Filed under: News, Parents' Pages, Reviews of web-sites, Vaccine Myths, Vaccine 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
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
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 . 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
We saw in our first  blog on polio that infection with this virus was common, but paralytic polio was rare. In our second  article we reviewed the history of polio and the significant number of cases of paralysis from other causes which were blamed on polio. In the third  article we looked at one of the explanations for the rise of paralytic polio in advanced countries and the collapse of this explanation as polio increased in developing countries.
With polio, is there one cause, the virus, and one effect, paralysis? Obviously not, as the results of infection with the polio virus range from absolutely nothing to death. In this series we are going to review some of the factors which, combined with the presence of the virus, can move the situation from no symptoms and no problems, to paralysis.
A characteristic of infection with polio is the length of time it takes to clear the virus from the body and create immunity to polio.
…the interval between initiation of infection and appearance of CNS signs may be as long as several weeks, which accounts for the great variation in the incubation period of the disease. 
CNS means inflammation of the central nervous system. Someone can be carrying around a happily multiplying polio virus in the nose, throat and gut system, and other non-neural areas of the body, for a period of weeks without having any symptoms to indicate that the virus is there. “Non-symptomatic response” to polio virus exposure, results in eventual clearing of the virus from the system, permanent immunity to that strain of polio, and is the normal bodily response to the polio virus.
However, if something occurs during the several weeks of polio virus carriage which opens up access to the central nervous system to the virus, then the polio moves from asymptomatic to paralytic. There is a list of provokers which cause polio to invade the CNS. Today we are going to consider one cause which we can credit to the medical profession. Read more
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.
Filed under: CDC Watch, News, Opinion, Parents' Pages, Vaccine Myths
Every August we are hit by a wave of publicity for National Immunization Awareness Month, reminding everyone in the United States to get their children vaccinated, themselves vaccinated, their parents vaccinated, probably even their dogs and cats and goldfish vaccinated.
Vaccinations shouldn’t be that difficult to sell. Who wants their child to die of a communicable disease like mumps? And we all know that influenza kills 36,000 Americans each and every year, because this number is mentioned in just about every news story pushing the influenza vaccine, so it shouldn’t be difficult to convince millions to get their annual flu shot. Except that the Wall Street Journal points out that there are some valid questions about this widely publicized number from the CDC. Even mainstream publications sometimes have questions about diseases and vaccines. Once in a while. Read more
Filed under: CDC Watch, Opinion, Vaccine Science, Vaccine/Disease Analysis
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. 
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.  (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) . 
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).  (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
Every Child by Two proclaims that vaccines save money! Lots and lots of money!
Childhood Vaccines Save Lives and Money
- Routine childhood immunization
- 33,000 deaths prevented
- $43 billion saved
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
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.
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.”