Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vaccines - Are they scientific?


Vaccines - Are they scientific? - Jagannath chatterjee

This years nobel prize for medicine was given for immunology symbolising that we are still learning about immunology, the last word has not yet been said. Vaccines depend upon a theory of immunity that is in the least a few decades old. They mostly seek to create humoral immunity while it is already known that the immune system is much more than that. There is also cellular immunity and organ based immunity, the role of the gut and the brain is still being figured out.That the lymphatic system and the endocrine system play a role is also known to immunologists. It is also known that fear and stress threaten the immune system, a reason why public health officials act against panic.

We must also remember that Pubmed cited a study which stated that vaccine induced antibodies do not necessarily translate into immunity. People with high antibody titres have fallen a prey to diseases they have been vaccinated against. 

VPD outbreaks are not always due to non vaccination but there are ample instances to show, particularly for measles and whooping cough and also mumps, that the outbreaks have happened in fully vaccinated children. Doctors commenting on this phenomenon have questioned the need for combining the measles, mumps and rubella citing that mumps and rubella do not really require pricks. A study has also questioned the basis for the measles vaccination postulating that the natural disease may have a role in shaping the mucosal immune system.  Measles however remains a threat to malnourished children in third world countries but the question remains can the money be better spent on eradicating poverty, improving living conditions and providing netter nutrition? As public health activists we cannot ignore this question.

Herd immunity was 60% when it was first "theorised" but today it is 100%. Both the figures do not have a scientific backup. Herd immunity ought to include the ENTIRE POPULATION, not just children. So if we calculate in the entirety we are vaccinating approximately 33% of the population. If herd immunity is indeed true then the adults too need to take vaccines at regular intervals. But this is better said than done as once the child develops the parents loose the fear of disease harming their little ones. Children even do not complete their booster doses of MMR and the tetanus shots. So why stress on mass immunisations. Why not only target those in risk? Are mass vaccinations because vaccine manufacturing units have to earn to stay afloat? If this is true then we are doing a great disservice by exposing healthy children to needless risks.

The parents are today more knowledgeable about vaccines and their views are shared by and personally discussed by doctors worldwide who are now either not vaccinating their own or are being very selective about it. My personal correspondence with pediatricians reveal that most of them consider only the IPV and the mercury free DaPT. There are doctors who have not all vaccinated their children and they report that their children/grandchildren have fared quite well despite them. In a private unpublished survey conducted by two senior pediatricians, 54% of the respondents say they are afraid of vaccinating their own children while 88% feel vaccines are unsafe.

Reports from the USA show 1 in 10 parents are now either not vaccinating their children or are adopting alternative selective vaccinations. Doctors like Dr Robert Spears in the USA have devised alternative schedules for such parents. How many doctors and nurses are taking the mandatory Hepatitis and the annual flu vaccines when working in a hospital set up? None of the doctors, who escape saying that they are not employees of the hospital, and only 36% of the nurses mostly because they fear loosing their job. So why double standards when it comes to the general population? In India 44% to 46% of the children receive the essential vaccines. Where are the diptheria and whooping cough epidemics?

Vaccines have to be handled very carefully as they can have very serious and permanent after effects and yet we see absolutely no screening. Dr T Jacob John, a distinguished pediatrician and also Dr Ajay Gambhir, past Vice President of the IAP have raised the issue. According to Dr Ajay Gambhir parents should remember that they have the choice not to vaccinate. He also details that preterm children, children with autoimmune diseases, and those with a history of autoimmune diseases ought not to be vaccinated. It reminds me of my childhood days when the Army doctors where my father served used to be highly selective on matters of vaccination.

In an interview granted to me by Dr P M Bhargava, founder director of the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology in India, and also a past member of the Planning Commission, he lashed out against even the vaccines included in India's Universal Immunisation Program. He said he had already written to the Government against the OPV as the role of the intestines in shaping the immune system was not yet known. He derided the BCG vaccination which had been tested in Tamil Nadu in India as far back as 1961 and found not only to be ineffective but also to cause cases of TB. But, as per a latest newspaper report, the ICMR and the WHO decided to continue with the vaccine as there was no alternative. He also condemned the recent vaccines being thrust upon India without proper safety or cost benefit analysis. He said he feared for the future as he sensed that the government was bowing down to the diktat of the MNCs.

Doctors are advised to give up to 7 vaccine shots in a single visit. What science supports this? There are no safety studies for such procedures but the studies only check for antibodies.  Vaccines were originally devised for real threats from dangerous contagious diseases and science yet does not support otherwise. Mass vaccination occurred when vaccine manufacturers started closing shop due to lack of profitability.

In 1986 the vaccine manufacturers in the US were legally indemnified by politician Bill Frist when cases started piling up against them by parents of vaccine induced children, around 8000 of them were found eligible to be admitted to the courts of law. And yet more than $ 2 billion has been paid since then for damages in the US alone, 83 of the cases for vaccines causing autism and upon expert testimony. In 2004 the IOM declared that there would be no more funds available for studies on thiomersal and the vaccine-autism connection. Why the fear?

If vaccine adverse events are so rare then why the lethargy in identifying, compensating and rehabilitating the injured? Why are they left to fend for themselves? The IMA in India has pointed out how the OPV was causing 500 to 600 cases of VAPP each year and that cases of AFP had reached epic proportions after the OPV was introduced in India in the year 1978. They cited a figure of 30,000 but the JSA, in their petition, reported 1,25,000 up to the year 2007. What about compensation and rehabilitation, asked the IMA to an unresponsive government. The IMA revealed how doctors were asked to remain quiet and not report cases of VAPP when the OPV was introduced in India.

Very recently doctors of the IAP have been chided for pointing out that the Rotavirus vaccine recommended by the IAP was causing cases of internal intussusception. The IAPs argument was that such information should not be discussed as it may leak out to the press and that other doctors would be scared. It would also jeopardise the IAPs appeal to the Government of India to include the vaccine in the Governments Universal Immunisation Program.

So not only are doctors not taught about vaccine risks in their textbooks, not only are vaccine adverse effects not being researched into, not only long term vaccine adverse effects are not being even contemplated, vaccine adverse effects are also not being reported. So the adage, benefits outweigh the risks is no longer valid. The risks are more and the benefits inflated. Let us spare our children this "Greater Good". Let us no longer subscribe to the theory that killing and maiming a number of little children is normal particularly as they are not being compensated and rehabilitated.

As per scientific published studies 54.1% of children today suffer serious chronic ailments, 45% of children and youth suffer neuropsychiatric disorders, 20% of children in India suffer mental disorders according to the MoHFW, and 1 in 38 to 1 in 100 children wordlwide suffer from autism spectrum disorders. A study of vaccine ingredients and their effects point damning fingers. Where is the healthy society that vaccines promised?

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