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From the Townsend Letter
December 2007


An Updated Analysis of the Health Risks
Part 3

by Gary Null, PhD, and Martin Feldman, MD

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Part 1 appeared in October 2007
Part 2 in November 2007

Page 1, 2, Resources & Notes

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we examined factors countering the belief that vaccines are safe and effective. We also discussed the effects of specific vaccines, including those for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, chickenpox, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, and rubella. In this final installment, we look at the rotavirus, meningococcal, and smallpox vaccines. We also discuss provocation diseases associated with vaccines, economic and legal issues of vaccination, the right to refuse vaccination, and the need to achieve freedom of choice.

Rotavirus Vaccine
In 2006, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended vaccination of all infants at two, four, and six months of age with a new vaccine designed to prevent rotavirus gastroenteritis. RotaTeq (Merck & Co.) is a live, oral vaccine that contains five reassortant rotaviruses developed from human and bovine strains.1 The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommended routine use of this vaccine in infants in 2006.2

The RotaTeq vaccine will almost certainly draw comparisons with a previous oral rotavirus vaccine, RotaShield, which was released by Wyeth Laboratories in 1998. The ACIP and AAP recommended universal use of RotaShield for healthy infants. A year later, however, RotaShield was removed from the market after the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) received reports of bowel intussusception—an obstruction in which one segment of the intestine telescopes inwardly into another—in babies who had received RRV-TV, as RotaShield was called. By the end of 1999, 121 reports of intussusception in infants administered RRV-TV had been received by VAERS.3 (Of the first 15 reported infants who developed intussusception, eight required a surgical reduction.)

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) points out that RotaShield was rhesus-based. By contrast, the parent rotavirus strains of the newly released RotaTeq are human and bovine.4 RotaTeq was not associated with an increased risk of intussusception compared with placebo in a trial involving more than 70,000 children.5 The CDC does note, however, that children who have already had this bowel obstruction should not get the rotavirus vaccine, because anyone who has had intussusception is at an increased risk of getting it again.6

An estimated one million US infants were vaccinated with RotaShield following its approval. This vaccine's history is made worse by the fact that prelicensure trials demonstrated that RotaShield caused bowel intussusception at rates 30 times higher than those expected. This is what emerged from an analysis of prelicensure trial data by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.7

If it was already known that the vaccine could cause a potentially lethal condition, why did the FDA approve it? Why had nobody warned doctors to watch for this complication? These and other questions prompted the AAPS to request a Congressional investigation of the vaccine approval process. As Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the AAPS, wrote in a letter to Representative Dan Burton, "The situation with the rotavirus vaccine may be a clue to a far more serious problem with the vaccine approval process." Dr. Orient makes the important point that "Decisions about vaccines given to children should be made by parents in consultation with the child's attending physician, not mandated by a small group of 'experts' with minimal accountability."8

Meningococcal Vaccine
In its first year on the market, the new meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) was potentially associated with an increased risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a rare neurological disorder that causes increasing weakness in the limbs. The meningococcal vaccine (Menactra) was recommended by the ACIP in May 2005 for routine vaccination of adolescents, college freshmen who live in dormitories, and other high-risk individuals.9

By September 2006, 17 confirmed cases of GBS in recipients of MCV4 had been reported to VAERS (all affected individuals had recovered or were recovering).10 Although this association does not necessarily mean the vaccine caused the illness, the CDC has reported that the timing of the onset of GBS symptoms—within one to five weeks of vaccination—is of concern. As of October 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC were monitoring the situation, and the CDC continued to recommend the vaccine for adolescents and others.11

Smallpox Vaccine
The smallpox vaccine was given to infants in the US until 1972. At that time, the global incidence of this disease was well under control, and routine vaccination against smallpox ended. According to the National Network for Immunization Information, it was believed then that the risk of serious adverse events from the smallpox vaccine, including death, outweighed the risk of contracting the disease itself in the US.12 The World Health Organization (WHO) certified that smallpox was eradicated worldwide in 1980.

After the terrorist threats of 2001, the US developed a plan to reintroduce the smallpox vaccine, if necessary,13 to counter a potential attack using the virus as a biological weapon. In State of Immunity, author James Colgrove reports that the Bush Administration announced an ambitious plan in 2002 to vaccinate emergency personnel, health care workers, and adults in the general public on a voluntary basis. The administration failed to win the support of the program from health care providers, however, and less than a year later, the smallpox vaccination plan was ceased.14 Approximately 39,000 civilian health care and public health workers received the smallpox vaccine in 2003.15

Although this vaccination program failed, the proposal to immunize Americans against a biological attack with smallpox should cause us to take a closer look at this vaccine. (The old smallpox vaccine is stockpiled in the US, and new smallpox vaccines are in development.16)

An Unknown Virus
The modern smallpox vaccine does not contain the smallpox virus itself, but rather a virus called "vaccinia" whose origins are unknown. The CDC states, "The vaccinia virus is the 'live virus' used in the smallpox vaccine. It is a 'pox'-type virus related to smallpox. When given to humans as a vaccine, it helps the body to develop immunity to smallpox. The smallpox vaccine does not contain the smallpox virus, and it cannot cause smallpox."17 The University of Florida College of medicine information page adds this: "Vaccinia is the virus that was used for vaccination against smallpox. Its exact origin is unknown, however, as it does not appear to be related to any other known pox virus. Some people think that it is a recombinant of smallpox and cowpox, while others think that it may be a derivative of horsepox, a virus that no longer exists (if it ever did)."

Adverse Effects of the Vaccine
The CDC reports that while the smallpox vaccine is safe for most people, serious and life-threatening reactions do occur in rare cases. Serious reactions include a rash or outbreak of sores in one area of the body (the virus may be spread from the vaccination site to other parts of the body or to other people); a widespread vaccinia rash that occurs when the virus spreads from the vaccination site through the bloodstream; and a toxic or allergic reaction to the vaccine. Life-threatening reactions to the smallpox vaccine include eczema vaccinatum (a serious rash involving widespread infection of the skin in people with conditions such as eczema or atopic dermatitis), progressive vaccinia (an infection of the skin with tissue destruction that often leads to death), and postvaccinal encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).18

Another potential complication of the smallpox vaccine is myopericarditis, or inflammation of the heart. The CDC says that while the link between the smallpox vaccine and this condition is not proven, data from recent smallpox vaccinations are "consistent with a causal association" between the two.19 In 2005 the FDA added a new black-box warning to Dryvax (the smallpox vaccine produced by Wyeth) regarding the increased risk of cardiac problems experienced by some recipients of the smallpox vaccine.20

What might the consequences of mass smallpox vaccination be? That was the question addressed in a 2002 article. Using historical data on adverse reactions to the vaccine, the authors estimated that, after excluding high-risk people and their close contacts, a vaccination strategy targeting people one to 29 years old would result in approximately 1,600 serious adverse events and 190 deaths. Vaccination of people from one to 65 years old would result in approximately 4,600 adverse events and 285 deaths. The researchers note that the smallpox vaccine "has a higher complication rate than any other vaccine currently being used." They conclude that a mass vaccination campaign would have to be careful to exclude high-risk people and their contacts to minimize the complications, but that this approach would leave some people susceptible to the disease.21

In a 2006 paper, researchers estimated the expected frequencies of post-vaccinal encephalitis and death from smallpox vaccines containing two different strains of vaccinia virus: the New York City Board of Health (NYCBH) strain and the Lister strain. They note that other studies of the consequences of smallpox vaccination commonly have used an incidence of approximately one death per million vaccinations. However, these analyses "may give serious underestimates of the number of deaths resulting from vaccination." This study estimates that vaccination with the NYCBH strain (stockpiled in countries such as the US) would lead to an average of 1.4 deaths per million vaccinations. Vaccination with the Lister strain (stockpiled in countries such as Germany) would lead to an average of 8.4 deaths per million vaccinations.22

Activists Speak Out on Vaccine Dangers
Those who take issue with universal immunization point out that the programs do not distinguish between children who may benefit from a certain vaccine and those who may be hurt by it. Infants are given blanket immunization regardless of their previous or current state of health and their varying susceptibilities to side effects. Ideally, the vaccination system should be much more selective, with parents being given complete information, so they can decide whether the risks associated with a particular procedure outweigh its potential benefits. Just as different races may suffer disproportionately from allergies and food sensitivities, studies indicate that they may experience different reactions to vaccines.

People engaged in the fight against government-mandated vaccines share their concerns here about several vaccination issues.

Provocation Disease
One of the most hazardous and insidious effects of vaccination lies in its potential to induce other forms of disease, a phenomenon known as provocation disease.23-27 The mechanisms that cause this to happen are unclear, although many scientists believe that latent viruses—those already existing in a person—may be stimulated by vaccinations and that this process may be enough to activate a particular illness. Vaccination, therefore, may not be the sole cause but rather the final trigger of an illness.
In his book Vaccination and Immunization: Dangers, Delusions and Alternatives,28 Leon Chaitow states that there is no way of knowing when such latent or incubating situations may be operating, and therefore no way of knowing when a vaccine may produce this sort of provocation.29 He warns that provocation of a latent virus is a potentially dangerous possibility with every vaccination procedure.

Many diseases thought to be caused at least partially by vaccinations do not surface until years later, by which time it is difficult to prove a connection. Two examples of conditions that may be provoked by vaccines are as follows:

  • Allergies According to Dr. Harris Coulter, co-author of A Shot in the Dark,30 and other experts,31 vaccines and allergies are clearly connected. "What does allergy mean? It means that your body is ready to react very, very quickly when exposed a second time to a substance to which it is allergic. If you are allergic to ragweed, [a small amount] of ragweed will start you sneezing. Now, if you vaccinate a person against pertussis or some other bacillus, you are making that person 'allergic' to that bacillus. That's what being vaccinated actually means. It means you are 'allergic' to that bacillus, in the sense that your body will react very, very rapidly if exposed to that bacillus a second time."
  • Immunosuppression and Autoimmune Disease The body needs to experience a full inflammatory response to create immunity, and vaccines do not allow this to happen. Instead, a chronic condition is created that can set the stage for autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases such as Guillain-Barre syndrome and thrombocytopenia have been associated with vaccinations.32

    In Immunization: The Reality Behind the Myth, author Walene James suggests that vaccinations may induce autoimmune disorders because "live viruses, the primary antigenic material of [some] vaccines, are capable of surviving or remaining latent in the host cell for years, without provoking acute disease."33 Live virus vaccines include those for chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella, and oral polio.34

    Cynthia Cournoyer, author of What About Immunizations?, believes a key principle involved in the many negative effects of vaccines is that the immune system can tolerate only so many challenges, especially before it is given a chance to develop to maturity. "Every child," she writes, "is born with a finite ability to combat disease. This is his total immune capacity. Once a child experiences a particular disease, permanent immunity is extremely efficient, using probably three percent to seven percent of the total immune capacity of an individual. In the case of routine childhood vaccination, it is likely that as much as 30% to 70% of total immune capacity becomes committed."35

    Cournoyer proposes that this effect on immunity may substantially reduce a child's immunological reserves. "Far from producing a genuine immunity, a vaccine may actually interfere with or suppress the immune response as a whole, in much the same way that radiation, chemotherapy, and corticosteroids and other anti-inflammatory drugs do."36-38Cournoyer continues, "Although the body will not make antibodies against its own tissues, viruses becoming part of the genetic make-up may cause cells to appear foreign to the immune system, making them a fair target for antibody production.... Under proper conditions, these latent pro viruses could become activated and cause a variety of diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus erythematosus...and cancer."39
  • Temporary Immunity of Vaccines Vaccines provide only temporary immunity, whereas the contraction of an actual disease confers permanent immunity most of the time. Viera Scheibner, a retired research scientist, writes that "generations of children with this inadequate immunity would grow into adults with no placental immunity to pass on to their children, who would then contract measles at an age when babies are normally protected by maternal antibody....

    "Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about the idea of eliminating infectious diseases by vaccination is that indeed there is no need to do so. As pointed out by the group of Swiss doctors opposing the US-inspired policy of mass vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella in Switzerland, 'We have lost the common sense and the wisdom that used to prevail in the approach to childhood diseases. Too often, instead of reinforcing the organism's defenses, fever and symptoms are relentlessly suppressed. This is not always without consequences...'"40-42

    Lastly, Scheibner states, "There is no need to artificially immunize our children and ourselves. The body has proper, natural mechanisms to create immunity to diseases. The diseases themselves are the priming and challenging mechanisms of the maturation process leading to the competence of the immune system...."43

Page 1, 2, Resources & Notes


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