News of the Day ... In Perspective10/9/2005
Vaccine controversies continue
New York bans thimerosal for children under 3 and pregnant women
Over objections from the American Academy of Pediatrics, New York passed and Gov. Pataki signed a bill banning thimerosal from vaccines given to young children and pregnant women. Missouri, Delaware, Illinois, California, and Iowa have passed similar bans, and legislation is pending in 14 other states.
Influenza vaccines in time of epidemic are exempted from the ban.
The bill will affect some 300 vaccines now under development, according to John Gilmore of the New York chapter of the National Autism Association.
Although pediatrician supported removal of thimerosal from vaccines as a “precaution,” they say that the ban reinforces junk science and might scare parents away from vaccinating their children ( Dan Olmsted, UPI 8/31/05)
Families win in MMR lawsuit in Japan
The government and a research center affiliated with Osaka University were ordered to pay 155 million yen to the families of two children who died or suffered brain damage after receiving MMR vaccine. The institute had produced vaccine by a procedure differing from the method submitted to the health ministry. The judge said that the government had failed in its supervisory responsibility.
This is the first time a court has ruled on a damages case related to the vaccine, whose side affects have purportedly affected 1,800 persons in Japan ( Japan Times 3/14/03 ).
British families get legal aid to sue over MMR
Up to 100 families alleging that their children were damaged by MMR will get legal aid to sue the drug companies, if their claim concerns Crohn’s disease, arthritis, epilepsy, or encephalitis, but not if the problem is atypical, regressive autism.
Previously, the drug companies had threatened to press for costs if parents persisted with their claims.
Some parents whose children have severe inflammatory bowel disease and regressive autism may pursue claims with the European Court of Human Rights (Observer 12/26/04).
Dr. Andrew Wakefield under attack for article on MMR
After an article in The Lancet suggested a possible link between autism and MMR, vaccination rates in the UK dropped from 92% to 79%. Called the “scare doctor,” Dr. Andrew Wakefield has been hauled up on charges before the UK General Medical Council (GMC). His work showed pathologic changes in the bowel attributable to measles virus. Allegedly, his work with legal advocates for children who may have suffered injury from MMR constituted a conflict of interest with his medical research. Since leaving the Royal Free Hospital in 2001, Dr. Wakefield has been working primarily in the United States ( Timesonline 9/11/05).
Influenza vaccine for children called a useless risk
In a study published in The Lancet on Feb 25, 2005, which reviewed all studies published worldwide, the authors concluded that there was no evidence for efficacy of inactivated influenza vaccine in children under the age of 2 years. Not a single study even assessed the effect on mortality, serious complications, or community transmission of the disease. Children at higher risk of complications were less likely than healthy children to develop an antibody response.
A 2-year study reported on the CDC web site showed an influenza attack rate of 5.5% and 15.9% in vaccinated and placebo-group children, respectively, in the first year. In the second year, the attack rates were 3.6% and 3.3%. There was no overall reduction in otitis media. Another, retrospective study showed an effectiveness of 49% with two doses of vaccine, and no effectiveness for a single dose (F. Edward Yazbak, M.D., Red Flags 9/29/05).
Pediatricians refuse care to unvaccinated children
A survey of 302 pediatricians providing routine vaccinations showed that 85% encountered a partial vaccine refusal in the past year, and 54% had encountered a total refusal. When parents refused a specific vaccine, 73% cited safety concerns. The study was reported in the October 2005 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
About 39% of the pediatricians said they would dismiss from their care families who refused all vaccines, and 28% would terminate a relationship with a family who refused select vaccines. The physicians cited a breakdown in trust, fear of litigation, or lack of commitment to “standard” care. Worries about decreased reimbursement would drive the termination decision in 94% of specific vaccine refusals, but only 12% of total refusals (Oneil Osterwell, MedPage Today 10/6/05 ).
“Independent Vaccine Investigation Called for,” AAPS News, July 2004
MMR and autism: articles by Drs. Yazbak and Wakefield, J Am Phys Surg, Fall 2004