Written by Parents? Based on Science?

This is our second post reviewing the new pro-vaccine site brought to you by Sanofi Pasteur.  In our first post we followed up on the claim that the site is science-based. In this one we’ll have a look at claimed authorship and continue our search for scientific references to back-up their declarations.

On the “About ImmYounity” page it is claimed that the information on the site is written by fellow parents:

There’s a lot of confusing information today about immunizations and parents need the facts.  This is why you can look to ImmYounity and Vaccines.com.  This Web site is written by moms for moms (and dads, too!) and is grounded in science — the best tool there is to help you make your own decisions about immunization.”

This is an interesting claim, considering that the answers provided are eerily similar to the soothing answers provided by the CDC and AAP on their websites. Read more

Overinformed Refusal Has to be Stopped

November 28, 2011 by · 13 Comments
Filed under: News, Parents' Pages, Vaccine Myths 

And Sanofi Pasteur is taking action with their new web-site.

The ImmYounity(SM) campaign provides consumer-friendly, accurate and science-based information about immunization that can be easily accessed at www.vaccines.com. The site contains useful facts and resources, including visuals that can be easily shared via social media and email, and is supplemented by educational brochures offered for use by health-care providers.

Sounds absolutely wonderful. Especially as they set the bar high in these statements on their Educate Others page.

  • Make sure the author cites the sources where he or she got the information, along with links to these sources. Is information presented objectively, or is it biased?
  • Does the Web site cite scientific evidence for the statements that are made? Can facts and opinions be easily distinguished?

This is certainly what insidevaccines strives to do. How does Vaccines.com hold up when you start looking at their references?

On their Vaccine Q & A page we found this question and answers:

Why are additives put in vaccines?

Additives in vaccines serve some of the same functions as food additives—they can act as preservatives and help extend shelf life, and are only used in very tiny amounts. Small amounts of additives are also used to kill or inactivate vaccines.67

Here are some additives you may have questions about:

Aluminum is used in some vaccines to allow for a better immune response. Infants are constantly exposed to aluminum in a number of ways: it’s present in air, water, food, even in breast milk. The amount used in vaccines, though, is a tiny fraction of the amount a baby would receive through breast milk or formula in the first 6 months of life. That small amount is eliminated quickly from a baby’s body.68

Antibiotics are used to prevent growth of bacteria during production and storage and rarely cause allergic reactions.67,68

Thimerosal is a preservative that is no longer in most children’s vaccines. It has been used in very small amounts to multidose vials of vaccine (which hold more than one dose) to prevent bacteria from contaminating the vaccine.8

If you have any concerns about what additives are in a specific vaccine, be sure to talk to your child’s health-care professional.

So, for supporting references we have 67, 68 and 8.

8 is US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Thimerosol in vaccines. http://www.fda.gov/biologicsbloodvaccines/safetyavailability/vaccinesafety/ucm096228.htm. Accessed August 15, 2011.

67 is CDC. Vaccines and Immunizations. Ingredients of Vaccines – Fact Sheet. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/additives.htm. Updated February 22, 2011. Accessed August 15, 2011.

68 is Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Vaccine ingredients: what you should know. http://www.chop.edu/export/download/pdfs/articles/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-ingredients.pdf. Accessed August 15, 2011.

Secondary sources. Okay. So we’ll go and see if  the secondary sources are supported by primary sources. Read more

Lessons from H1N1: How Partial Immunity Can Kill You

December 20, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: News, Vaccine Science, Vaccine/Disease Analysis 

We are now in the thick of the influenza season, and it is a true shame that the emphasis on vaccines against the flu has drowned out any mainstream discussion much less headlines for  an important study recently released in Nature about the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus: Severe pandemic 2009 H1N1 influenza disease due to pathogenic immune complexes [1]. The press release is worth reading.

There are a few initial things that make this study worth noting:
1) It is not funded by the industrial/governmental health care complex
2) It is short, concise, and doesn’t draw any reaching conclusions
3) It furthers our understanding of the 2009 H1N1 Flu by doing a rigorous scientific follow-up of real cases.

The last point is a refreshing change as one of the best ways to learn something is to examine the medical outcomes for real people and this is something we don’t see very often from our medical authorities. The study itself does not address vaccines but the findings have important implications for mass influenza vaccination policies. Read more

Immunizations in foreign countries are unsafe

December 6, 2010 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: News 

What?

A new law, sponsored by Senator Klobuchar, allows children being adopted into the U.S. to skip being vaccinated in their home countries because apparently millions of children are being exposed:

to unsafe immunizations in foreign countries.

The news story continues:

The bill also allows U.S. parents adopting foreign-born children to safely immunize their children in the United States within 30 days of their arrivals, rather than have to subject their children to potentially unsafe immunizations in foreign nations. Previously, parents who adopted internationally were frequently required to immunize their children before bringing them to the United States.

We can only hope that all those foreign nations don’t pick up on this news story and wonder why it is okay for children who are remaining in Africa, Asia, South America or Eastern Europe to receive unsafe vaccines.

There are, of course, two obvious answers to why these vaccines are unsafe.

1) Needle re-use.

2) Mercury content. Due to a lack of refrigeration and a shortage of money, most vaccines in the developed world come in 10 dose vials, preserved with that wonderful, inexpensive toxin, thimerosal.

How could the journalists who put together this lovely, upbeat story miss the huge question of why it is okay for some kids (adopted in to the U.S.) to get “safe” vaccines and other children (remaining in their home countries) to receive unsafe vaccines? Why don’t all of those upbeat stories about vaccine campaigns in developing countries mention the hazards of “unsafe immunizations” and ask donors to give that little bit extra so children’s lives can be saved for real?

Stories like this one:

Burkina Faso has become the first country to begin a nationwide campaign to introduce a new meningitis vaccine that promises to rid the entire region of the primary cause of epidemic meningitis.

“This historic event signals the beginning of the end of a disease that has brought sickness and suffering to generations of Africans,” said Seydou Bouda, Minister of Health of Burkina Faso.

We can hope that despite the very inexpensive vaccine the budget for this campaign allows for the use of needles that cannot be re-used and omits the cheap mercury preservative, or some of the sickness and suffering will come as a consequence of the nationwide campaign.

Returning to our fortunate adoptees, how many vaccines are these kids going to receive within 30 days of their arrival in the U.S? If they are expected to catch up on several years worth of vaccination within 30 days they may still end up with some major health problems…

Vaccine Exemption Shenanigans?

August 30, 2010 by · 16 Comments
Filed under: News, Parents' Pages, Vaccine Exemptions 

Recently we’ve come across multiple examples of local authorities messing with vaccine exemptions. Nothing new, of course, about the media publishing stories which leave out the availability of exemptions when they remind parents of the vaccine “requirements” for school. But there does seem to be something new about counties and school districts coming up with their own paperwork, sometimes in contradiction to state exemption requirements.

For the first time, insidevaccines is asking you to tell us your stories. Has someone given you a hard time when you applied for a vaccine exemption for your kids? Insisted that you need a signature from your pastor? Asked you to sign a form admitting that you are risking the lives of your children and other people’s children? Or?

Comment here, or, if you prefer, send them via e-mail to healthykids@insidevaccines. com

Please share this query on forums and anywhere else you can think of.  The more the merrier.

We will not publish anyone’s stories, but we may provide a list of states where problems have arisen and a general description of the types of harassment parents have encountered.

Thanks in advance.

A Pox on the Taxpayer

 

A handful of countries recommend the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine for all children and an even smaller group have a chickenpox booster on the schedule. The US leads the pack of countries with a 2 shot schedule, and following along are Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Greece, and part of Australia.

Some countries give the shot to adolescents, others offer it to members of “risk groups”… and a few have a one-shot schedule for toddlers: Canada, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Cyprus, Latvia, and Korea. A grand total of 26 countries offer the shot in one way or another. [1]

The US was the first country to recommend the shot for all toddlers, in 1996 :

…. empiric data on medical utilization and costs of work-loss resulting from varicella were used. The results of this study, which were determined using an estimated cost of $35 per dose of vaccine and $5 for vaccine administration, indicated a savings of $5.40 for each dollar spent on routine vaccination of preschool-age children when direct and indirect costs were considered. When only direct medical costs were considered, the benefit-cost ratio was 0.90:1. [2] (emphases added)

But it turned out that a single shot of varicella vaccine didn’t work to suppress chickenpox.

…varicella outbreaks have regularly been observed in populations with high vaccination coverage and are the cause of sizable disease and economic impact for public health departments and the US health system overall. To further reduce varicella disease burden, a routine 2-dose varicella vaccination recommendation was approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in June 2006 (first dose for children 12–15 months of age, second dose for children 4–6 years of age) . [3]

The single-shot regimen showed a narrow margin of benefit only when placed alongside income lost by parents staying home to care for sick children.

But when the one-shot program failed, the ACIP came up with another cost/benefit justification for the second shot where the evidence….

….included ongoing disease burden and varicella-zoster virus transmission, including transmission from breakthrough cases to high-risk persons that may lead to severe disease and even death (CDC, unpublished data); partial or complete susceptibility in 1-dose vaccine recipients as they become adults; the burden on public health agencies due to varicella outbreaks in highly vaccinated school settings, which have proven disruptive to society and costly to control; and the increased immunity and disease protection from a second dose. Overall, the 2-dose strategy still provides very high cost savings (>$0.9 billion from societal perspective). [3] (emphases added)

So the ACIP justifications for adding a second dose, used the consequences of their decision to recommend the first dose of varicella vaccine. These ingenious calculations created a bigger cost savings than their first round! Read more

Polio and Sanitation

KHAGARIA: On the sandy banks of Kosi river in north Bihar, a quiet crowd of several hundred people is waiting in the sizzling morning sun. A speck appears in the pale blue summer sky, rapidly growing in size — its a gleaming white helicopter. Within seconds it is hovering above the opposite bank, amidst the cornfields.

The crowd is awestruck at the monstrous machine as it settles down in billowing clouds of sand. Out comes the man everybody has been waiting to see — Bill Gates.

Bill Gates has come to find out why polio eradication is failing in Bihar. He asks questions about immunization strategies and tries to figure out what sort of technical problems are blocking universal vaccine delivery.

People complain of lack of basic health facilities…There are only 49 auxilliary nurse and midwives under the PHC, against a sanctioned strength of 76…So, the delivery of basic health services is itself a distant dream…The villagers hope against hope. Isn’t the spread of polio linked to lack of sanitation and basic health facilities? Gates acknowledges this fact but says that it is for the government to do the needful. “We are concentrating on the eradication of polio, which is achievable through vaccines,” he says. [1]

Polio epidemics first appeared in the mid-nineteenth century. Many doctors and scientists struggled with the mystery: why, as living conditions improved, did incidents of paralysis increase? Out of all the changes that came with modernity, improved sanitation was chosen as the change which caused polio to turn from a mild illness to one that left death and permanent damage in its wake.  Here is an excellent example  from a 2007 medical article which summarizes the concept:

Prior to the 20th century, virtually all children were infected with PV while still protected by maternal antibodies. In the 1900s, following the industrial revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, improved sanitation practices led to an increase in the age at which children first encountered the virus, such that at exposure children were no longer protected by maternal antibodies. Consequently, epidemics of poliomyelitis surfaced . [2] Read more

Myth: No Rainbow, No Pot of Gold

May 4, 2010 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: General 

Note: separate re-issue of part two of one of our myths blogs. We got a complaint that this one was too hard to find and link to. The easiest fix was to split it into a separate article. Thanks for your understanding.

Myth: Vaccines aren’t money makers for drug companies.

Reality: As spoken by Tom Broker about Gardasil and Merck (see page 19 of pdf)

“From a purely business point of view, they’ve been facing some real interesting challenges over the Vioxx issue and they are looking at this as the foundation and the savior of the company. Believe me, they have a huge stake in this, just as we all do.

How profitable are vaccines? Prevnar did very well for Wyeth:

… Prevnar, which had $2.7 billion in sales last year. Prevnar is Wyeth’s No. 2 product by revenue, behind antidepressant Effexor.

Some business press projections on the potential in the vaccine market:

Gardasil sales totaled $365 million in the first quarter of 2007, helping Merck reach nearly $1 billion in total vaccine sales for the quarter, more than triple vaccine sales from a year earlier. Analyst projections have ranged up to $4 billion in annual sales for Gardasil, assuming the government mandates widespread vaccinations for girls.

Merck launched two other vaccines in 2006 – Zostavax, for the prevention of shingles, and Rotateq, for the prevention of a rotavirus that causes diarrhea in infants. Les Funtleyder, analyst for Miller Tabak, estimates that these vaccines could reach hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales.

“Merck showed that you can make quite a bit of money with vaccines, and I think that got a lot of people’s attention,” said Funtleyder.

If vaccines have the potential to offer huge profits to pharmaceutical companies–just like other blockbuster drugs–Lipitor or Vioxx are good examples, I think we can reasonably assume that the temptation to publish ghostwritten studies, suppress unwelcome results and use Key Opinion Leaders to subtly sell product  is there with vaccines, too. And vaccines offer two additional benefits, available for no other drugs: mandates and immunity from lawsuits (in the US). Who wouldn’t be tempted by a package involving a guaranteed market, and tort immunity?

There was a period, quite a long time ago now, when vaccines were not profitable. But time past is not time present. This myth is long past its sell-by date.

Medical Double Standards in the Third World

April 19, 2010 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: News, Opinion, WHO Watch 


    When it comes to third world medicine we almost invariably hear from the WHO about the successes of massive vaccination programs. If you look into the recent agenda for the World Health Assembly [1] you will find pandemic influenza vaccines at the top of the technical matters, and in the status section, the eradication of Poliomyelitis is at the top of that section. What is glaringly absent is a discussion of the pervasive double standards in research ethics, health-care safety and professional rigor that exist in the developing world. The WHO and its medical partners won’t talk about it publicly because when you look at the numbers, it is directly implicated in the suffering and ultimate death of millions of people in the developing world. That is what we’ll cover in this piece.

    It is well known that needle re-use can be a major cause of virus transmission. In 2000, a WHO press release states:

    Unsafe Injection practices have serious large-scale consequences…”unsafe injection practices throughout the world result in millions of infections which may lead to serious disease and death. Each year over-use of injections and re-use of dirty syringes and needles combine to cause an estimated 8 – 18 million hepatitis B virus infections, 2.3-4.7 million hepatitis C virus infections and 80,000 – 160,000 infections with HIV/AIDS worldwide. [2]

    That same press release uses an epidemic of Hepatitis C that occurred from Schistosomiasis treatment in Egypt. Notably absent is any discussion of the massive immunization campaigns waged throughout the third world coincident with the massive epidemics of HIV and other infectious diseases. However, someone there must be aware of the potential problem because the press release states the following at the end:

    In addition, to ensure the safety of immunization injections, WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have recently called for the exclusive use of auto-disable (AD) syringes for immunization by the end of 2003.[2]

    We know quite reliably that the WHO knew years prior to this press release (2003) that medical practices in the developing world were problematic. As Gisselquist outlines in his 2009 article [3] the WHO was quietly giving UN employees the following advice in 1991.

    take special precautions to avoid HIV transmission via blood . . . If you are not carrying your own needles and syringes, avoid having injections unless they are absolutely necessary . . . Avoid tattooing and ear-piercing. Avoid any procedures that pierce the skin, such as acupuncture and dental work, unless they are genuinely necessary. Before submitting to any treatment that may give an entry point to HIV, ask whether the instruments to be used have been properly sterilized.[3]

    Read more

Vaccine Myths Round Four

February 28, 2010 by · 9 Comments
Filed under: Parents' Pages, Vaccine Myths, Vaccine/Disease Analysis 

Vaccines saved us:  just visit an old graveyard and look at all the markers for dead babies and children.

Graph provided by Health Sentinel

Click on the graph to enlarge it. For more graphs go here.

When the vaccine arguments are hot and furious, a frequent insult is: “You don’t understand the science!”  The confusion in this case doesn’t arise from ignorance of science, but from ignorance of history.  The people who think that vaccines saved millions of children from death see the story like this:

Childhood illnesses run uncontrolled through the population leaving dead bodies in every house.  Parents are in despair.  Brave doctor cooks up a vaccine, the disease stops dead, and all children come through to a healthy adulthood. Read more

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