine in his brain.
The results of tests conducted recently have been revealed by the 13-year-old boy's mother. She says that she has decided to go public in order to push the Government to take the plight of children allegedly damaged by the three-in-one measles, mumps and rubella vaccination more seriously.
Scientists say that the implications of the discovery are difficult to assess without further research. However, it raises new questions about the triple inoculation, which has been dogged by controversy since Andrew Wakefield, a former consultant at the Royal Free Hospital in London, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2001/01/21/nmmr21.xml>linked it with a new syndrome of bowel disease and autism in children.
The boy's mother, who has asked to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph yesterday that her son had developed an allergic rash eight days after he received the MMR vaccination when he was 15 months old. He then progressed to have 10 to 12 seizures every month.
In the summer of 1998, however, he descended into "status epilepticus" - continuous convulsions - and surgeons at a London hospital decided that he needed emergency brain surgery to save his life. It was at this point that a brain biopsy was taken.
The woman, who is suing the manufacturers of the MMR vaccine on behalf of her son, declined to say where the biopsy had been tested for the measles virus but indicated that this had been done in a reputable laboratory.
She had been shocked to receive the test results indicating that vaccine-strain measles virus had been found, she said. She had also learnt that samples from her son's bowel, taken in 1997 because he had digestive problems, had tested positive for vaccine-strain virus.
After the operation when he was nine, her son had had to relearn "virtually everything", she said. His personality changed and he was no longer able to attend mainstream school, although he had very recently been free of seizures.
"Now with this new information I am very concerned," the boy's mother said. "Is it over for him or not? No one knows and this is why all these children - not just my son - need to be acknowledged rather than have the continuous stream of blanket denials that have been issued by the Department of Health."
British specialists investigating MMR were reluctant to comment publicly on the case last night. One cautioned that it was theoretically possible that the boy had developed a vaccine-related condition that was more commonly caused by a natural measles virus infection.
If this was the case, he said, then MMR would actually help to protect the wider population from similar infections. However, he added: "We do not know what this result means."
© 2002 <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/pressoffice/index.jhtml>Telegraph Group Limited
From Mary Sparrowdancer
My heart goes out to the mother and to her child.
My children and I have decided that it is appropriate and responsible for us to come forward at this time and warn others about our own experience following my daughter's receipt of an MMR vaccination this summer. The vaccine was forced upon her as a prerequisite for enrolling in college.
Within days after my daughter (aged 18) received her required shot, my son (17) came down with measles. Shortly after this, I came down with both rubella and measles. Approximately a week later, my daughter and her friends came down with mononucleosis - a reaction to having been exposed to live viruses.
While my son was sick for a few days, I was sick for approximately three weeks. Since both my son and I should have been fully immune to measles and rubella, I am concerned about possible new or recombinant strains of viruses being administered in the MMR vaccine.
I am deeply concerned that not only did the poorly informed health care workers not inform my daughter that she would be shedding the live viruses after her inoculation, but in addition to this, when we contacted them to notify them of our resulting illnesses, they denied that the vaccine could be a suspected cause.
It is my strong feeling that we need to return the decision-making regarding healthcare matters back to individuals. This is of particular importance when the decision-making involves our children's healthcare and safety. Healthcare decisions should not be dictated by the pharmaceutical salesmen and politicians who have now somehow usurped control of this area of parental responsibility.
Well-informed, loving parents are far more capable of weighing matters with the best interests of their children in mind.
October 24, 2002
Making it better
If the Government is to rebuild confidence, it should consider four steps:
First: conduct an independent investigation into British children with autism, including gastro-enterological investigations and tests for antibodies to the measles virus. Dr Byrd of the University of California
said that he would have liked to “see what happens to the recurrence rate in families which chose not to vaccinate a subsequent sibling. We didn’t have enough numbers to do this but I’d like to see it done.”
Second: create a proper vaccine damage compensation system. The families are going to the High Court because they have no choice. The UK’s current vaccine damage scheme requires proof of 60 per cent disability and its maximum payout is £100,000 — far below the cost of caring for a child with severe autism over a lifetime.
In the US it is accepted that vaccines, like any other medical intervention, may affect a small number of children. Compensating them is not only fair, but also helps to keep the overall vaccination programme on
track. Richard Barr, representing the families, says: “If the UK Government were to adopt a more helpful scheme, like that in the USA ... some common sense could once again be injected into these important public health issues.”
Third: it would seem sensible not to introduce any more vaccines for children until there is more clarity about interactions between vaccines. Rumours abound that manufacturers are working on “MMRv”, a four-in-one
combination of MMR plus chickenpox, with tacit encouragement from the Department of Health.
Fourth: the Government should review the way the Department of Health is organised. Dr Richard Nicholson believes that this is at the root of the problems: “I would ask Sir Andrew Turnbull (the new head of the Civil Service) to think about why he needs six grades of medical officer. Many of the doctors who end up in the Department have failed to make a go of their proposed medical career. They need fresh thinking. The best thing ministers could do is to have a complete shake-out of personnel.”
It is hard not to sympathise with this view. At the BSE inquiry in 1998, the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Kenneth Calman, memorably changed his definition of “safe” to mean “not zero risk”. This was the same Chief Medical Officer who that year signed MMR leaflets with a “personal message” saying that “MMR is the safest way for you to protect your children”.
Sir Kenneth has retired, but a culture of assertion and fudge remains. This needs to change if confidence in vaccines is to be restored. There is no proven connection between autism and MMR, but the increasing numbers of autistic children deserve serious consideration. The heretics of today might just turn out to be the heroes of tomorrow.
18 October - 31 October 2002
Last week it was reported that a 13-year-old boy who became severely epileptic after his MMR jab has been found to have measles virus "consistent with the vaccine strain" lodged at the site of his brain damage. He is not the only one. Another boy, it emerges, died two years ago aged 15 after worsening epilepsy and a deterioration in his health. A recent brain biopsy has also shown the presence of such measles virus in his brain.
His family, which wants to remain anonymous, is one of only a handful to have won a payment from the government's vaccine damage unit over the MMR jab. The boy was a healthy, bright four and half year old and about to start school when he received his triple jab. Within hours he suffered a fever fit and swiftly deteriorated. At one stage he was having 200 seizures a day.
Ironically, it was accepted that he had been damaged by the jab because of the now banned urabe-strain mumps component. (The original MMR jab was withdrawn because the mumps ingredient was found to cause potentially fatal mumps-meningitis). And it is only in recent weeks that examination of his brain tissue has found the more likely culprit to be the persistent measles virus that is "consistent" with the vaccine strain. Like the 13 year old whose plight was revealed last week, he too had had no known exposure to natural measles.
The examination of tissue on the 13 year old only took place because his epilepsy was so severe that surgery to remove the area believed to be sparking the seizures was recommended. Like the hundreds of autistic children, whose families also blame MMR, the boy also had digestive problems and bowel biopsies have also found measles virus consistent with the vaccine.
On a more positive note, the boy is now making progress at a special school and is at the moment seizure free. But his mother remains very worried. She said she decided to go public with the findings because she wanted to force the government to examine children like her son properly and undertake meaningful research. But there was no sign of that last week. The department of health said that none of this evidence had been "shared" with it and it could not comment.
Nov 25 2002
MARIE Blair made up her mind against the MMR jab after a "perfectly normal" young girl she knew developed autism after having the triple injection. Yesterday, Marie and her husband Kenneth, from Hamilton, Lanarkshire, took two- year-old Emily along to the clinic to have the first of the single jabs. She said: "I just didn't trust the information that was being given out about the MMR jab. "And particularly because Tony Blair has never said whether his son had the jab. "Parents should be given the choice over single jabs. We are fortunate in that we can pay for it."
TIME TO THINK AGAIN ON JABS
Nov 25 2002
Parents pack clinic
A PRIVATE clinic giving Scots children single jabs for measles, mumps and rubella was full to capacity yesterday. Organisers said the demand proved that parents are still not convinced the triple MMR vaccine is safe. About 80 kids had measles injections at the one-day session in Glasgow - the first private clinic of its kind in Scotland. Other families waited for cancelled appointments and around 450 babies were put on a waiting list. The company behind the scheme, London-based Choice Healthcare, only advertised the service last week. They needed extra staff to handle the demand.
The course of three jabs costs about £250.
But the price has not deterred parents who fear the MMR jab causes autism and bowel disorders. Mauva Williams, a nurse consultant at Choice Healthcare, said: "It seems like almost everyone in Glasgow wants to have their children vaccinated with us. "There is a standby list, so if a child is ill, somebody else can take their place." Ms Williams said the demand was so high because parents had not been properly reassured about MMR. She claimed: "The Government have failed to have independent research carried out.
"Tony Blair should have admitted whether his baby son had the MMR jab."
Choice's director of services, David Billet, added: "The phones have been ringing ever since we arranged to come to Glasgow. We had to bring in extra staff to help us out." The three jabs given by Choice Healthcare cost around £85 each. The measles injection is given first, followed three months later by the mumps jab. The final vaccination, for rubella, is given after another three-month wait.
Only one Scots medical practice, GP Plus in Edinburgh, offers single jabs. There is a 10-week waiting list for the service. Choice Healthcare will return to the Regency Clinic in Glasgow in January to vaccinate more babies. A second firm from London, Direct Remedies, are running a clinic in the city next month. The Scottish Executive insists there is no evidence MMR can harm children and no need to offer single vaccines on the NHS. But a study in September found only 88.6 per cent of children under two have had the MMR injection in Scotland. Doctors say at least 95 per cent of youngsters need to be vaccinated to avoid outbreaks of rubella, measles and mumps.
The MMR jab turned our healthy girl into a cripple
Daily Mail Jan 9, 2003
ONE-YEAR-OLD Rebekah Boyd had just taken her first steps when her parents took her to get the MMR jab. A month after the triple vaccine, Randal and Tania Boyd's daughter could no longer stand, let alone walk, and was crying out in agony. Now nine, she is virtually crippled with juvenile chronic arthritis and can usually only watch from a chair in the garden while her friends play in the street outside. Mr and Mrs Boyd are claiming damages against the makers of the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine, claiming their daughter's condition was brought about by the injection.
They are among more than 2,000 parents who have launched a legal action insisting MMR is responsible for a range of side effects, including deafness, arthritis, autism and epilepsy. Mrs Boyd, 36, said yesterday: "The day Rebekah got that injection was the day her life changed. 'I don't want other children to go through what my daughter has been through.
'I don't think MMR is fair or right. There are other ways to give the vaccines and what has happened to my daughter just makes me so, so angry.' Rebekah had her jab in August 1994. Mr Boyd, 45, said: 'Within one month she couldn't stand or walk. 'We took her to the doctor's and she was referred to the local hospital. I overheard the doctor who made the diagnosis tell a nurse that the condition could have been caused by the MMR vaccine.'
She was placed on steroids. But after two years, with Rebekah in a wheelchair, doctors at Blackpool Victoria Hospital said there was nothing more they could do. They suggested the Boyd's take her to Booth Hall Children's Hospital in Manchester. Her father said: "They kept her in for six weeks and revised her drugs. She had intensive physiotherapy and she actually walked out of there. It was a very emotional moment.'
Mr Boyd, who gave up his his building firm to run a charity helping children with arthritis, said his daughter paid a huge price for the vaccine. Rebekah's toes, ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, finders and one hip are all affected by the condition, and sometimes she can only walk as far as her friend's house, ten metres from her home in St Anne's, Lancashire.
Until six months ago, she was on steroids which stunted her growth and left her face bloated. She is the same height as her five-year-old sister Samantha but has started to grow again after changing medication. 'She can't walk very far,' said her father. 'She is often in pain.
'Rebekah also suffers from a lack of confidence, and when other children are playing she takes her little chair out to watch. She can't join in. Her life has been affected immensely.' Rebekah said: "At school the teachers are really kind and other children make sure they don't hurt me.
"Things are always worse for me in the winter.' Her parents are so upset they decided not to vaccinate Samantha. Mr Boyd has set up the charity Grace - Give Rheumatoid Arthritis Children Encouragement. A writ has been served against drugs giant Merck, claiming damages for personal injury following the injection. A spokesman for the pressure group Jabs said: 'Both rubella and the rubella, vaccine have been connected with arthritis. 'Normally when such tragedies happen we take a step back and learn something from it, but with MMR It seems to be deny, deny, deny.'
From Susan, AVN list
MMR vaccine and idiopathic thrombocytopaenic purpura
Corri Black1,2, James A. Kaye2, Hershel Jick2
Aims To estimate the relationship between idiopathic thrombocytopaenic purpura (ITP) and the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination in children; calculating the relative risk estimate for ITP with in 6 weeks after MMR vaccination and the attributable risk of ITP within 6 weeks after MMR vaccination.
Methods Using the General Practice Research Database we identified children with a first- time diagnosis of ITP from a base population of children aged less than 6 years between January 1988 and December 1999. After describing the characteristics of all the children identified with ITP, we focused on cases aged 13-24 months to perform a population-based, case-control analysis to estimate the relative risk of developing ITP within 6 weeks after MMR vaccination. We also calculated the risk of ITP attributable to the MMR vaccination.
Results Sixty-three children with a first time diagnosis of ITP were identified; 23 cases were between 13 and 24 months old. The relative risk estimate for ITP within 6 weeks after MMR vaccination, compared to the combined group of unvaccinated children and children vaccinated with MMR more than 26 weeks previously was 6.3 (95% CI 1.3-30.1). The attributable risk of developing ITP within 6 weeks after MMR vaccination was estimated to be 1 in 25 000 vaccinations (95% confidence interval 21 300, 89 400).
Conclusion This study confirms the increased risk of ITP within 6 weeks after MMR vaccination. However, the attributable risk of ITP within 6 weeks after MMR vaccination is low.
US Congressman MD Urges Pediatricians to Warn Patients about MMR Vaccine
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US Congressman MD Urges Pediatricians to Warn Patients about MMR Vax Rep. Dave Weldon, M.D. Urges Physicians to Give Parents Choice of Separating the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine Due to Growing Concern
Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, a Florida physician, urged the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to fully inform parents of their choice in having the MMR vaccine separated and administered at different times. There is growing concern among parents and medical researchers that concurrent exposure of the measles virus with other viruses may be linked to serious developmental disorders in some children. A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Pathology (Ulmann et al.) found persistent measles virus in the intestinal tissue of 75 of 91 patients with developmental disorders (i.e., autism) who also exhibited severe bowel disease.
"I am very disturbed by these findings and believe it is critical that we give children's health the highest priority," said Rep. Dave Weldon. "While the verdict is still out on whether the MMR vaccine causes regressive autism, an association has been demonstrated in this study and others. I call upon the AAP to urge pediatricians to give parents all the facts about this safety concern and allow parents to make an informed decision about whether or not they want to separate the MMR vaccine for their children."
"Vaccines have saved millions of lives. However, there are growing concerns about the safety of the MMR vaccine that must be independently studied," said Rep. Weldon. "These clinical laboratory findings cannot be dismissed with epidemiological studies. The Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health must apply vigorous, independent tests to evaluate the concerns over the MMR."
There is an epidemic of autism among children in the United States. Ulmann et al. focus their research on a cohort of autistic children who develop what is known as regressive autism. Children with regressive autism meet normal developmental thresholds, but shortly after receiving the MMR (12-15 months of age) they begin to regress. Many public health officials have stated that the timing is simply a coincidence. However, Ulmann's discovery of measles in the inflamed intestines of 75 of 91 children in this recent study gives serious cause for concern.
It is believed that persistent measles virus in the intestines of these children may be the cause of the severe bowel disease (lymphoic hyperplasia and ileocolitis). Bowel disease is believed to result in the neurological disorders in these children. It has been established by other researchers that developmental disorders are associated with severe bowel disease. Last year the Institute of Medicine urged further study of this issue and the Congress has included language urging the National Institutes of Health to support research in this area. Additionally, a research paper published in Adverse Drug Reactions in January 2001, showed flaws in the pre-licensing studies of the MMR vaccine.
Vaccine 'Blocked' In Bid To Boost MMR in UK
[By Tanya Thompson.]
The government has been accused of blocking imports of measles and mumps vaccines, sending prices soaring to force parents into using the controversial measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) triple jab. Doctors in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London are now charging more than £100 for a single measles or mumps vaccine because it is increasingly difficult to get them in the UK. In recent months, the government has cut supplies further, restricting them to only 25 doses per day.
Dr Richard Halvorsen, a GP in central London who provides the single vaccines for parents concerned about MMR, says the government will be responsible for a measles epidemic unless it changes its policy. He said: "The government is blocking the amount coming in. Some believe they are putting pressure on importers and producers not to sell to people in this country. They control the amount coming in to make it more difficult for us to get the single vaccines." Concern that the MMR vaccine could be linked to autism and bowel disease in children has sent immunisation levels plummeting. Campaigners who want the single jabs to be made available on the NHS believe the triple vaccine is too much for a baby’s fragile immune system to cope with in one shot.
Stringent Department of Health rules state parents can only have single vaccines if they apply for a private prescription. Suppliers must go to a licensed importer on a named patient basis, resulting in further bureaucracy and cost. Doctors say they are struggling to meet demand, which has increased prices, and many parents are prepared to pay £300 or more for a course of injections. The vaccines are imported from Switzerland, France, Germany and the United States, but the shortage has left a backlog of children waiting up to six months. The concern for parents and health officials is that children could get infected in the meantime.
"Everyone I know has had trouble getting the single mumps vaccine and it’s also difficult to get measles," added Dr Halvorsen. "I charge £100 a vaccine, which sounds astronomical but my overheads are huge. It’s so bureaucratic. Getting hold of the single vaccines is a nightmare." Yohani De Silva, of Direct Remedies, which also sells single vaccines, said: "We’re worried about supplies because the government has introduced a new rule where you’re only allowed 25 doses a day. Previously you could get as many as you liked. When we ask the Department of Health why we can’t get the vaccines they refuse to comment."
Paul Shattock, the director of the autism research unit at the University of Sunderland, said: "This is a political decision to force people to get MMR." But a spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We categorically reject that we’re restricting the single vaccines. "The mumps vaccine is getting scarce because the main manufacturer in the US has halted production. All the issues surrounding manufacturers tying up the single vaccines is a matter for them." Although MMR is the most controversial vaccine in the UK, autism campaigners in the US believe the source could be the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTwP ) jab given three times to babies by 16 weeks. The UK still uses the low-cost DTwP brand, which deposits 25 micrograms of ethyl mercury into a child. US health authorities have said the substance has a "biologically plausible" link to autism and DTwP has been ordered out of medicine in the US, but remains the recommended injection in the UK.
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Cheryl Gaudino and her son Ryan.
BY GLORIA LaBOUNTY / SUN CHRONICLE STAFF
Cheryl Gaudino is not sure why her son Ryan went from the vibrant, healthy newborn he was in 1996 to the child who began emerging the following year. Three days after getting his MMR vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella, Ryan broke out in lesions that could have signaled a reaction or an infection.
Ryan was never the same. He cried constantly, was listless, and abandoned any babbling he had been doing. He had chronic diarrhea, and chronic infections. Eventually, Ryan was diagnosed with autism, a developmental disorder that can range from mild to severe and that can impair social interaction and communication.
His mother believes he reacted to the MMR, but does not know if the vaccine caused or contributed to his autism. After doing a lot of research, she learned that a host of other issues can play a role, including diet, gastric disturbances and nutritional imbalances as well as the mercury and the viruses in some vaccines.
She had her son tested for heavy metals, nutritional imbalances and food sensitivities, had him treated to flush lead out of his system, and put him on a restricted diet that avoids foods he can't tolerate. He is now on anti-fungal medication, and vitamin and mineral supplements to offset his deficiencies.
``He is doing wonderful,'' Gaudino said of Ryan, who is now 6 and thriving in a program for children with autism in the North Attleboro public school system.Her approach to her son's autism is one that a growing number of parents are pursuing as theories take hold on the role that vaccines, toxins, medications and diet play in autism, a disorder that is being diagnosed at increasing rates.
The numbers are growing so rapidly that some experts in the field call it an epidemic. Statistics are difficult to pin down because the methods of reporting autism vary among organizations and government agencies. Figures differ based on how autism is classified, what age groups are included, and whether related disorders are part of the counts.
The Autism Society of America, founded in 1965 by parents and now boasting 20,000 members, says statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and other government agencies indicate that autism is growing at a rate of 10-17 percent.An estimated 1.5 million Americans are affected, the society says, and at the current rate, four million will have autism in the next decade.
The society considers autism to be a national health emergency costing $90 billion a year in treatment, education and services. The Centers for Disease Control say autism affects an estimated two to six of every 1,000 Americans, and other agencies have estimated that one in 250 children, or even one in every 150 under the age of 10, may have autism or a related disorder.
Rising rates being felt
The rising rates are being felt in local schools. In North Attleboro, for instance, special education director Margo Brissette said she is not sure if autism has become an epidemic, but there definitely has been a significant increase.
In 1998, the school system's early learning center had only one child officially diagnosed by the medical field, she said, but this year a total of 28 students are considered to be on the autism spectrum disorder. That includes 10 with official diagnoses, and 18 who do not have a diagnosis but who have many of the characteristics of the disorder and therefore are receiving services.
They are considered to have Pervasive Developmental Disorder or PDD, a category that is included in autism statistics and reports, and that can lead to the figures being misconstrued, Brissette said. The numbers on autism are also high in Mansfield, where special education director Pat Cosgrove said the system is serving 51 students with the disorder, a very high percentage compared to the national average, and high for a student population of 4,730.
The reason, she said, may be that parents intentionally move into town because of the quality of the school system's autism program. Some medical and scientific experts say the increase in autism nationally is due to more awareness, better diagnostic methods that are identifying more children, and new classifications that include related disorders in the same category. But others say those factors cannot account for the skyrocketing rates.
While most experts agree that autism starts with a genetic predisposition, a legion of doctors, parents and scientists point to environmental factors, including toxins like mercury that have been used in some childhood vaccines, and the introduction of viruses through vaccines to children who are susceptible to complications.
According to these theories, a combination of factors are involved, including allergies, overuse of antibiotics, a weakened immune system that can lead to gastrointestinal disorders and inflammation, and reduced absorption of nutrients. Add to that the toxins such as mercury from vaccines and other sources, and viruses in some vaccines, particularly multiple ones like the MMR, and conditions can be present that affect the brain and produce symptoms characteristic of autism.
The Autism Research Consortium, a group of researchers that includes several prominent doctors in the Boston area, says the characteristics of autism and mercury poisoning are ``strikingly similar,'' and many cases of autism may actually be a form of poisoning by the toxic metal that can cause immune, sensory, neurological, motor and behavioral dysfunction.
Many fingers have pointed to thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that has been used in various vaccines, including the hepatitis B shot given by hospitals to newborns. By 1999, the year that congressional hearings began on the skyrocketing rates of autism and the suspicions about mercury and other toxins, the Food and Drug Administration ordered drug manufacturers to begin eliminating mercury from childhood vaccines, a move that was supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Infectious disease specialists and government health officials and agencies as well as the AAP continue to support vaccination policies, and urge parents and doctors to abide by them. They say that studies and evidence to date do not support an association between autism and either thimerosal or vaccines like the MMR, which never contained the preservative. They recommend that parents stick to the prescribed schedule of 11 childhood vaccines and up to 20 shots by age 2, saying there is no evidence that the schedule overloads a child's immune system, even if some children get up to five shots in one office visit.
But they do caution that allergies, immune system diseases and other sicknesses can interact with vaccines and cause health problems.
Links not ruled out
Although links between vaccines and autism have not been proven, they also have not ruled them out. In October 2001 the Institute of Medicine said it is biologically plausible that mercury-containing vaccines could cause injury to the brain but too few studies have been done to prove that conclusively. It did, however, recommend that drug companies take all mercury out of vaccines and over-the-counter drugs.
A number of studies by government agencies and private groups are under way to investigate theories and claims surrounding autism, particularly those of parents who say that their children were developing normally until receiving vaccines.
In Massachusetts, hepatitis B vaccines for children that are distributed to doctors and hospitals by the state have been free of thimerosal since the summer of 2000, and DtaP vaccines for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus have been free of the preservative since spring of 2001, according to the state Department of Public Health.Thimerosal is still used in flu vaccines and in DT and Td vaccines for diphtheria and tetanus that are given to children age 7 and older, but manufacturers are working to remove it.
Stephanie Schaeur, an epidemiologist in the state department's immunization program, said some manufacturers are still using thimerosal, but the state does not obtain its vaccines from them.The MMR never contained thimerosal, but parents who are concerned about multiple viruses being injected at the same time sometimes ask pediatricians if the vaccines can be given as separate shots.
MMR in combination
Schauer said MMR vaccines distributed by the state are in combination, and any doctors who choose to administer them separately would have to get the vaccines on their own. The theory that separate shots are better is just that, a theory, she said, and no data has been produced to suggest the combination shots can cause problems.
The push now, she said, is on even more combination vaccines to reduce the number of shots that children get, which in turn saves time, money, visits to the doctor's office, and trauma for the child. A new vaccine currently being licensed has five vaccines in one, she said.
That concerns parents like Gaudino. She is not opposed to vaccinations, and believes that children need to be immunized. What she does advocate is that parents be informed.``We are not anti-vaccine, but not with thimerosal, not five at a time, not when the kid is on antibiotics,'' she said.
That feeling is shared by Joanne McCarthy of North Attleboro. She said her son Derek, who is now 4, was initially a happy baby who slept through the night and ate everything in sight. But he had frequent ear infections, and after getting immunizations, he began screaming, hitting, toe-walking, flapping his hands, and spinning everything. He was no longer eating well, and had chronic diarrhea.She took him to Hasbro Children's Hospital, where he was diagnosed with autism.
He went into the Applied Behavioral Analysis program for autism in the North Attleboro school system, and started to respond, but had constant abdominal discomfort. So she took him to Hopewell Autism Initiative in Mattapoisett, had him tested, and found that his blood showed high levels of lead, and the presence of mercury. He subsequently was given treatments to remove the toxins. McCarthy is not sure what caused her son's autism, but suspects vaccines in combination with antibiotics he took for ear infections that in turn may have impacted his immune system.
Medical providers who attest to environmental causes offer treatment like detoxification therapy to cleanse a child's system of heavy metals, diets that limit sugars, dairy products, wheat and other foods, plus anti-fungal drugs for yeast overgrowth of the intestinal tract, and nutritional supplements to address deficiencies.
That is the approach at Hopewell Autism Initiative in Mattapoisett, where Joanne took her son. Pamela Ferro, a registered nurse and one of the directors, said a detailed medical history is compiled, tests are ordered like urine and stool analysis and blood work, then treatment is prescribed.She debunks the claim that autism is simply a genetic disorder, because if it were, there would not be an epidemic.
`` It is an epidemic, and no doubt there's an environmental trigger,'' Ferro said. `` People should be screaming from the rooftops. No way do genetics explain it.'' The bulk of the children she sees had a typical development, then regressed, and began having behavioral problems and physical symptoms. Many show signs of parasites, bacteria, yeast overgrowth, nutritional imbalances or deficiencies. Basically, Ferro said, their bodies do not have what they need to function, or have an overabundance of what they do not need. Often, she said, their histories show evidence of viral infection, a lot of antibiotic use, and vaccines on top of it all.
When heavy metals are detected, treatment can include chelation, which involves using an approved medication for removing toxins from the body by binding the heavy metals and flushing them out through the kidneys. Nutritional supplements can also be prescribed, and anti-fungal medications if needed.
Most kids get better, Ferro said, and some lose their diagnosis of autism.
More medical professionals are now open to these theories, Ferro said, and she hopes to promote even more awareness through a conference Hopewell is sponsoring the last weekend in March. The event will include a general conference for the public, and workshops for health care providers.The event will feature Doctor Jaquelyn McCandles, a psychiatrist, author and grandmother of a child with autism who wrote ``Children with Starving Brains,'' a book widely read by parents.
McCandles says the autism epidemic is worldwide, with a 26 percent increase in the number of cases from 1998 to 1999 among school-age children. While the causes are being widely debated, most experts gree that they involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors, she said. Genetics set the stage, she said, and environmental factors like toxic chemicals, heavy metals and vaccines are the triggers.
Not all autism experts are convinced. Joseph Ricciardi, a clinical psychologist and director of clinical services for early childhood education at May Institute in Norwood, a treatment center for children with autism, said these theories are not being written off by the medical community, but they also have not been proven, and therefore warrant study.
His feeling is that as long as alternative treatments do not interfere with established services and approaches to autism, there can be no harm in trying them, but with the proper medical supervision. Margo Brissette, special education director in North Attleboro, said she deals with parents who are convinced that their child's autism is linked to some kind of toxicity. She is not sure if mercury is a factor, but she said, `` I do believe there are some environmental issues involved in autism.''
Any alternative treatment should go hand in hand with established programs, Brissette said. Otherwise, she said, children lose out on academic and social benefits.Parents like Gaudino believe in these programs because they have seen the results, but they also believe in other approaches. Since going on the restricted diet, she said, her son is more receptive, more responsive, and more imaginative.
``He's like a different kid,'' Gaudino said.
The family lives on whole foods, and she makes everything from scratch. She does not give her son nitrates, food dyes or preservatives. He eats selected carbohydrates, only organic meats and vegetables, and very little sugar.She calls it `` bare bones, back to the basics.'' It's expensive and time-consuming, she said, but `` it's worth it.'' Any child can benefit from these interventions, Gaudino said.
`` All you can do is try,'' she said. `` At least they are getting nutritious food.''
Numerous attenuated measles vaccines, most derived from the Edmonston strain, are currently produced worldwide. Four vaccines containing non-Edmonston derived strains are also in use including Leningrad-16, Shanghai-191, CAM-70 and TD97. In most cases, the virus is cultured in chick embryo cells. However, a few vaccines are attenuated in human diploid cells. Most vaccines do contain small doses of antibiotics (e.g. 25 m g of neomycin per dose), but some do not. Sorbitol and gelatin are used as stabilizers (Redd et al., 1999).
[By Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail.]
Part One: MMR - The Truth
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Little William Kessick was a bubbly and jolly baby. Bright as a button, he was born without problems 14 years ago and passed all the normal milestones of child development with flying colours. Then, at 15 months, he had his MMR jab - a triple vaccination for mumps, measles and rubella. Within a few weeks, his mother Rosemary says she watched her child start to disintegrate.
'He had started to use a few words, like ball and book. Suddenly I realised he wasn't saying these words properly any more. Then his language just faded away. 'The last word he had was juice; and then that went too. He started banging his head against the walls and the furniture. He stopped responding to the spoken word.' Mrs Kessick noticed that although William was eating normally, he was terribly thin, with his ribs poking through. He had appalling diarrhoea all the time, and was screaming all day and all night. 'The doctors just dismissed it. I put it together with the MMR which seemed to be the only thing that had happened, but they wouldn't listen. I was told I was being a bit neurotic about his behaviour.' As William got worse and worse, Mrs Kessick found one small ray of hope. Changes to her son's diet seemed to make a difference to his behaviour.
By trial and error, she discovered what other researchers have subsequently confirmed - that if such children avoid foods containing gluten and casein (derived from wheat and milk) not only their gut problems but also their behavioural difficulties dramatically improve. The two sets of symptoms seemed inextricably linked. And Mrs Kessick was sure that MMR had somehow triggered them both.
She went from doctor to doctor but no one would listen. In desperation, she contacted a vaccination pressure group called Jabs, founded by Cheshire mother Jackie Fletcher after her own son, Robert, developed epilepsy and brain damage following MMR. Robert, now 11, has the development of a 14-month- old baby. Doctors told his mother that that the MMR jab had 'revealed' Robert's epilepsy, not caused it.
Jackie Fletcher told Mrs Kessick that she knew of only one doctor who would take her fears seriously: Andrew Wakefield, who worked at the Royal Free Hospital in London, and was one of the first doctors to sound the alarm over MMR.
But WAS Mrs Kessick right to blame the vaccination for her son's catastrophic decline? And how could gut trouble be linked to problems with behaviour and the brain? Are Wakefield and his fellow researchers scaremongers, or pioneers ranged against a hidebound establishment? Have they made an important discovery - or are they wrenching the facts to fit a theory that doesn't hold water? To get to the truth, as this special Mail series is trying to do, we must look more closely at the medical arguments. As we are about to see, it is a story of warnings that have gone ignored and experts who have been savaged for failing to support official line. Yet however often the evidence against MMR has been dismissed by the medical establishment, the dissident researchers have come back with new and troubling questions.
Andrew Wakefield made his name researching inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). He had a theory that measles virus - which tends to home in on gut tissue - might damage blood vessels, causing the wall of the bowel to break down and infection to set in. His early work was aimed at proving a causal link between measles and Crohn's disease, a chronic bowel disorder. He failed to do so. His critics cite this as evidence that his whole case is flawed, but other researchers have confirmed a high incidence of measles in the gut of
children with Crohn's.
In any event, Wakefield still had measles in his sights. He had noticed a huge increase in IBD among children. Since the gut was important to the body's immune responses, there was probably something to which these children's immune system was reacting. Might it be the measles virus, or even the attenuated form of the virus in measles vaccine? Wakefield's concern deepened when he found that exposure to both measles and mumps in the same year appeared significantly to increase the risk of IBD. The MMR vaccine, introduced in 1989, was for measles, mumps and rubella. In other words, it gave children simultaneous exposure to the two key viruses.
Wakefield became so anxious that he wrote to Dr David Salisbury, the Government's principal medical officer for communicable diseases and immunisation, drawing attention to numerous studies indicating an association between bowel disease in children and measles. He received no reply. A year later, when he heard of the proposed re-vaccination in 1994 of more than seven million children to counter a suggested measles epidemic, he wrote again urging that the campaign be aborted while more research was carried out.
He was ignored again and the campaign went ahead. Meanwhile, more and more parents were becoming convinced that the MMR jab had produced a catastrophic reaction in their children. Rosemary Kessick was one of them - and her relief when she contacted Wakefield was immense. Besides being prepared to consider a connection between the measles vaccine and her son William's bowel symptoms, he was also prepared to listen when she suggested that it was linked with William's behavioural problems.
'I phoned him and said I thought the gut has affected the brain - and bless him, he didn't put the phone down on me,' recalls Mrs Kessick. William was examined by the Royal Free team including the renowned paediatric gastroenterologist, Professor John Walker-Smith. They found an impacted bowel, diarrhoea and inflammation. After the examination, said Mrs Kessick, Walker-Smith came into the room and said: 'You are right; we think this is a new disease state.' Once they started treating William's bowel symptoms, there was a dramatic transformation in his behaviour. He began to laugh again and use words for the first time in years. To Mrs Kessick, it was now undeniable that the two sets of symptoms were linked. She then consulted Norfolk solicitor Richard Barr, who was preparing law suits on behalf of hundreds of other parents who claimed their children had been damaged by MMR.
The MMR Controversy - Part Three: The Autism Epidemic
[By Melanie Phillips. First published in the Daily Mail.]
Part One: MMR - The Truth
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Part Two: MMR - The Warnings Ignored
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According to the medical establishment, the whole idea is a nonsense. The suggestion that a new autistic bowel disease is now affecting large numbers of children who were previously normal until they were vaccinated with MMR is simply not borne out by the evidence. There is, say these experts, nothing new going on. All that's happened is that a few parents are desperate to invent a reason for the appalling disorder of autism that has afflicted their children. Autism often isn't noticed until the second year of life, which happens to be the time children are vaccinated with MMR. These few parents have simply put two and two together and made five. So it came as a bit of a shock to attend the annual Autism Society of America meeting in Indianapolis last June. There I discovered upwards of 1,000 parents, most of whom told the same story: that their children were developing totally normally until they had MMR, following which their skills and personalities disintegrated and they developed appalling gut problems and food intolerances. Take Jeff Sell, a Texas lawyer with eight year-old twins, Ben and Joe. Ben was born with an autistic disorder but Joe passed all the normal milestones until he had MMR. 'Joe had an immediate reaction with epileptic seizures, very high fever, rash and vomiting the next day.' said Sell. 'We took him to the doctor and were given the standard party line. In few months after that the language he developed had all gone, and chronic diarrhoea set in.' Or take Liz Birt from Chicago. Her eight year-old son Matthew passed all his developmental milestones until he had MMR and Hib (haemophilus influenza type B) vaccinations at 15 months. 'That night he had a high temperature. Seven days later he started to have severe diarrhea and stopped sleeping at night. He would wake at 1am and be up for the rest of the night. And he started screaming. 'I was very concerned because he wasn't growing and putting on weight. A few months later he started staring at lights, not making eye contact. 'Previously, he could count to ten, say mama and dada and ball but all these words went away. Then it seemed he wasn't hearing what we were saying at all.'
Despite the fact that Matthew had chronic diarrhea, doctors dismissed his mother's concerns. But then she took him to be examined by Andrew Wakefield's team at the Royal Free Hospital, London. Wakefield is the British doctor who first raised the alarm about MMR, linking it to autism and bowel problems. His team discovered that Matthew was in constant pain from a grossly impacted and diseased bowel -- something he believes is directly linked to autism following MMR jabs. Other parents tell similar stories. Tanya Reubarger from Indianapolis said of her five year-old son Nathan: 'He was a perfectly normal baby until he had his injection. 'Then he started regressing, throwing violent tantrums, beating his head on the walls, beating his hands until they bled, frantic, always crying. He was eating normally but he had constant diarrhea. Yet no-one will believe you.'
In Britain, the National Autistic Society says it has not noticed more reports of regressive autism and bowel disease following MMR. But other groups say this is because parents with such experiences don't join the deeply conservative NAS because it gives them no support. Such parents say that through their children's disorder, they have met countless other couples whose autistic children similarly developed normally until MMR provoked a catastrophic regression. And they say the claim by autism experts that they simply failed to spot autistic symptoms before the vaccination is demonstrably untrue, since so many of them have video recordings of their babies before vaccination showing them to have been perfectly normal.
Tracey Steell (correct) from Glasgow has triplet boys, now aged eight. They had finished a course of antibiotics shortly before their MMR vaccination. Until then, they had been perfectly normal babies. Within a few days of the jab, one by one all three developed high fever, started to scream uncontrollably and then stopped developing. 'They didn't play, they just lay there, all three of them,' she said. 'They stopped playing with the dog and the cat, they didn't play with their toys, they didn't cry; if you picked them up they would just stare at you.' Because they were triplets, she said, the babies were continuously monitored by the hospital for the whole of their first year of life – and the hospital found nothing abnormal about them, giving the lie to the claim that such parents fail to recognise autistic symptoms present before vaccination.
Jonathan Harris of Birmingham has six children. The two eldest, Ashley, 16 and Laura, 14, were too old to have MMR, and are normal children. The next two, Thomas, 12 and Oliver, eight, did have MMR. Within a week of the jab Oliver started to scream and his behaviour regressed: he wouldn't make eye contact, wouldn't play and started throwing things around. Thomas developed bowel problems and lost his language skills. Harris is now looking for single vaccines for his two youngest, who are four and almost three. 'Most parents of autistic children that I have met have had similar experiences to us,' he said. 'I know dozens of such
What no-one disputes is that in both Britain and America there has been a huge rise in the numbers diagnosed with either autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which covers other developmental abnormalities. And what is striking is that this rise coincided with MMR vaccination being made a legal requirement in the US in 1979 and being introduced into the UK in 1989 (although some experts claim -- with figures that have been contested -- that autism started to rise in the UK two years before MMR was introduced). The main US figures are collated in California, the state with the most advanced services and reporting system for developmental disorders. Rick Rollens is a former secretary of the California state senate whose own son developed regressive autism after his booster MMR shot. 'Something happened in 1979/80,' he says. 'The pattern changed.' And the rise seems to be accelerating. Between 1987 and 1998, the proportion of autistic people using California's services almost doubled. Between 1987 and 1998, there was a rise of 273% in the number of autistic cases in the state. According to Rollens, California is now adding on average seven new autistic cases per day to its register. The figures are borne out by studies of other parts of the US. And they correspond to UK figures too.
Until recently, the rate of ASD in Britain was estimated at between 5 and 20 per 10,000. The Medical Research Council now puts it at one in 166, or about 70 per 10,000. The National Autistic Society thinks that is an underestimate. In a study, it found the rate running at one in 86 in primary schools, a staggeringly high figure. Teachers are increasingly reporting that they are finding it difficult to cope with the new phenomenon of autistic children in their classes. Nevertheless, the medical establishment has long maintained that the numbers aren't really increasing. Dr Eric Fombonne, the child psychiatrist and renowned autism expert who is advising the drug companies that make MMR, has pooh-poohed the California figures and said the high rates merely reflect wider and better diagnosis and recognition. He has been backed up by Dr Patrick Bolton, a child psychiatrist and co-director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, who says the explanation for the rise is unclear. 'It's most likely to be at least in part due to the fact that we've changed our way of defining and diagnosing autism and we are better at spotting it. We've broadened the concept.' However, last autumn a study by the University of California concluded that the huge rise in autism was real and could not be explained away by changes in diagnostic practice or classification.
And even Dr Fombonne now appears to be conceding that a significant change is taking place. In a recent article, he wrote that rates for the range of autism disorders were now three to four times higher than they were 30 years ago. The parents respond with fury and incredulity to the idea that such behaviour could simply have been overlooked in the past or mistaken for something else. In the US, Jeff Sell's wife was a special needs teacher in Spring, Houston. 'In 1994, she knew there were three children with autism in our district,' he said. 'Now there are 83. 'Are we being told that there were previously 83 children, all screaming and rocking and head-banging, and nobody noticed them? You don't miss autism. There are more of them.' 'We have heard from parents that huge numbers of autistic children are being identified,' said Judith Barnard of the NAS, 'and it wasn't like that when they were kids.
'So we asked schools whether they felt there were more autistic children now than five years ago and two thirds of them said yes. There is a sense that something perceptibly different is happening.' Yet the establishment points to an apparent paradox which they say undermines the claim of a link with MMR. How can this be cause and effect, they say, when the rate of autism is still rising even though MMR uptake has stayed steady (or even gone down)? The response from the Wakefield camp is that MMR is not the only cause of autism. Many other factors may be involved, such as, for example, the dramatically rising rate of food and other allergies, or the increasing burden of other vaccines administered to infants. In the US, many parents believe that the mercury found in some vaccines other than MMR, such as the diphtheria/polio/tetanus jab, may weaken a child's immune system so that MMR becomes the final knockout blow. Dr Jeff Bradstreet runs a clinic for autistic children in Florida. He firmly believes that MMR is a devastating factor in a wider process that impairs children's immune systems.
His own son Matthew was a normal baby until his MMR jab. 'Within two weeks of receiving MMR, Hib and chickenpox, Matthew was lost,' he said. 'He had chronic diarrhoea and regressed into a world of his own. After his booster MMR jab he had seizures.' Tests revealed he had a very high level of measles virus in his spinal fluid. 'A Congressional researcher and I called paediatricians all over the country and presented the lab data and the history and asked them for their diagnosis and they all said measles and encephalopathy (brain disease). 'We said he had autistic features and they said the encephalopathy was causing the autistic features. 'There are many toxins in the environment. Ultimately, I think you have a series of wounding events and then in a weak state the child is exposed to MMR.' The theory that too many vaccines at once overload the immature immune system is -- like everything else in this story -- controversial. The eminent immunologist Sir Peter Lachmann says: 'There's no limit to what the immune system can take; that's what it is for. There is no evidence that three living viruses administered at the same time overloads it. I think this idea is entirely drawn out of the air.' But Professor James Oleske, a paediatric immunologist in New Jersey, says: 'It's not the number of antigens in a vaccine that's the problem -- it's the fact that in preparing them for the vaccine, other things are added to make them more effective.'
Wakefield believes it is particular folly to mix viruses in a vaccine since this makes them unpredictable in their effects -- a view Lachmann dismisses. 'Compound viruses do not interfere with each other's responses,' Lachmann insists. Others say Lachmann is profoundly wrong. Autism expert Dr Ken Aitken says studies have shown that combining viruses does indeed alter their effects and increases the risk of adverse reactions.
The Department of Health argues that the triple MMR vaccine is safer for children than single jabs, which would expose them and others to a far greater risk of measles, mumps and rubella through slow or non-existent take-up. Because of the controversy, however, MMR take-up is down by about ten per cent to 84%, and demand for single jabs has soared. Drug manufacturers are now limiting the availability of single vaccines, with claims by campaigners that the health department is leaning on the companies not to supply them. The perils of making it difficult for GPs to give single jabs on the NHS were underscored last month when two private clinics were shut down after it was found that their single vaccines were either ineffective of contaminated.Dr Richard Halvorsen is a London GP and one of the few who gives single vaccine jabs on the NHS. 'The arguments against providing single vaccines are irrelevant if parents won't give their children the MMR.' he said.
'It seemed an overwhelming clinical argument to offer the single vaccine. By not offering it, we were contributing to the potential epidemic of measles that the department is purportedly trying to prevent.' To which the Health Department replies: look at Japan. In 1993, Japan abandoned MMR completely after it suffered an outbreak of aseptic meningitis triggered by the Urabe strain of mumps vaccine within the triple jab. Urabe-strain MMR had been withdrawn in Britain the previous year for the same reasons (shamefully, the Health Department had known of the dangers when it was introduced) and replaced with an updated version. Japan, by contrast, switched entirely to single jabs. This has resulted, says the Health Department, in a measles epidemic in Japan and 79 deaths from the disease between 1992 and 1997. On the face of it, then, this seems a strong argument for sticking with MMR. But Dr Hiroki Nakatani, director of the Infectious Disease Division at Japan's Ministry of Health and Welfare, has a very different story to tell.
He says that in 1989, when Japan first introduced MMR, there were 34 deaths from measles; in 1990, there were 53 deaths; in 1991, 39; and in 1992, 14. Then, in 1993, the Japanese government moved from recommending MMR to single vaccines instead. The number of deaths from measles per year has since remained at between 14 and 25. So in fact, in the years Japan was using MMR there were on average rather more deaths from measles -- quite apart from the deaths and serious damage done by the vaccine -- than since single jabs were introduced. This may well have been because take-up of vaccines during the MMR
years never reached more than 68 per cent. By contrast, said Dr Nakatani, take-up of the single measles vaccine has now reached 95%, utterly disproving the UK government warnings that the single jab would cause a steep decline in use.
In other words, it may be possible to increase take-up of single jabs above the rate of MMR simply through a sustained campaign of public education and encouragement. So how is this great controversy to be resolved? Next year, about 1,000 families will be pressing claims for compensation against the drug companies in the High Court. Whatever the result, this is not likely to end the argument. The answers to this riddle will have to come from scientific evidence, and are most likely to be uncovered in the US where much research is going on. What, though, should a baffled public and -- in particular -- anxious parents make of the evidence so far? Which of these warring sides is right? Both sides are fundamentally motivated by the highest concerns. Unfortunately, these concerns collide. The Department of Health and the medical establishment want to protect children and the wider community from diseases that can kill or cause serious handicap. The Wakefield camp and the parents are not against vaccination -- indeed, most of them agree on its importance -- but say the evidence is stacking up that the MMR carries too great a risk of injury. The Wakefield camp has not yet proved its case. Its studies need to be replicated.
On the other side, Wakefield's opponents have not proved their case either. The epidemiology is flawed, and the claims made for it by government have often been bogus and misleading. Moreover, the Department of Health is ill-placed to alllay anxiety when -- as I revealed in the first part of this series -- it was responsible for introducing a strain of MMR whose safety it knew had been seriously questioned, only withdrawing it after three years of flawed surveillance and resulting damage to a number of children.
As we have seen today, fears over this same Urabe strain prompted Japan to ditch MMR completely. The Health Department chose to stay on the triple-jab route, but its handling of the debacle was deeply unimpressive. Given this dubious record, and the testimony of so many parents, it would seem only prudent both to permit single jabs and to encourage as a matter of the utmost urgency properly independent research to prove one way or another whether Andrew Wakefield is right. Although his case is still inconclusive, there is surely enough evidence to prompt serious concern -- and a precautionary approach. The vast majority of children are clearly unaffected by the MMR jab; but if a small proportion is indeed affected, that still amounts to a lot of children. The Government is frightened to do anything that may prompt a widespread collapse of confidence in vaccination. But if it persists in dismissing the accumulating evidence from both clinicians and parents, it may find that it causes the very collapse in confidence -- with disastrous results -- that it is so desperate to prevent.
Anti-Vaccination Forces Get Much-Needed Shot in Arm
By F.C. Blahut
A British study supports the position of the anti-vaccination forces. Parents who have had the traumatic experience of registering their children for school are familiar with the demand that the children have certain immunizations. Those who don’t want to immunize their children face a gauntlet of state and federal problems and the possibility that their children will not be allowed to attend school without a court order. The parents are assured that the federal government says the shots are safe and effective.
But things may not be as worry-free as the government says. A United Kingdom study—not widely disbursed in this country—says the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) has been linked to a rare bleeding disorder in children. According to research published Feb. 21, two out of every three cases of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), or bleeding under the skin, in the six weeks after MMR immunization are caused by the vaccine.
This accounts for one child in every 22,300 in the UK given the MMR vaccine who were admitted to the hospital. The study, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, was led by Dr. Elizabeth Miller of the Public Health Laboratory Service who has conducted extensive research into any adverse effects of the MMR vaccine.
The vaccine has been linked to an increase in a form of bowel disease and autism in children, although Miller’s earlier studies have found no association with autism. The study says that ITP is caused by a shortage of platelets, the cells that make blood “sticky.” In the general population, with or without MMR vaccinations, ITP occurs in about one in 10,000 people and in children and young people it is often preceded by a viral infection.
Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura and Vaccination
The concern that immunizations may lead to the development of autoimmune diseases (abbreviated as AIDs) as well as other similar concerns regarding vaccinations poses the controversial issue of whether or not vaccination is really necessary. Although most do believe in the benefits of vaccination and many organizations strive to eradicate diseases through vaccination campaigns, the anti-vaccination group often employs the causal association of particular vaccines with certain conditions such as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). This section on vaccination discusses ITP, the vaccination issues surrounding it and explores why vaccination is still recommended.
What is ITP?
Causes and Risks
Prevention and Treatment
Why we should vaccinate
References and Links
What is ITP?
ITP stands for Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura but is sometimes referred to as Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura. This is an autoimmune disorder characterized by an abnormally low (<50000/mm3) platelet count known as thrombocytopenia. This often leads to excessive bruising (known as purpura) of that individual as platelets, made in the bone marrow, are essential for blood clotting. (1,2)
However, symptoms of spontaneous bleeding often do not occur until platelet counts are extremely low. Initial signs include easy bruising and bleeding from the gums. This spontaneous bleeding can results in much more severe symptoms such as gastrointestinal haemorrhaging of vital organs (such as the stomach) and intracerebral haemorrhage which can consequently lead to a stroke.(1)
Clinical observations symptomatic of ITP are not the only means of diagnosis. A complete blood count would often identify the abnormally low platelet counts and could also determine the presence of platelet autoantibodies to confirm the diagnosis. Further confirmation may require a bone marrow biopsy where the bone marrow tests should remain normal as ITP involves platelet destruction in the bloodstream. (1)
Causes and Risks
The cause of ITP is unknown although several theories exist on the causes of AID (3). The microbial trigger theory suggests that IL-12 plays an important role in the activation of any dormant self-reactive cells close to the site of infection. The molecular mimicry theory suggests that AID is triggered by invading viruses and bacteria that imitate components of the host cells as part of their evasion mechanism. Many viruses in particular employ this molecular mimicry strategy when they “bud-off” or are released from the virus-infected cell whereby the virus becomes enveloped by the host-cell’s lipid membrane. Subsequently, this could lead to the confusion of the immune response which would develop antibodies to the host cell components. This mat then lead to AID or the targeting of self-tissues by the immune response. Free radical damage to DNA is another theory for the cause of AID, particularly if the DNA damaged is an important regulator of the immune system. Mycoplasma bacteria are also important suspects in the development of AIDs.
As viral infection is believe to be an important trigger for AIDs, live attenuated vaccines may trigger AIDs, although this incidence is rare. Immunisation with the MMR (measles- mumps-rubella) vaccine has been associated with ITP in children. There are 2 types of ITP: one type affects children (usually 2-9 years) and the other affects adults (20-50 years), particularly young women.(1,2) It is hypothesized that s transfer of cells between the foetus and mother during pregnancy is an important trigger which may explain the higher incidence of autoimmune disorders in women.(1)
Fortunately, ITP is neither hereditary nor contagious so it poses no risk to others. (2,3,4)
Prevention and Treatment
Unfortunately, there is no known prevention for ITP. (2) However, most cases of ITP in children do resolve even without treatment. Although this spontaneous remission is much less prevalent in adults who are also affected for a longer period of time, most adults are only affected with mild thrombocytopenia where only a few have bleeding symptoms.
Those who are haemorrhaging severely are initially treated with a transfusion of platelets. Immunosuppressants used are mainly corticosteroids such as prednisolone or dexamethasone, administered either intravenously or orally. However, sometimes the platelet count in adults decreases again when the steroid therapy is stopped and thus may require more aggressive interventions to improve the platelet count. These include using intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) which binds the autoantibodies attacking the platelets and removes them from the bloodstream. However, this is very expensive and requires intravenous administration of medication. The patient’s blood can also be filtered through plasmapheresis to remove the autoantibodies. This involves inserting a large a catheter into a blood vessel and is thus usually reserved for severe cases of ITP.(1) A splenectomy (removal of the spleen) often cures the condition. Treatment of ITP continues until a normal platelet count is restored. The platelet count is regularly monitored by repeated complete blood counts.
Side effects of the treatments include allergic reactions or an increased risk of infection due to the immunosuppressants. Surgery can cause bleeding, infection and allergic reaction to the anaesthesia.
ITP has been associated with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. This causal association between ITP and the MMR vaccine was confirmed using immunization and hospital admission record linkage. (6,8) Although the record linkage method or case reports are the weakest of scientific evidence, this causal relation was accepted in the 1994 Institute of Medicine Report, and another recent study by Miller and colleagues confirms this causal association from extended studies.
In 1996, Beeler and colleagues reported egg protein from the cell culture as the etiologic basis for ITP after receiving the MMR vaccine.(5,7) Subsequently, their work demonstrates that the ingredients contained in the final administered vaccine (such as antigens, adjuvants, stabilizers, bacteriostatic agents and various residues from the preparation of the vaccine) are more than a theoretical concern in human vaccines.
Thus the biologic plausibility for a causal relation between thrombocytopenia and the MMR vaccine has been demonstrated (from Chen and colleagues). For the rubella vaccine, the biologic plausibility is merely intermediate but there have also been theoretical claims without substantial evidence or data that associate thrombocytopenia with the polio, haemophilus type b and DPT (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus) vaccines.
The association of vaccines with disorders, particularly AIDs such as ITP, (6,7,8) has made vaccination a controversial topic. People often ask questions such as “Should we vaccinate?”, “Is vaccination really necessary?”, “What are the benefits and risks and are the risks worth taking?”. Despite the evidential connection of the MMR vaccine with ITP, this vaccine should not be withdrawn from the recommended childhood vaccination schedule. There main reasons for this are mentioned below.
Why we should vaccinate
1) The instances of developing ITP following MMR vaccination is relatively rare, ranging from a frequency of 1 in 22300 to 1 in 40000 vaccinated children. The risk of developing ITP is much higher following natural infection with rubella or measles than with vaccination. (7)
2) The clinical course of MMR-associated ITP is usually transient and benign. Moreover, this tends to occur in children, who tend to develop mild symptoms and often recover without the need for treatment. (2,4)
3) Non-vaccinated individuals would be more susceptible to viral infection with measles, mumps and rubella which are relatively severe diseases contributing to childhood mortality and morbidity. Clinical features of measles involve respiratory symptoms (preliminary symptoms), fever with a maculopapular rash that lasts for 2-5 days. Measles can have several debilitating complications whereby respiratory complications (bronchitis, bronchiolitis, croup, bronchopneumonia, and otitis media) were predominantly responsible for the mortality of measles infection prior to the advent of antibiotics. Giant cell pneumonia is rare but is usually a fatal complication. Neurological complications (subacute sclerosing panencephalitis and more commonly post-infectious encephalitis) are also severe with high mortality rates. Survivors of neurological complications following measles infection are often left with residual neurological symptoms and other impairments. (9) (SO ARE VACCINATED KIDS???)
Classical mumps is a febrile illness with parotitis. Mumps is also an important cause of viral meningitis (and less occasionally meningoencephalitis) with muscular weakness or paralysis sometimes. Mumps meningitis may not be accompanied by parotitis but nerve deafness may be a complication. Other complications following mumps include orchitis, pancreatitis, oophoritis and thyroiditis where adults are usually more severely affected. (9)
Unlike measles and mumps, rubella is a mild disease but the danger lies in its ability to cause severe congenital abnormalities and disease in the foetus if contracted by the mother in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. Clinical features involve a mild febrile illness with a macular rash, pharyngitis and enlargement of the cervical lymph glands. Complications are rare and include post-infectious encephalitis, thrombocytopenic purpura and arthralgia. Although sometimes asymptomatic, congenital defects can be severe with a triad of cataract, nerve deafness and cardiac abnormalities as the main defects. These infants also develop the rubella syndrome (hepatosplenomegaly, thrombocytopenic purpura, low birth weight, mental retardation, jaundice, anaemia and lesions in the metaphyses of the long bones). (9)
These complications, symptoms, fatalities and risks of long-term defects can be greatly minimized or even avoided through vaccination with the MMR vaccine.
4) Modern vaccines are extremely safe and effective (PUKE). Despite events reported following immunization with vaccines (ranges from frequent, minor, local reactions to extremely rare, severe, systemic illness associated with particular vaccines such as the oral poliovirus), vaccines are very effective in preventing these diseases. By recognizing the vaccine components responsible for these adverse effects, the vaccine can be improved. For instance, the Urabe mumps strain component was found responsible for the unacceptably high risk of aseptic meningitis with MMR vaccines. (6) Thus, this strain is no longer used in the administered MMR vaccine.
Overall, the risks of developing diseases following immunization is extremely rare and is a risk worth taking to prevent the even more debilitating (and sometimes fatal) effects following normal infection by these viruses.
References and Links
6. Farrington, P. et al. (1995). A new method for active surveillance of adverse events from diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis and measles/mumps/rubella vaccines. The Lancet 345:567-569.
7. Chen, R. T. et al. (2001). Epidemiology of Autoimmune Reactions Induced by Vaccination. Journal of Autoimmunity 16:309-318.
8. Miller, E. et al. (2001). Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura and MMR Vaccine. Arch Dis Chil 84:227-229.
9. Timbury, M. C. (1997). Notes on Medical Virology, 11th edition, Chapter 12. Churchill Livingstone.
PARENTS ATTACK NEW MMR CLAIM
10:30 - 22 July 2003
Parents who believe the MMR jab caused their children to develop autism have hit back at a study which claims the link between the vaccine and the condition is "not real". The Government insists the Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine is safe, but many parents are refusing to take their children for the jab over fears it might be linked to autism.
Now researchers say the huge increase in cases of autism seen since 1979 may simply be the result of more awareness and better record-keeping.
Professor Brent Taylor and colleagues from the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London argue that the apparent increase in cases is "not real". They said the increase was probably due to "increased recognition, a greater willingness to accept the diagnostic label, and better recording systems". The new findings are based on 567 autistic children born between 1979 and 1998. More than 2,000 parents, such as Susan Tompkins from Horncastle, believe their children developed autism as a result of the MMR vaccine and are taking legal action against the drug companies who produce it. Mrs Tompkins' eight-year-old son Joshua was diagnosed with autism at the age of four. He suffered a serious reaction after having the combined jab, developing a measle-like rash and vomiting.
"This study only looks at records, which don't necessarily show a link between MMR and autism," she said.
"If they were to look back at Joshua's records, they would see he was diagnosed as autistic aged four and nothing else. There isn't even a record of the reaction he had after having the MMR. "The study also only looks at records up to 1998, when a link between MMR and autism was only suggested in 1998.
"Before that, there would have been no reason to record a link between MMR and autism. I think if they did the study again for the last five years then their findings would be considerably different." Louth-based GP Dr Peter Mansfield, who gives single vaccines against the childhood diseases, claims the study is just another attempt to justify theGovernment's triple vaccine policy. "The clinical evidence based on actual visits to actual people has made a case for the link between MMR and autism to the degree of a racing certainty," he said. "The problem is that the Government is, sooner or later, going to have to admit this link and admitting things seems to be against their religion. "These studies look at records but they do not consider what is not recorded.
"They look at figures, not people, and clinical studies are what is needed. And it is these clinical studies, all over the world, that have shown there is a link." In 1998 Dr Andrew Wakefield, then also based at the Royal Free medical school, claimed to have found an association between regressive autism and bowel problems that possibly related to the MMR vaccine. He argued that because of uncertainty about its safety, the MMR vaccine should be withdrawn.
And in 2001, the Autism Research Unit at the University of Sunderland reported a tenfold increase in autism rates over the previous decade. Professor Taylor's study found that triggers cited by parents for their children's autism differed before and after the scare. The researchers wrote: "Before August 1997, parents incriminated trigger factors such as domestic stress, seizures, or viral illness. "Post-1997 parents were more likely to attribute regression to vaccination, especially the MMR vaccine." The vaccine was cited as a trigger in two out of 46 autism cases before 1997, but six out of 30 cases after 1997. A Department of Health spokesman said: "There is no credible scientific evidence showing an association between MMR and autism. MMR remains the best way of protecting a child from measles, mumps and rubella. "The department's priority is to give accurate information to parents that explains the real benefits of MMR, and describes for them the very few risks
that could occur."
by katrina blazek
What is Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura?
Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP) is an autoimmune disease that results in low numbers of circulating platelets (1). Destruction of platelets occurs as a result of autoantibodies attacking the platelets (1). The mechanism by which production of autoantibodies is stimulated is unknown (1).
The specificity of the autoantibodies has been linked to a glycoprotein on the surface of the platelets. For unknown reasons the glycoproteins become auto-antigenic, thus stimulating the immune system. Autoantibodies are produced and platelets are destroyed, primarily by phagocytosis (1).
Studies have determined that the specific glycoproteins that are auto-antigenic are GPIIb/IIIa and GPIb/IX (1). It has been found that autoantibodies against one or both of these glycoproteins are present in 75% of ITP patients (1).
Once the autoantibodies bind to the glycoprotein, platelets are eliminated from the circulation by either phagocytosis or complement- nduced lysis. Studies have shown evidence for both these methods of elimination (2,3).
ITP patients show both low levels of circulating platelets and a decreased or normal production rate of platelets (4). It would be
expected that low levels of platelets would signal an increase in the production of platelets. It has been proposed that the autoantibodies are able to bind to platelet precursors and hence curb production of platelets. It has been shown that during maturation, megakaryocytes express GPIIb/GPIIIa and GPIb on their surface (4). Binding of autoantibodies to megakaryocytes may interfere with their maturation into platelets or they may destroy the megakaryocytes (4). Destruction probably occurs in the same way as for mature platelets, by phagocytosis or complement-induced lysis (4).
There are two forms of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura: acute and chronic.
Acute ITP – occurs predominantly in children (5). In acute ITP, onset is abrupt and usually follows infection. The type of infection is commonly viral. The disease is self-limiting with recovery in one or two months (5). While the child may appear healthy and the condition not usually severe, there is some cause for concern with the small but serious risk of cranial hemorrhage (5).
Chronic ITP – In contrast to acute ITP, chronic ITP occurs predominantly in adults (5). Chronic ITP rarely resolves
Vaccines linked with ITP
There have been a number of vaccines that have been linked with causing ITP. These vaccines are discussed below.
Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine (MMR)
ITP is a relatively common childhood disorder with 85% of cases following viral infection (6). ITP has been shown to follow an acute infection with measles or rubella as well as after immunisation with live attenuated measles or rubella viruses (6).
A study in Finland looked at 23 cases of ITP in children following MMR immunisation (7). It should be kept in mind that this was 23 cases out of 700,000 immunised children. 22 out of the 23 children recovered completely within six months (7). In ITP patients that were tested for anti-platelet immunoglobulin, two thirds were positive which is consistent with the idea that the vaccine/viruses triggers the autoimmune response. Complete recovery and minor symptoms indicate that post-immunisation ITP is not a severe complication. This study concluded that the MMR vaccination was not unsafe with regard to ITP due to the relative infrequency of this disease post-immunisation. Despite the fact that ITP came on quickly, symptoms were mainly harmless and recovery was complete in six months (7).
Another study also looked at ITP in children and examined these children's history for recent MMR immunisation (8). This study found that there was a causal association between MMR and vaccination. However, the risk was 1 in 24,000 which is relatively low.
Several reports have suggested a link between ITP and recombinant hepatitis B vaccine. One report was a retrospective study of 7 ITP patients and found that in the three months prior to onset of the disease all 7 had received one or more injections of recombinant hepatitis B vaccine (9). In trying to establish a link between the vaccine and ITP, each patient was examined for other causes of ITP including pharmalogical, infectious or immune. Despite this, the study could not rule out the possibility of coincidence in the observation of ITP after hepatitis B vaccination. This is not entirely unlikely considering the small number of reports of ITP from a widely used vaccine (9). The study concluded that an absolute association could not be determined unless ALL other causes were ruled out which did not appear to be the case in this study.
Another study looked at cases of ITP in infants under six months of age after one injection of a recombinant hepatitis B vaccine (10). However this report looked at only three patients, all of which recovered. The authors of this article summed it up best when they say "the complete reversibility of thrombocytopenia in our 3 cases, and in cases described by others, confirms the benign nature of this extremely rare complication" (9).
Two letters to the journal Lancet discussed the incidence of ITP following recombinant hepatitis B vaccination. The first, in 1994, could only produce 2 cases (11) while the second, in 1995, agreed that the numbers of ITP patients "should be considered in the light of the large numbers of vaccination worldwide" (12).
While there are a few reports of ITP following recombinant hepatitis B vaccination, there are no reports of ITP following plasma-derived hepatitis B vaccine (9)
There is only one report of ITP following DPT vaccination in the English literature (13). This report only listed two cases and
described adverse reactions to DPT as "benign" (13). Considering the widespread use of DPT and only two cases of ITP being associated with it, this vaccine would not be considered unsafe because it causes ITP
There is one report of ITP following smallpox vaccination however this report could also only produce two cases (14). However smallpox vaccination is rarely used in Australia now and so this has little relevance to our current day situation.
Postvaccinal Thrombocytopenia: Fact or Myth?
Establishing whether or not there is a link between ITP and certain vaccines depends largely on the level of passive reporting of such cases and the ruling out of all other aetiologies. Two journal articles differ in their opinion of whether current reports of ITP following vaccination are indicative of the real situation or not. An article in the Lancet surveyed the histories of children that were admitted to hospital with different conditions (including ITP) and looked for recent immunisation (8). They found that the risk of ITP after MMR was 1 in 24,000 doses (8). However, the previous calculation was 1 in 130,000 which is a four-fold decrease (8). This latter figure was calculated as a result of passive reports from doctors. This study concluded that relying on passive reports was not enough as it gave a low estimation of the risk involved (8). On the other hand, a letter in Pediatric Hematology and Oncology points out that many articles which claim there is a link between MMR and ITP do not show appropriate documentation on the checks carried out to rule out other causes (15). The authors of this letter found that two children that presented with ITP after MMRvaccination were also simultaneously infected with a parvovirus that was known to cause thrombocytopenia (15). This article stated that the association of a short amount of time between vaccination andonset of disease was not enough to prove a causal link (15).
From the evidence given, it would not be recommended that these vaccinations be removed from the recommended childhood vaccination schedule. The risk of developing ITP from these vaccines is very small, for some even negligible. Also, the mildness of the disease and complete recover in almost all the cases presented is further proof that these vaccines should remain in the schedule. The benefits most certainly out way the risks.
Baby dies following MMR jab
A BABY died just hours after he was given MMR and polio immunisation jabs, an inquest heard. Nathan Serrao, from Lambeth, who was born prematurely at 28 weeks in January suffered a rare stomach disorder. It meant that highly acidic gastric contents entered his airways. But a top surgeon said that the infant suffered the "unfortunate coincidence" of undergoing immunisation hours before he died while he was being bottle fed by his mother. Dr Anthony Kaiser, a consultant neurosurgeon at St Thomas' Hospital, said he believed the immunisation could have "depressed" Nathan's natural instinct to attempt to reject the milk.
Professor Anthony Risdon, a pathologist from Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, said he was "sceptical" about any links between jabs and the death. But he said Dr Kaiser was "better qualified to evaluate the risk" than himself. On Tuesday, Southwark Coroner Selena Lynch recorded a verdict of accidental death after Nathan, of King's Avenue, "inhaled some gastric contents".
She added: "I was thinking about recording the proximity of the immunisation but probably it is too uncertain for me to say that. "But obviously, it is something important that health care practitioners will want to consider."
Doctors are giving the MMR jab 'by stealth'
by Beezy Marsh, Daily Mail, 28/10/03
Family doctors have been accused of administering the MMR jab by stealth to children coming into their surgeries to receive other vaccinations. At least 50 horrified parents have complained that their GPs have mistakenly given their children the MMR vaccine. All the children had been recalled to their GP practice to receive a booster jab of the Hib vaccine. Once there they have been given the MMR jab in an apparent mix up. There are fears some GPs are using it as an opportunity to administer the MMR without parental consent.
There has been a dramatic fall in uptake of MMR which now stands at 82% nationally and in London the rate has plummeted to 67.5%. Critics say family doctors are being pressured into underhand methods in order to help meet targets on MMR uptake and win extra payments. GPs get more money for vaccinating 90% of children but those who fail to meet the target by even one child can lose more than £2 000 a year.
One distraught mother was allegedly told by the practice nurse who had just administered MMR without consent: 'You were on our target list for the MMR'.
Many of the children had already received single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines from private clinics. Sarah Dean, director of the private jabs clinic Direct Health 2000, said: 'We have been receiving about 10 calls a week for the past 5 weeks and all of the parents are telling a similar story. They go in for the Hib booster and end up with their child having the MMR without their consent.'
Complaints of the 'MMR by stealth' have flooded in from London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Kent, Devon and Cornwall. Mrs. Dean said: 'Are we really supposed to believe that all these practices are making innocent mistakes? Parents are devastated and quite rightly angry. Questions are being asked about whether GPs are doing this because of a financial motive in order to meet their MMR practice targets.'
Last night the BMA warned that giving an injection without seeking full and informed parental consent constituted an assault on the child which could lead to criminal charges. The BMA has already warned that the MMR target payments system is undermining trust between doctors and patients'. Department of Health spokesman said: 'No children should be immunised unless their parents have given consent. None of the childhood vaccinations available in the UK are compulsory.'
Nurses still 'suspicious' of MMR
NT Online News
posted on 11 03 2005
The vast majority of nurses lack confidence in the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine despite overwhelming evidence that it does not cause autism. In a poll of over 300 nurses conducted on nursingtimes.net, 94% said they were 'still suspicious' of MMR. The results come as a leading academic today said the UK has ‘all but lost the battle for MMR’. Professor Paul Bellaby, writing in the British Medical Journal blamed the lack of support for MMR on a failure of leadership by health professionals, lack of support from politicians, including the prime minister, and journalists who ‘have more interest in amplifying risk than allaying public anxiety’
Last week week a major Japanese study showed no link between the vaccine and childhood autism. The research is the latest in a long line of studies which have failed to replicate or validate a paper published in The Lancet in 1998 suggesting the vaccine caused bowel disease and autism. Up to that point, MMR vaccinations in the United Kingdom reached 92% of its targets. But by 2002, the United Kingdom lost considerable ground and coverage of MMR in London is around 75%.
Reference: Bellaby P (2005) Has the UK government lost the battle over MMR? BMJ 330 (7491) 552-553
NOTE: In many parts of Africa, children are dying unnecessarily from malaria. To prevent malaria, one can purchase a $2.00 mosquito net. Problem is these families can not afford the nets. Instead of handing out the nets, the hospitals are using them as gifts for getting your child the MMR vaccine. Parents are giving their children double doses of the MMR, just to receive another net. The outcome is death. Another child may be dead but the mosquito net and vaccine manufacturers are pleased. Not only should this appall you, as it has me, but it should really make you wonder why a double dose of the MMR can so easily kill a child. But let's not blame the vaccine, let's blame the moms.
The ECHO Foundation
Educating on Children's Health Options
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More children die from double measles vaccine
By Juma Aluoch & Dennis Lumiti
Three more children have died in Nyanza province, bringing to eight infants who have succumbed to an overdose of the measles vaccine in the area.
The three died yesterday after their mothers, ignorant of the dangers of repeat dosage of the vaccine and Vitamin ?A? supplements, took their children for fresh vaccination in a span of 15 hours. Two died suddenly at the Homa Bay District Hospital after receiving the repeat dose. Homa Bay District Medical Officer of Health (MoH) Dr Dan Otieno confirmed the deaths but claimed they may have been caused by other ailments. I am made to understand that the parents of the deceased children had failed to alert medical personnel that their children had been suffering from other ailments, he said.
The third child was said to have died in a rural post in Rangwe.
Reports showed the two who died in hospital had been vaccinated earlier for the same disease at Shauri Yako Primary School the previous day. But apparently oblivious of the dangers of repeat dosages, mothers destroyed Mondays vaccination certificates and wiped out ink marks on their fingers imprinted at the first vaccination exercise and went for the repeat dose.
Yesterday, the Dr Otieno attributed the deaths to ignorance by the mothers, who he said, ignored advice from health workers.
Prior to the commencement of the exercise each day, the health workers always pointed out the dangers of taking a repeat dose of the measles vaccine and Vitamin A supplement, but some mothers ignored this,? said Dr Otieno.
Elsewhere, in Kakamega district, several children have reportedly died over the past few weeks after being vaccinated for measles more than once. Several others are admitted in hospitals with complications. In Shinyalu division a three year old baby died on Tuesday after receiving two jabs in different hospitals.
Mothers in search mosquito nets donated alongside the vaccine are said to present their children for more that the required single measles dose. The Shinyalu fatality the child died after receiving two jabs at Shikusi Dispensary and at Mukumu Mission Hospital within 24 hours. It developed complications and died as the mother received a second free net.
Local residents told Kenya Times that mothers had been forewarned against multiple vaccination as reports showed 80 per cent of children under five have been vaccinated in Western province. Western Provincial Medical Officer of Health, Dr Olang a Onudi said he is investigating the report vaccine deaths and disclosed that children from Uganda have been brought for the exercise which ends today.
We are just being informed that children are dying due to the measles immunization but we are yet to get any more details to enable us act. We are appealing to anybody with more information to help us so that we can take immediate action, said the PMO.
Dr Onundi said the influx from Uganda, reported in Busia and Teso districts, had caused a shortage of mosquito nets. He also said some mothers presented older children for vaccination to get the antimalarial nets. The ministry of Health launched a country wide vaccination campaign for children aged between nine months and five years in the wake of a measles outbreak.
Legal Aid Victory For Paralysed MMR Boy
By Julie Wheldon for the Daily Mail, UK. http://tinyurl.com/r3tl5
The family of a boy left paralysed after the MMR jab have won legal aid to sue the drug company behind the vaccine. Shane Lambert developed transverse myelitis, an incurable disease of the spine, following the triple mumps, measles and rubella jab he had when he was 13 months. His mother Sandra is convinced the jab is to blame for his condition and has been granted legal aid to sue the vaccine manufacturer Merck.
At the same time, another family has been given legal aid to sue over another jab made by GlaxoSmith-Kline. Fadi Khawaja developed the same condition as Shane after having a combined measles and rubella jab, known as the MR vaccine, at the age of ten. Campaigners welcomed the news that both families are being legally aided, saying it was vital in the 'David and Goliath' battle against global drug companies. Shane, now 11, from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, is paralysed below the
waist and has to use a wheelchair or crutches. His 39-year-old mother said he was a healthy normal baby when he had the MMR jab. "Within 28 days of having the jab he fell asleep and when he woke up he was paralysed from the waist down." Fadi, now 22, from Motspur Park, Surrey, was ten when he had the MRR jab, which was given to school-age children during a 1994 campaign. Now he can walk only short distances using crutches. Parents of 1,300 children were initially awarded £15million legal aid to sue the MMR makers, Merck, Aventis Pasteur and Glaxo-SmithKline.
But the Legal Services commission controversially withdrew funding in 2003 for the group action saying it had no reasonable chance of success. These two families have recently had their legal aid reinstated -however it is not clear at this stage how much they will be able to get and whether it will be enough to fund a lengthy battle through the courts.