Wakefield – a scapegoat for MMR vaccine policy?

Yesterday’s ruling by the General Medical Council against Dr Andrew Wakefield and two leading Professors of Gastroenterology, Professor John Walker-Smith and Professor Simon Murch and, is a triumph for the pro-vaccine lobby, but a tragedy for scientific truth and the protection of children.

Of all the reports in the newspapers I read only the BBC make it clear that The GMC case did not investigate whether Dr Wakefield’s findings were right or wrong, instead it was focused on the methods of research, which hinged on the accusation of wrongdoing that could potentially have done harm to the children involved in the research. As investigator Martin Walker, who sat through much of the two and a half years of GMC hearings says “Anyone could see clearly that if they had a genuine case, to show that the children were not ill and that they were subjected to aggressive procedures without ethical approval and without parental consent, they were bound to call the parents to give evidence. They didn’t because the parents would have told the hearing that most of the children suffered the most terrible bowel disease followed by regressive autism. So had the prosecution called the parents from day one the GMC case would have collapsed.” The parents of these vaccine damaged children all support the three doctors, but were not allowed a voice in the GMC hearing.

Walker has been collecting the actual evidence that catalogues vaccine induced damage in children. Anyone who honestly believes there is no danger from the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, and other polyvaccines, need to read his book Silent Witnesses first which is available on line from www.slingshotpublications.com. Whether or not to vaccinate your child, especially with the MMR vaccine, is an important decision and one that many parents seek unbiased information on. My Special Report ‘Vaccinations: What Every parent Needs To Know’ was written for that purpose with the help of Dr Richard Halvorsen, author of The Truth About Vaccines, which is, in my opinion, the best book on the subject. We also did a Q&A session with Dr Halvorsen. The Wakefield ruling is being used to imply that there is no risk to children from the MMR vaccine, and that he is solely responsible for the decline in parents opting for the triple vaccine and consequently being at danger. How dangerous are measles, mumps and rubella? Measles Although healthy children are generally not at risk from measles or its complications (eg pneumonia), the risks of the disease remain greater than the risk of the vaccine – and it is still a relatively common disease in the UK.

This vaccination can be given at any time from 12 months, although maximum effectiveness may not be reached before 15 months of age. However, of the triple MMR vaccine, there are more side effects with the measles component because the measles vaccine consists of a weakened live measles virus. This means that there’s a 1 in 10 chance of developing symptoms of a mild measles attack, a 1 in 2,000 risk of a febrile convulsion (a fit), and a 1 in 20,000 chance of a temporary clotting disorder of the blood that will cause a bruise-like rash, which usually goes away on its own and is rarely serious. In view of this – and because of the ongoing controversy over MMR – you may wish to consider having your child immunised privately, where they can have separate doses spread out over a longer time period. Something else to be aware of – according to the results of a study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, the antibody count after a measles vaccination is significantly lower among children who develop a fever in the following week, compared to children who don’t.

Consequently, it may be worth asking for an antibody test if your child experiences this to ensure that he or she has acquired proper immunity. Mumps Mumps is also a mild disease in young children, and prior to the vaccine in 1988, many children were infected without developing any symptoms. Although being the most common cause of viral meningitis, it is also one of the most harmless forms, unlike bacterial meningitis which can be severe. In contrast, however, in adolescents and adults (especially boys and men) mumps is more serious. This is particularly important, as there have been a number of recent mumps outbreaks in teenagers and young adults who have received two doses of mumps-containing vaccines. There is also some evidence that this vaccine may be more effective on its own. As this vaccine is available separately, it would be preferable for pre-pubescent boys to be vaccinated after an antibody test to ensure they are not already immune. For girls, it isn’t considered necessary. Rubella Rubella is a mild disease.

The one exception is when pregnant women become infected (especially in the first 8-10 weeks of pregnancy). So while it is highly recommended to have this vaccination for women to prevent congenital deformities in their babies, it is debatable whether this vaccine should be given at around 13 months and again at three years, rather than around 12 years of age (which was the case in the initial vaccine programme in the 1970s). Follow-up studies in Finland, where a two-stage MMR programme is in operation, have found that approximately one third of girls immunised as young children and now aged around 17 have low levels of rubella antibodies, with the possibility of rubella infections re-emerging during pregnancy. As this vaccine is available separately, it would be preferable for teenage girls, rather than babies, to be vaccinated after an antibody test to ensure they are not already immune.

The protection can be worse than the disease. Perhaps most contentious question of all involves the negative side effects, including permanent damage or death, due to the vaccination itself. Most commonly, a negative response to a vaccine is a result of a reaction to one or several ingredients in the vaccine, while other cases involve a person’s immune response to the infectious agent. However, a baby obviously has a very immature immune system, so is more likely to react than an older child or adult. Before 2004 most vaccines contained a germicidal compound called Thimerosal, which consisted – in part – of mercury. Many vaccines also contain formalin, a 37 per cent solution of formaldehyde, the main ingredient of embalming fluid. Some also contain phenol or ethylene glycol, the main component found in antifreeze.

While all of these ingredients are disturbing, Thimerosal is particularly concerning, not only because mercury is a highly toxic element, but due to the fact that many babies and children are allergic to this compound. An investigation into Thimerosal and the neurological development of children found that the sum total of mercury an average child would receive from normally recommended vaccinations exceeds the US Federal Safety Guidelines for orally ingested mercury, and is in fact correlated with a greater risk for neurodevelopmental disorders. Thankfully, most vaccines these days are being produced without Thimerosal. But another poisonous metal, aluminium, is still present in most vaccines available on the NHS. Aluminium is also highly toxic and implicated in brain damage and behavioural problems in children. And worryingly, the addition of more vaccines to the immune schedule means that the quantity of aluminium given to babies is increasing.

Potential harm can be reduced by minimising the aluminium load wherever possible. Request vaccines which contain the least aluminium. Also, reduce the amount your baby is exposed to at any one time. So instead of having the Pediacel (5-in-1), Men C and pneumococcal vaccines all on the same day, spread them over a longer time period. And if you can afford to go privately, you can pay for single and small combination baby vaccines, where the vaccines are either aluminium-free or have the lowest aluminium content available. Encouragingly, none of the single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, the combination MMR or the Hib/Men C booster contain aluminium. But worse still is the vaccine for whooping cough, which accounts for more than half of all reported reactions to vaccinations. Because whooping cough is rarely deadly among well-nourished children, there is a serious question in regards to the benefits of the vaccine in view of its known risks.

According to research at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, England, a baby or child vaccinated against whooping cough is 50 per cent more likely to develop asthma or allergies later in life. This may be because the whooping cough vaccine promotes an abnormally strong immune response to potential allergens such as pollen or gluten, and may disturb early immune programming. Combination Vaccines While no one yet knows the combined risks of having a number of vaccinations, two of the most common combination vaccinations – MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and DPT (diphtheria, pertussis or whooping cough, and tetanus) – were thoroughly investigated by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In monitoring 500,000 American children after vaccination, 34 major side effects were identified, the most common being seizures. Researchers found that the day after a DPT shot, children were three times more likely to have a fit. After the MMR injection, fits were 2.7 times higher after four to seven days and 3.3 times higher after eight to fourteen days. And that’s just seizures. In some cases, DPT reactions have resulted in permanent neurological damage (1 in 30-50,000 children vaccinated) and even death. Dr Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 research study, published in The Lancet, reported bowel symptoms in a selected sample of 12 vaccinated children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities, and alleged a possible connection with the MMR vaccination.

While some more recent studies claim to prove that no such link exists, others support Wakefield’s hypothesis. For example, in one survey of 825 parents whose children had symptoms that would classify them as autistic, 55 reported clear signs of regression following the MMR vaccine. Consider the case of 9-year-old Hannah Polings, whose parents finally won a compensation case in March 2008 for the vaccine damage they believe caused their daughter’s autism. Before being vaccinated, Hannah was interactive, playful and communicative. Soon after receiving five jabs – containing nine different vaccines including MMR – at 19 months of age, she developed vaccine-induced varicella and was then diagnosed with encephalopathy (a brain disease causing delays in neurological and psychological development).

The 5-in-1 vaccine Pediacel – which combines polio, whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria, tetanus and Hib – was launched in 2004 and contains safer polio and whooping cough vaccines. However, research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has shown that the risk of childhood asthma doubled when the first dose of diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus was given at the recommended time (ie two months old) versus being delayed by more than two months (ie at least four months old).

In addition, the risk decreased with delays in giving all of the doses. Although this research looked at a slightly different type of whooping cough vaccine, the new 5-in-1 vaccine has polio and Hib added, so the load on a child’s immune system is further increased. It certainly makes sense to me that a baby or child’s immune system is more likely to react to a combination of infectious agents delivered in one package. However, it is probable that reactions are more likely to occur in a baby who has a poor nutritional base, and therefore cannot restore balance after his or her immune system has been forced to react to the threat of an invading organism. In immune-compromised babies and children, vaccinations may overload their immune systems, resulting in toxic damage to their nervous system and brain. For this reason, more and more parents are demanding single vaccines instead of combination vaccines.

Alternatives to Vaccination The best alternative to vaccination is to ensure that you and your baby has a fit immune system – and that’s what the advice in this book aims to achieve. For the first six months to a year, there is no better way to confer immunity than through breast-feeding. Once weaned, you can help to ensure immunity by providing an optimal intake of immune-boosting nutrients. For example, vitamin A offers protection against measles and probably polio. In underdeveloped countries, deaths from measles have been virtually eliminated with adequate amounts of vitamin A. Ensuring an optimum intake of nutrients can actually help to reduce risk of disease. For example, studies indicate that children infected with measles have lower levels of vitamin A. Consequently, eating a diet high in vitamin A, rich in fish, and its precursor beta-carotene, rich in green leafy vegetables and yellow-orange coloured fruit and vegetables, may reduce the risk of your child developing measles or its complications.

I also recommend supplementing a daily chewable multivitamin and mineral, plus essential fats. There is also logic in avoiding the most common allergens, wheat and dairy products, for a few days after a vaccination (especially MMR), as the immune system becomes activated. Another excellent way of supporting your child’s immune system is by breastfeeding. UNICEF estimates that the lives of 1.3 million children worldwide would be saved and many others greatly improved if they were exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. And although solids should be introduced at this stage, it is best to keep breastfeeding as well for at least a year. Another way to minimise risk in babies, whose immune systems are particularly immature, is to restrict their exposure to large numbers of other potentially-infected infants. If possible, we recommend that you avoid placing your child in day care with many other children or involving them in large playgroups, especially in the first couple of years, until their immune systems are much stronger. If you do choose to give your baby a vaccination, ask your doctor for

(1) a list of ingredients in the vaccine,

(2) evidence that it works, and

(3) a list of adverse effects and

(4) have them sign the Vaccination Consent Form below.

You should also be wary of continuing with vaccinations if your baby has had a bad reaction to a previous vaccine, is currently sick, or has there is any family history of epilepsy, convulsions, neurological disorders, severe allergies, or immune system disorders. Finally and most importantly, use your common sense. The truth is, we don’t have all the answers and don’t know the long-term consequences of mass immunisation. In the meantime, gather all the information you can, then let the facts rather than habit or societal pressure guide your decision. If you would like to see the full references for studies sited see Special Report ‘Vaccinations: What Every parent Needs To Know’ Vaccination Consent Form Child’s Name: I give my consent for my child to be vaccinated with the Vaccine(s) …………………… ………………………………………………………… Subject to the following conditions:

That the information which has been supplied is fully accurate both to the safety and efficiency of the vaccine.

That the doctor or nurse performing the vaccine, the Health Authority, the manufacturer of the vaccine and the Department of Health will accept full joint and several responsibility for any injury caused to my child as a result of the vaccine being administrated.

That, in the event of any such injury being caused, my child will receive full compensation, assessed in accordance with the normal principles of English Tort Law. If these conditions are not acceptable, the vaccination should not be administrated. DATE: GP/NURSE FULL NAME: SIGNED: