Vaccine sleight of hand

July 18, 2010 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: Opinion, Parents' Pages 

Every Child by Two proclaims that vaccines save money! Lots and lots of money!

Childhood Vaccines Save Lives and Money

But then, on the side of their web-page, is a link to a graphic illustration of the rising costs of childhood vaccination.

Looks like they want it both ways: “vaccines save billions” by reducing health care costs, preventing hospitalizations and doctor visits; BUT  “the newer vaccines are more expensive and we need to put a lot more tax dollars into vaccination programs.”

If the numbers with respect to “dollars saved” were solid and existed across the entire vaccine program, the argument would be a good one. Upon further scrutiny, it looks like they are pulling a bait and switch. They put forward some old numbers based on the less expensive vaccines combined with some inflated statistics for predicted epidemics (see the “33,000 deaths prevented” link above for our detailed analysis of these numbers), then slide right past the huge increase in the number and cost of vaccines in the current U.S. schedule.

On top of this, some of the newer vaccines are aimed at illnesses which are of low incidence or fairly mild in most children.  For example, Hepatitis B is very severe, but it isn’t common among infants born in the U.S. On the other side, chickenpox is usually a minor illness, although common. The chickenpox vaccine cost benefit justification actually depended on a monetary estimate of the cost of parental time lost from work. Some convoluted bookkeeping methods would be needed to demonstrate that universal vaccination with ALL of the vaccines on the current schedule results in overall health care savings. There is certainly no sign of these savings in the escalating cost of health insurance in the U.S. Read more

Indian Physicians slapped with anti-vaccine label!

July 8, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: News, Opinion, Vaccine Science, WHO Watch 

Why? Because they questioned a WHO (World Health Organization) diktat in favor of universal Hib vaccination in India.

Sorry, but this is getting ridiculous. Anyone, at any time who raises any concern about the safety, efficacy, or appropriateness of any vaccine is now called anti-vaccine.

Here is a potted history of the recent outbreak of name-calling.

In the July 2010 issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Research this editorial appeared: Introducing pentavalent vaccine in the EPI in India: A counsel for caution.

The latest WHO position paper on Hib says ‘Hib vaccine should be included in all routine immunization programmes. This suggests that Hib vaccine should be included in the immunization programme universally, irrespective of an individual country’s disease burden, not withstanding of natural immunity attained within the country against the disease, and not taking into account the rights of sovereign States to decide how they use their limited resources. The mandate and wisdom of issuing such a directive, for a disease that has little potential of becoming a pandemic, needs to be questioned.

The editorial reviews the available data and on the basis of the science, questions the need for the Hib vaccine in India.

In response to this thoughtful challenge to the WHO policy on Hib, a news commentary was published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) which called the concerned doctors an “anti-vaccine lobby.”  This article, which is unreferenced, claims:

The Hib organism, which can cause severe bacterial meningitis and pneumonia, is estimated to kill more than 370 000 children worldwide each year, GAVI said. Nearly 20% of these deaths occur in India.

In response to the BMJ article, a rapid response was published in the online version of the BMJ by eight members of the supposed “lobby”

The doctors wrote:

The thrust for including Hib vaccine in India is based on 2 arguments. The first is that there is anecdotal evidence of the existence of Hib disease and Hib meningitis in India and that Hib meningitis may lead to long term morbidity. The second argument is that the well-to-do parents sometimes buy Hib vaccine in the open market to vaccinate their children. The Government of India must therefore provide it free for the poor, on the grounds of equity and fair play (2).

The problem with the anecdotal reports is that they do not specify the size of the universe from which the samples are drawn and public health policies cannot be based on these figures without a denominator. The many systematic surveys done to look at the magnitude of the problem of Hib disease in India have nearly always shown that the incidence of Hib disease is much lower than what was projected for India. Most of these studies have been funded by the WHO and these have been reviewed recently in an open access journal (3).

So, we have the BMJ calling names and publishing an unreferenced attack claiming high numbers of deaths from Hib, while the supposed anti-vaccine lobby provides carefully referenced information debunking the claims.

The pro-vaccine lobby has plumbed to new depths.

Prevnar IS Safe – Have a Look at the Studies!

March 16, 2009 by · 8 Comments
Filed under: Vaccine Science 

In November of 2008, a report was published about a halted vaccine trial in India. Here is an excerpt which can be found on Livemint :

New Delhi: Patient trials of an advanced pneumonia vaccine by the domestic unit of US drug giant Wyeth Inc. have been suspended by India’s drug quality regulator after the death of an infant on whom the vaccine was tested in a trial in Bangalore.
The child had a pre-existing cardiac disorder. Indian drug rules prohibit testing on human subjects with such conditions without the prior approval of the drugs controller general of India (DCGI), the drugs quality regulator.

Indian authorities said that the trial was stopped because:

“The baby was suffering from a cardiac abnormality and should not have been included in the trial at all. It seems that the ‘inclusion-exclusion’ criteria protocol has not been adhered to by the investigator,” said Surinder Singh, drugs controller general. “We have suspended all further trials across the country.”

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Vaccines? Safe. Parents? Dangerous.

December 15, 2008 by · 15 Comments
Filed under: Opinion 

Lately I’ve been noticing an increasing number of journal articles, blog articles and opinion pieces on a terrible problem: Parents have questions about vaccines.

You would have to look far and wide to find anyone who thinks that these questions are valid and should be taken seriously. Common explanations are:
1) It is all about the parents who think they are really smart.
2) It is all about the parents who are very stupid and read stuff on the Internet.
3) It is all about the bad stuff on the Internet which is deceiving the parents who aren’t very smart and who think they are smarter than doctors. And infinite variations on this theme, which is really one argument…and the real argument is (drum roll)…vaccines are perfect and parents are the problem.

Being called stupid dupes hasn’t worked to shut up the parents with questions. Perhaps this is not a good strategy?

I’m sure you’ve noticed that many articles and blogs offer comment options to the public. If you are following the vaccine related discussions you’ll have noticed that there is a coterie of passionate vaccine defenders who pop up in every such public discussion. These vaccine defenders are fighting for the good of the vaccine program with everything they’ve got.

Oddly, however, the number of parents with questions seems to be increasing. Perhaps the vaccine defenders need to reconsider their approach. Read more

Does the Inactivated Influenza Vaccine Even Work In the Recommended Age Bracket?

It’s that time of year again!  Having spent last summer consulting the avian set on what’s hot in influenza, the pharmaceutical company has whipped up a fresh batch of flu vaccine, and now they need to move the merchandise!  Fortunately, the CDC is happy to help with sales, by expanding the recommendation to ever more age groups.  The Advisory Committee on Immunization Policy currently recommends the vaccine for all children aged 6 months to eighteen years.  There is just one slight issue that might concern some parents.  Peer-reviewed research in The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Vol. 162 No. 10, October 2008,1 demonstrates that the vaccine is not effective under age 5!

An inherent assumption of expanded vaccination recommendations is that the vaccine is efficacious in preventing clinical influenza disease. Although studies have documented immune responses following 2 doses of inactivated influenza vaccine as well as vaccine efficacy for culture-confirmed disease in randomized clinical trials, surprisingly little information exists regarding influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) among young children receiving vaccine in routine health care settings.

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Merck staph vaccine enters phase II

September 21, 2008 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: General 

From Forbes:

VIENNA, Aug 28 (Reuters) – Austrian biotech firm Intercell <ICEL.VI> said on Thursday its partner Merck & Co <MRK.N> has started a Phase II clinical trial to evaluate a vaccine candidate against Staphylococcus aureus infections.

Merck is responsible for clinical development, manufacturing and marketing of the vaccine. Intercell is eligible to receive milestone payments and royalties on future net sales

This is the second trial start following a separate Phase II trial launch in December 2007. Read more

Close Encounters with the Vaccine Schedule

February 28, 2008 by · 15 Comments
Filed under: Parents' Pages 

baby-feet.jpgScene: A pediatrician’s office. Behind the desk is the doctor, a pleasant, middle-aged woman in a white coat. Seated in front of the desk are the expectant parents, prosperous, educated, self-confident, and, in the case of the woman, exceedingly pregnant.

Doctor: So, what questions did you have for me today?

Mother: We are concerned about the current vaccine schedule.* We know that babies should be protected from serious diseases, but the current schedule is getting…well, strange. (Pulls a scroll from her purse and starts unwinding it, reading off the schedule as she goes, and inserting comments) So, at birth, they want our baby to get a Hepatitis B vaccination. We both test negative and are not at risk for that disease.

Father: Does our baby really need that one?

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