Arguably antibiotics were the greatest medical discovery of the 20th century and saved millions of lives, unfortunately over prescribing especially for viral conditions like colds, has led to some strains of bacteria mutating and becoming resistant to antibiotics, these bacteria now pose a major threat to public health according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Professor Otto Cars recently described resistance to antibiotics as “a silent tsunami, crumbling down the pillars upon which modern medicine is built.” and can also happen in viruses. This process is what Charles Darwin called “Natural Selection”; Survival of the fittest, where nature selects for the strongest of the species, the genes selected are the ones that go on to procreate and have been evolving over hundreds of thousands of years. These are the humans who have survived infections in plagues, small pox epidemics, the Spanish flu, scarlet fever, measles, whooping cough etc etc, most recently this selection has been observed in HIV/AIDs patients.
As was first observed with antibiotics, vaccines seemed like a brilliant discovery. In 1798, millions were dying from smallpox, Edward Jenner observed that the women milking cows were uniquely not catching the disease and concluded that getting a mild version of the disease from cows, was protecting the milk maids from contacting small pox and set about developing a vaccine. On the face of it, Jenners vaccine reduced incidence of that particular disease, but in a reductionist model of health care, which focuses mainly on symptoms and the number of cases of smallpox, it begged the question could injecting a variety of substances directly into the blood stream, have damaging physiological effects on humans.
Vaccination has been a controversial subject in the UK since the Vaccination Act of 1853 made smallpox vaccination compulsory for all infants in the first three months of life and made defaulting parents liable to a fine or imprisonment. Remember until very recently the public was not informed of possible side effects from Vaccines and the parents of vaccine damaged children had to take on Governments and the Pharmaceutical industry by themselves seeking justice for their injured children. Perhaps we should have smelled a rat in 1979 when the UK Government absolved the pharmaceutical industry of responsibility for vaccine injury with “The Vaccine Damage Payment Act” after Rosemary Foxes campaign after her daughter was damaged by the Polio vaccine in 1962. She begins her book with; “How would you feel, blessed with a happy healthy baby daughter and overnight she is transformed into one that could never be normal and who suffers permanent mental handicap and convulsions. Then as you sought explanations and challenge the Governments refusal to award compensation, you are told you are damaging the vaccination programme and had to keep quiet” ( Helens Story; by Rosemary Fox: Amazon). The governments “scientific evidence” states vaccines are safe, however I don’t think one can always trust “scientific evidence” .
On 3rd November 2003 Molly and Isabelle are born in Kingston Hospital by C section. After five days my partner Janette was able to come home. For the first month we had regular visits from our health visitor who provided support and advice. She gave us the “Red book”
where your child’s development milestones are noted and their “vaccination schedule”, we were given our appointment for the DTaP vaccination at 4 weeks. The book advised; “If you want to know more about Immunisations” talk to your health visitor or doctor”. I asked the Health Visitor why under “Immunisation reactions” the book only states; “Most children have no reactions”, the reactions described were limited to: “being grumpy” , “slight fever”, “slight swelling and redness at the injection site” and “rashes”. I asked the health visitor why the Vaccination Information Statements in the US (consent forms for vaccination) state there is a small risk of “serious neurological damage and death”. She did not know what I was talking about and responded with; “is it the MMR you are worried about”? I asked her, if she had heard of; Helen Fox, Alan Duffy or Harry Clarke, mothers who had put their trust in our vaccination programmes? She had not and was very surprised, when we told her, our girls were not going to have any vaccinations.
In deciding a medical intervention you weigh up the benefits against the risks. Perhaps if a child cuts themselves in the garden, you might take them to A&E and consider a tetanus injection, cholera, small pox, measles, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and polio were a high risk of death in Europe 100 years ago, not any more. The question often asked and debated, are the reduction in infection rates, due to vaccination programmes or improved living conditions and the answer has to be both and of course in reducing infection rates vaccines have played a major role. One needs to make an important distinction at this point, which many people get confused about. The “risk of contracting a disease” and the “risk of dying” from the disease are very different discussions. These “risk” levels not always presented honestly by the proponents of vaccine programmes.
If your immune system dose not have antibodies to recognise an infectious agent, chances are you will develop signs and symptoms of the disease regardless of how healthy you are or how many greens you eat. Measles is arguably the most contagious virus know to man, if you dont have anti bodies for it and are exposed to the virus in all probability you will develop measles, 90% of our class got it in 1964 (I was 7) we were off school for a few days, everything and everybody was back as normal the following week, hundreds got it, it was seen as a bit of a joke and important to get out of the way before adulthood, parties were thrown, to make sure everyone would catch it early. This is how measles was portrayed on TV So the risk of catching measles in those without antibodies is extremely high, while the risk of dying or having side effects is not in healthy well nourished kids living in a developed country with hood housing and sanitation. The UKs worst ever measles epidemic was in Jan/Feb 1959 with 61,000 reported cases, the Editorial of British Medical Journal that month (available in the Welcome Trust Library) described Measles as the most infectious disease known and “complications are extremely rare”, now despite all the improvements in housing and nutrition’s since that time we are told it is a “killer disease” and parents should protect children from it.
There are no vaccines for cholera and scarlet fever and we decided to focus on “risk” of not vaccinating. We did have concerns about whooping cough, but studies show the vaccine is not very effective, (the children were diagnosed with it in 2006, including our new two week old daughter Eloise, our experience was nothing like those described by promoters of vaccine programmes). A study Published in the British Medical Journal in 2006 showed 85.9% of children presenting with a persistent cough of over two weeks had whooping cough and they had been vaccinated against and the solution to this problem of ineffectiveness of this vaccine is to increase the vaccination uptake?? If I was moving to Pakistan to live, I would have the children vaccinated against polio. Our girls are nearing puberty and we have booked a blood test to check for antibodies for Rubella, even though its an extremely mild infection it can cause severe damage to a foetus if contracted while pregnant. So I am not against vaccines per se, I am against mass vaccine programs that assumes one size fits all, that every body responds the same way and a system that fails to document the risk from vaccines and brushes them under the carpet when they occur. This short interview is typical of how any risks from vaccines are dismissed entirely by the medical establishment.
It is outrageous the way parents of vaccine damaged children are treated after an adverse event (remember these are the parents who put their children forward to support these vaccine programmes), as civil servants reluctantly pay out a maximum of £100,000 for serious brain injury, to the “scientifically” illiterate parents who are obliged to prove “scientifically” that their child was injured by a vaccine? Or worse still the parents like the extraordinary Vera Duffy who was fobbed off for the 22 years, it took her son Alan to die after his DTP vaccine and again when the Irish Government insisted on documenting the cause of Alan,s death as “pneumonia” rather than the “proximate cause” the vaccine. This anomaly in Governments use of smoke and mirrors of the vaccine debate is interesting, because on the rare occasions, when a child dies of complications related to an infectious diseases in a developed country, cause of death is always attributed to the disease rather than the complications associated with it usually pneumonia.
It was an easy decision for Janette and I to make when our girls were born, the risks of vaccination far outweighed the questionable benefits of preventing infection is this way, when we as a species have evolved by getting infections, surviving them and going on to procreate. By using vaccines to prevent infection (when it is not only mice who benefit from infection in developing developing a strong immune system), I wonder if we are artificially selecting for the weaker gene pool of the human species, making them vulnerable to bacterial or viral infections that mutate and could eventually wipe out millions as happened with the Spanish Flu of 1918 and HIV/Aids.
At first the health visitor tried to “reassure” us, but realising I had read much on the subject and was in the middle of writing a dissertation on the first vaccine children recieved, for my Masters in Health Promotion at Brunel University ( which I will reproduce in blog form in the coming months, despite the fact this vaccine has been withdrawn for safety reasons in 2004, which is all the more interesting as back then no one was informed of safety issues while the DTaP was being used) “Are Parents Making An Informed Decision When Their Children Receive DTaP Vaccination”? I presented the Nurse with a challenge, to produce evidence that would show that vaccinated children were healthier than unvaccinated children and find a doctor who could guarantee that my children would not experience serious neurological damage from the vaccine and I would agree to vaccinate the children, she was certain she could produce this evidence but I never heard back.
As a child vaccines were presented as the great medical breakthrough. The paralysis and deaths caused by the original Cutter polio vaccine of 1955 (read this pro vaccine article and read between the lines to understand the politics in relation to adverse events associated with vaccines), were glossed over as we all stood inline for our sugar lump with the drop of yellow in it in 1964. The BCG was painful and left a great big scar, which you showed it off with pride. My sister Kate was born in 1974 while questions were being raised about the pertussis vaccine after reports of neurological damage and death were surfacing. My mother decided against giving Kate the vaccine after reading an article in an Irish paper about a woman called Vera Duffy who was claiming her son Alan had been brain damaged by the pertussis vaccine. My mother was told by doctors that there was no risk to Kate from the vaccine, an establishment sceptic all her life, she was not happy with the “scientific” explanation znd being a nurse she understood the “Bell Curve” of research and while the majority may respond in a certain way, there are some that dont. It always amused her when being accused of being selfish, because vaccinated children were protecting Kate from infection. Because she took the view, that it was Alan Duffy’s sacrifice that had protected Kate. Kate has had a healthy life and is now the mother of three unvaccinated children.
It was 1996 before I heard about Alan Duffy again or the 20 year fight for justice his mother Vera had waged against the Irish medical established and documented in her book “Justice for my Son”. Alan had died in 1995 aged 22, his life destroyed by a vaccine. The “official” cause of death was described as pneumonia. Vera would not accept this, she had spend 22 years trying to get the medical establishment to admit that the vaccine had caused Alans brain damage and while it had taken him 22 years to die she wanted cause of death listed on the death cert as the Pertussis vaccine. In May 1997, the Coroners court refused to grant her wishes and the Irish medical establishment tried to portray her as an “aggressive” woman looking to blame someone for her sons death, much the same as the way British medical establishment had dealt with Rosemary Fox, regarding her daughter Helen’s reaction to a Polio vaccine 20 years previously ??
Monday 26 of January 1998 Sally Clarke’s son Harry has his DTaP vaccination, (Stolen Innocence:
) Four hours later Harry was dead. Unfortunately for Sally Clarke she had no explanation for her sons sudden death. Clark was convicted of murdering Harry and his brother Christopher who was believed to have been a victim of Cot death a year earlier. Sally Clarke spent three years in prison and was finally acquitted by the court of Appeal in 2003, dying in 2005 of a “broken heart”.
Soon after her conviction in February 2000 Sally Clark’s family were contacted by campaigners on the dangers of vaccination. “They have no doubt that the DPT jab given to Harry four hours before he died is what killed him” (page 226). They support their view with a mountain of paper. “none of Sallys medical expert’s will give this theory the time of day”. The expert witness for the prosecution Paediatric consultant Roy Meadows said there was a one in seventy three million chance of two children in the same family dying of “cot death”. Obviously Meadows had not been told of the “Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System” in the US which has recorded hundreds of deaths following millions of vaccines (in percentage terms small, if its your child 100%).
It is unbelievable to think that in 2000, Medical experts in the UK and Ireland would not accept that vaccines could cause serious neurological damage or death, with their checkered history. I guess this explains why they were not looking for it then and were convinced a mother would murder her two children, rather than consider the possibility, a vaccine being responsible. In America the risk is recognised, the data is collected and billions have been paid out in compensation. In the UK now the have a reporting system, which plays down the possible reactions to vaccines unlike in the US there is no mention of the possibility of brain damage and death. They also use the term, which the Irish Chief Medical Officer Brendan O Donnel used to Vera Duffy in 1973 before he realised he was talking to the “One”; its “one in a million”, they love to say, to people who have not had an adverse event.
In April 2000 the Clark family found an expert in the US and commission Professor John Menkes, a paediatric neurologist to write a report on adverse reactions to the DTaP vaccine. The Clarks are encouraged by Menkes report which suggested that the vaccine was a possible cause of Harry’s death ((page 228). This would surely be been enough to create reasonable doubt in the minds of any jury.
In August 2001 epidemiologist professor Tom Meade tells the Clarkes that he is prepared to make a full investigation of the DTaP vaccination. August 2002 Tom Meade’s report says “vaccination could have killed Harry” (page 297). “he has no doubt that that the pertussis part of the vaccine could have killed the baby. I have seen Meades report and in the three years Sally Clarke was in prison there were 35 unexplained infants deaths days after receiving the DTaP vaccine. In his report Meade explains that a “cause of death” is not an exact science; it can only ever be a matter of opinion. He concluded “If the vaccine did not kill Harry, it would have exacerbated the effect of the bacteria Staaphylococcus aureus which was found in microbiological samples taken from Harry during the post-mortem”. The fact bacteria was present in Harry’s blood at the time of his death and could have contributed to the cause of death, was not revealed to the jury during Sally Clarkes original trial. Apparently the pathology report was “mislaid”, this was the reason the second appeal in January 2003 was successful, rather than the effect the vaccine may have had and how the DTaP vaccine alone should have been enough for “reasonable doubt” in the minds of any jury. On top of the MMR controversy created by Andrew Wakefield at the end of the 90s, it would have been a disaster for vaccination uptake if DTaP had been suggested as a cause of death of two children in this high profile case. Nevertheless the DTaP vaccine was withdrawn from use eighteen months after Sally Clarkes release and replaced with the current five in one vaccine which does not contain the controversial preservative thimerosal (mercury)??
Sally Clarke, Verra Duffy and Rosemary Fox are not isolated stories, in fact 6 respondents to my survey had taken their child to A&E after the DTaP vaccine, that does not necessarily mean the vaccine was the reason these 6 children got sick, however one case stood out. A parent whose son had an immediate reaction to their first DTaP vaccine, she described on the response form how her “three month old son had extremely high temperature, went white, and then floppy and was rushed to Kingston hospital by ambulance and later diagnosed with sepsus and recovered. One month later he had his second DTaP jab and experienced the same reaction”. The mother put two and two together, but doctors disagreed; “ The evidence states the vaccine is safe, the reactions are coincidental” she was told? Despite these reassurances the parents declined any more vaccines, this parent was one of the few who actually knew what DTP, stood for. If you get punched in the eye and the following day the you have a black ring around the eye, you dont need “peer reviewed” evidence to conclude the punch caused the eye to go black.
Vaccine believers would say we are irresponsible parents, putting our children at “risk” by not following the “herd”. I can only say I am doing what I believe is best for my children based on the information thats out there. I have no doubt the risk from the disease has been exaggerated and the risk from the vaccines minimised to promote a policy that is cost effective. The NHS is underfunded and does not have the capacity for GP’s to go out and visit all the children that would be sick and contagious, if these diseases were common again. There is also a cost to the economy of parents who have to stay at home from work to look after sick children. There is no doubt vaccination has played a role in reducing morbidity of what were once called normal childhood illness, but there is no evidence children are now healthier or less likely to die from other illness because they have been vaccinated. Thousands die from Asthma every year and a study Published in Thorax in 2001 showed that Adults who had measles as children were significantly less likely to develop Asthma as adults.
The obligation to “do no harm” has been central to medical conduct since ancient time, yet “iatrogenic illness” – literally illness or injury that is induced by the physician has now come to be recognised as a risk factor in health care delivery. A report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998, estimated that 106,000 Americans die each year as a result of adverse reactions to prescription medications. This figure represents three times the number of people killed by automobiles and is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Only heart disease, cancer, and stroke kill more Americans than adverse reactions to drugs. A 2004 study in the British Medical Journal suggested that an estimated 850 000 medical errors occur in NHS hospitals every year resulting in 40 000 deaths. One would hope that the risk versus benefit ratio is explained to people before they undergo any kind of medical intervention, especially in relation to small children. Failures in this process is what led to the Bristol Inquiry 2002 where far to many children were dying during routine heart surgery.
With all this in mind and the impending decision whether to vaccinated our expected twins in May 2003 and my other daughter in 2006.
I decided to investigate what parents of vaccinated children actually knew about the first vaccine given to their children, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) as part of my masters in Health Promotion. I surveyed 200 people to see if they knew what DPT stood for and if they had been given any information about possible risks associated with the vaccination. The study was passed by the ethics committee at Kingston Upon Thames. The aim of my study was to assess basic immunisation knowledge of parents who have had their children vaccinated with the DTaP vaccine. I wished to examine the notion that “parental consent” conformed to the guidelines set out by the General Medical Council (GMC, 1998). The main finding was that 61% of parents who responded did not know what DTP stood for. Therefore it was easy to conclude that they lacked basic knowledge and the information, to give informed consent for their children to be vaccinated with DTaP vaccine. Interestingly 100% knew what MMR stood for as this vaccine has had all the publicity, I have always wondered if it got its clean bill of health in the studies, because the DTaP was the problem vaccine and the developmental problems in children were more obvious at 18 months or were exacerbated by the MMR vaccine??
Either way 12 years on I have no regrets about our decision, I have three tall healthy girls who have never had so much as a spoon full of Calpol. Recently the youngest banged her head and I took her to A&E to be checked. During the history the nurse asked if she was Allergic to antibiotics, I said I did not know as she has never had them, the nurse rolled her eyes and suggested I call my wife, when I told her she they had not had vaccines or anything ever, the nurse shook her head and obviously did not get, what she had just heard.
I am not “anti vaccination” as “believers” call me, I am pro informed choice and if believers can provide me with evidence that there is no risk from vaccines and my children will be healthier, I will gladly advise them to go along with it. But dont ask me to vaccinate for the community unless you are willing to pay more taxes to improve public services like heath care. Then at least we can have an honest debate about the real issues that are detrimental to public health in developed countries.
If a tin of beans was contaminated in the factory and distributed, every tin of beans in the UK would be recalled even though the risk to the public would be small. The government believe the risks from vaccinations are worth taking, as it would put such a strain on NHS finances to employ all the doctors needed if what were once “normal childhood infections” were common again. Most will remember government minister John Gummer in 1990 feeding beef to his daughter to support the beef industry. At least 32 people died and many others had neurological damage from infected beef. Gummer was happy to take the risk with his child, my partner and I are not.