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

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…

Polio: Causes and Effects Part II

October 10, 2010 by · 15 Comments
Filed under: Vaccine Myths, Vaccine/Disease Analysis 

Cut a hole in the immune system?

During the first half of the 20th century, every parent and child feared the word “polio”. In an epidemic, it attacked male and female, black and white, from rural communities to suburbia. Most people understood that a virus caused polio, but no one knew where the virus came from or how victims would fare. Often, the virus entered the body, created mild, flu-like symptoms, and left it virtually unscathed. Even though, in any community, most people would never get paralysed, pictures of iron lungs and braces would silently ask the question, “Will you be next?”  If, rather than immunity, a person got paralytic polio, the  outcome of conventional medical treatment might be some sort of deformity, or for the worst bulbar polio cases, weeks or a lifetime in an iron lung, or death.  Everyone knew certain aspects of the polio virus: It was highly contagious; struck without warning and preferred children and young adults; and the medical profession could offer neither prevention or cure. [1]

In 1954 a newspaper article quoted a study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association:

Analysis of the data suggested that the absence of tonsils and adenoids, regardless of the time of their removal in relation to the onset of poliomyelitis, increased the risk that the bulbar form of the disease would develop. [2] Read more

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.

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.

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.

Vaccine Myths 3.1: The Scourge of Childhood

“…young parents of today do not remember…”

In 1974 the St. Petersburg Times wrote:

So many people are neglecting to get immunity shots that doctors fear the seven one-time scourges of childhood–polio, mumps, measles, rubella, diphtheria, lockjaw and whooping cough–may strike American communities again.

However, just six years earlier, in 1968, newspaper stories said things like this:

Although mumps is a relatively mild childhood disease, it can cause sterility when it strikes adult males.

At that time the recommendation was to give the recently developed shots to boys if they hadn’t had the mumps by the time they hit adolescence. Read more

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