The vaccination debate….

This letter was sent to the Irish Medical Times by Dr Neville Wilson, Medical Director at The Leinster Clinic, Maynooth.

On vaccination: Being devil’s advocate for concerned parents


The Swansea measles outbreak in 2012 occurred despite a massive immunisation campaign in the UK


In characteristic combatant style, Dr Ruairi Hanleyreprimands parents of unvaccinated children and attributes blame to them for the spontaneous outbreaks of measles in communities abroad and at home. (‘Battling the anti-vaccination brigade’, IMT, February 20, 2015).

His recommended punishment is the withholding of child benefits from children whose parents fail to provide a vaccination certificate, as proof of their compliance.

Dr Hanley is uninhibited in his attack on the pedigree of such parents, portraying them as “believers in quackery and pseudo-science”, despite the likelihood of them being middle-class citizens and highly educated, and possibly even well informed.

Without any reservation, or recognition that their reasons may be science based and authentic, he acts as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, and metes out a judgment that many physicians would brand as unjustly harsh.

While I am not opposed to vaccines in principle, I clearly understand that all is not well within the industry, and that many of the concerns expressed by anxious parents are entirely justified. As caring physicians we would be remiss if we failed to listen to the troubled voices of those whose primary concern is the legitimate protection of their children when threats loom.

I have encountered many of these health conscious and concerned parents, and am mindful of the unjust accusations launched against them by persons who are invariably less informed about matters of health.

For that reason I offer myself as devil’s advocate on their behalf.

Questions about the contents of popular vaccines, such as neurotoxins, carcinogens, toxic metals, foreign animal and viral DNA, are entirely legitimate, and their harmful impact on the delicate immune system of the developing brain in young children cannot simply be dismissed without evidence to the contrary. Many insightful parents, who believe in scientific integrity, are thus asking questions about vaccine safety.

These people do not believe in “pseudo-science”. They trust in good science and expect good science to answer their questions truthfully.

Dr Russell Blaylock, a respectable neurosurgeon and expert on excitotoxins, believes that most of the damage caused by vaccines is hidden, and that vaccines in fact suppress, rather than stimulate, immunity.

The backdrop for Dr Hanley’s case against conscientious objectors to enforced vaccination is the recent outbreak of measles in Disneyland, USA, purportedly caused by an unvaccinated visitor to the entertainment centre.

That premature assumption, however, has been dismissed as being groundless, leaving the cause of the outbreak unknown, and purely speculative.

Outbreaks of measles are reported regularly from various countries, with 644 cases being reported in the US in 2004.

In recent years, outbreaks have occurred in the Philippines and in France, and often occurring in unvaccinated, as well as in highly vaccinated communities.

In a New York measles outbreak in 2004, 18 of the 20 people with measles had already been vaccinated against the disease. Was the outbreak caused by the two unvaccinated children, or by the shedding of the live virus by the 18 vaccinated children?

Shedding refers to the common occurrence of vaccinated children carrying live viruses and transmitting them to others through respiratory droplets or urine during the early days following vaccination. Measles outbreaks can theoretically be caused by this method in highly vaccinated communities.

In Colorado, a similar outbreak occurred in 1991, in a community that had a vaccine rate of 98 per cent. It is entirely plausible that the outbreak was caused by vaccinated, rather than unvaccinated children.

The Swansea measles outbreak in 2012 occurred despite a massive immunisation campaign in the UK.

The NEJM reports a measles outbreak in Texas in 1981, in which 99 per cent of the population had been vaccinated. Was the 1 per cent or the 99 per cent to blame for the outbreak?

While one popular, and plausible explanation for these measles outbreaks is the large scale importation of unvaccinated people from other countries across these borders, it was not the case in the Disneyland outbreak.

Another less perceived cause of measles outbreaks is vaccine failure, which may be primary or secondary.

Primary vaccine failure occurs in a small number of vaccines where poor vaccine uptake fails to establish the required level of seroconversion, leaving the individual unprotected, and in need of a second or ‘booster dose’, usually at school entry age.

Secondary vaccine failure is caused by waning immunity in the vaccinated person, resulting in greater susceptibility to the measles virus, and harboured potential for spreading the virus to others.

Primary and secondary vaccination failure may lead to the paradoxical situation whereby measles in highly immunised societies occurs primarily among those previously vaccinated.

Are all vaccines safe?
In a US Congressional hearing, a representative of the Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) boldly asserted that all vaccines “were safe and highly effective, and the best way for parents to protect their kids”.

When asked whether there was any scientific evidence that vaccines caused autism, they replied in the negative, reaffirming that all vaccines are safe. When asked about the risks of contracting the measles infection, they offered the fearsome warning about the potential for “death, pneumonia and encephalitis, and other brain disorders”.

Notably, the CDC spokes-person omitted to make reference to the measles vaccine package insert, which in small print, warns of similar conditions being caused by the vaccine, i.e. “death, pneumonia and cerebral disorders” like SSPE, among many others.

Adverse outcomes from measles infections may occur, but these are rare and usually benign, with more severe outcomes likely to be found amongst children whose health and immune status has been compromised by conditions of inadequate hygiene and nutrition, overcrowding, and pre-existing medical conditions.

During the measles outbreak in Swansea, Wales (2012-2013), 664 cases were reported, with one death documented, and that of a 25-year-old male who developed pneumonia after contracting measles.

It was established that he had a compromised health status, was in poor health, and was being treated for alcohol addiction.

Measles mortality
It is well established that measles has a low mortality rate in well nourished, healthy children. Despite this documented fact, scaremongering tactics are commonplace in the popular media, warning of impending death from measles infection, more recently being branded as the ‘killer disease’.

A BMJ editorial in 1963 argued that “measles is a mild disease, and many patients and doctors may feel that no protective agent is required”.

In a 1980 BMJ edition, Prof George Dick, vaccine expert, advocated that a “mild wild measles virus should run its natural course in order to give natural life-long protection to the healthy children of the community, and to offer vaccine selectively to those who are most vulnerable”.

Information from the Vaccine Adverse Reporting System (VAERS) reveals that there have been no measles deaths in the US since 2003, whereas there have been 108 deaths reported due to measles vaccines. We cannot blame intelligent parents for raising concerns in the light of these disturbing statistics.

There are also interesting statistics that show a natural decline in measles, as with all other common infectious diseases, prior to the advent of vaccines, certainly so in the US, where great alarm is being expressed in the media by the current outbreaks.

The mean annual mortality for measles also declined in England and Wales from 1900 to 1950, long before the measles vaccine was introduced there in 1967.

I served in a remote Mission Hospital in rural Africa from 1980 to 1982, where infected children from remote villages were frequently admitted for a variety of childhood infectious diseases, including measles. I do not recall any hospital deaths from measles during this period, but many did contact pneumonia, as a secondary bacterial infection, and these were invariably well managed with standard medical care and appropriate nutrition.

So, is measles the ‘killer disease’ as it is often purported to be? And can the safety of all vaccines be guaranteed?

Compensation grants
The Vaccine Injury Com-pensation Programme (VICP) has so far paid out $2.6 trillion as compensation in 3,535 awards for autism and vaccine damaged children. Vaccine courts in the US and Italy have clearly ruled that certain vaccines have been causally linked to autism, and have accordingly paid substantial amounts in compensation to vaccine-injured children. A similar ruling in a UK court in 2010 implicated the MMR vaccine in brain damage being caused by the MMR vaccine, and awarded compensation for vaccine damages to the victim.

A pharmaceutical and vaccine producer has also been accused of falsifying test data to fabricate a vaccine efficiency rate of 95 per cent or higher, in order to promote evidence of vaccine efficacy to the public.

In the light of these devastating events, the assurances by the CDC that all vaccines are safe and effective has, I believe, a somewhat hollow sound.

A CDC whistle-blower has also recently claimed similar questionable behaviour within the Centers, and the wrongful cover-up of data revealing vaccine harm to vulnerable children.

On August 27, 2014, Dr William Thompson, a senior scientist with the CDC, admitted to omitting data for the 2004 edition of the journal Pediatrics, which critics of vaccinations point out implicate African-American males who were at great risk for autism following the MMR vaccine before the age of 36 months.

Editor writes:
(Dr Thompson’s remarks were apparently secretly filmed and posted on YouTube, with a narration by Andrew Wakefield, by an anti-vaccination lobby group. In a statement, the CDC explained how the 2004 study looked at all children recruited and a smaller set of 355 children with autism and 1,020 without for whom they had Georgia state birth certificates.

“Access to the information on the birth certificates allowed researchers to assess more complete information on race as well as other important characteristics, including possible risk factors for autism such as the child’s birth weight, mother’s age, and education. This information was not available for the children without birth certificates; hence CDC study did not present data by race on black, white, or other race children from the whole study sample. It presented the results on black and white/other race children from the group with birth certificates.”)

It is therefore not surprising that well informed parents have legitimate concerns about vaccine safety and efficacy, and are seeking assurances from those of us who should be equally well informed and concerned.

Their concerns are reinforced by knowledge of legislated immunity being granted to vaccine manufacturers that protects them from litigation in the event of vaccine harm.

Dr Hanley describes these concerned parents as being ignorant about matters of science, and believers in ‘pseudo-science’.

However, a Dutch study reports that these parents are likely to be intelligent and well informed, a finding replicated in a Swiss study in 2005. And a UK survey in 2003 revealed that one-third of family doctors were troubled by the increasing load of infant vaccines being propagated.

Some of these serious-minded parents are patients of mine, and I cannot ignore their concerns. How do we as caring physicians respond to them?

The condemnation of concerned parents who seek assurances of vaccine safety is clearly unwarranted, and the recommendations to withhold child benefits from their children is an unjust and inappropriate response.

Our mandate as physicians is to hear the valid concerns of our patients and to respond to them with compassion and with reason, in ways that are scientifically supported, clinically safe and ethically sound.

Dr Neville Wilson,
Medical Director,
The Leinster Clinic,