Latest Jan 25th 2009

I wrote the following in January 2002. I have no reason to change it now. The latest evidence is there is no statistical relationship between the MMR injection and autism, but if you read the diary below the genuine confusion is evident.

The controversy over the MMR vaccination is a classic example of the type of argument that plagues modern society.  The universal application of MMR is statistically reckoned to give the highest chance of survival in the population as a whole. The government therefore feels obliged to advocate this as the only policy it will recommend and back with public funds. Backing an alternative can statistically be reckoned to result in more deaths and damage, so the government cannot mathematically justify a change in policy.

On the other hand, there are a number of reasons to SUPPOSE, using available information and intelligent reasoning, that a certain individuals, due to  their particular makeup, history and in some cases reaction to previous medical intervention, will react adversely to the MMR jab. In some cases this could trigger the outbreak, emergence or expression of a condition to which the individual is vulnerable.  A trigger is not necessarily a cause, though it might be true to say that a the more powerful and the more precise the trigger, the more it can be classed as a cause. In the case of autism, it should be noted that one definition of autism is the absence of empathy. This could very well be the psycho-neurological stance adopted by the human organism when it decides (subconsciously, I emphasize) that its family are trying to exterminate it. The powerful MMR vaccination, if coming at the end of a series of previous vaccinations, may well be perceived by the child's subconscious as an attempt on its life.

This does not alter the fact that the government position remains that the recommended procedure is for everyone to use the MMR triple vaccine in the best interest of each as well as all, until such time as it is possible to show that the MMR vaccine is likely, in given cases which can be detected with at least some likelihood in advance, to increase the chances of autism occurring.

In the 1940's, we all tried to catch mumps, measles, chicken-pox etc. etc. in order to get it over with as soon as possible. It was no big deal, and almost everyone I know amongst my colleagues caught all of them before the age of 18.. Since these jabs are not compulsory, I cannot see what the fuss is about. Parents can decide to have MMR or not. If they are worried, just forget it. If the child dies of Measles, bad luck. The government would like 95% vaccination. But if it does not get it, its not the end of the world. Those who do vaccinate are not in danger from those who do not, so where's the beef?

* * *

I realise that some people will object to the last paragraph and come up with arguments about 'herd immunity', but I am not fully convinced. As for the latest outburst from the editor of the Lancet, desperate to keep in with the medical establishment, I think it is contemptible. I do not know if the research is flawed, but the argument about conflict of interest is certainly flawed.

MARCH 05 2003
In view of the fact that colleagues of the doctor who claimed his research suggested a possible link between MMR Triple Vaccine and Autism have pointed out it does not show any conclusive evidence to this effect, it seems the poor man is out on his own with only the support of parents whose personal experience of synchronicity has impressed the public. As I have pointed out here, a connection that is not fully causal but could affect the exact timing of the expression of symptoms would not invalidate the government position that it would be irresponsible to advocate the abandonment of the triple vaccine. On those grounds the doctor's colleagues may well be acting on legal advice for their own protection against liability for the consequences of a decrease in the percentage take-up of the triple dose, should it be claimed that they misled the public. The precautionary principle would seem to be developing an enigmatic symmetry. How unbelievable all this is to those who live through World War 2 and the 1950s.

Saturday August 7, 2004  09:32 AM

Vaccine scrapped amid autism fear

LONDON (Reuters) - Babies will no longer be given a vaccine containing mercury, the Department of Health says, after pressure from parents fearing a possible link with autism.

Mercury had been contained within the whooping cough vaccine, given to babies when they are 8 weeks old.

A mercury-free jab will now be given to children as part of a new 5-in-1 vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hib and polio, Health Minister John Hutton said.

"Following advice from our expert committees we have decided that at the same time thiomersal, a mercury based preservative, will be removed from the new combined vaccine," Hutton said in a statement.

Research in the United States suggested that a mercury-based preservative used in some childhood vaccines was linked to autism-like damage in the brains of mice, the Daily Telegraph said.

However, the Department of Health has said there is no evidence of a link between mercury in vaccines and autism.

Doctors are also being told by the government to switch from the live polio vaccine, given by mouth, to a vaccine that can be combined with others in a single injection to avoid the rare cases of polio contamination.

Campaigners welcomed the removal of mercury but were worried about giving babies five vaccines at once.

"Giving five vaccines increases the risk of an adverse event as well as making it more difficult to find out which element is the cause if something goes wrong," Jacquie Fletcher, founder of the parent support group Jabs (Justice, Awareness and Basic Support) told the Telegraph.

The changes are expected to take place next month when sufficient stocks of the new five-in-one vaccine have been amassed.

Parents have already raised much concern about the triple jab for measles, mumps and rubella and its possible link with autism.

* * *

Comment on the above news:
While we all know that mercury is highly toxic, the molecular form in which it was incorporated, in those quantities in these vaccines, has always been held by the Department of Health to be non-toxic - perfectly harmless. My own view is that although this may be true in theory and in most cases in practice, the way in which a child's body and brain recognises and reacts to new input is something that is only partially understood. A substance is poisonous if our metabolism decides it is poisonous. The argument I advanced in January 2002 is that if a given individual child's reaction is that the substance injected is poisonous, it could trigger the autistic reaction. I still hold to this as a possible explanation.

UPDATE SEPT 10th 2004
The latest research results released today indicate that statistically there is no causal link between the MMR triple vaccine and autism. This should reassure those who for logical reasons would favour the triple or multiple vaccine and also leads to the conclusion that avoiding the triple vaccine will not prevent the ultimate onset of autism in those who are either vulnerable to it or likely to develop it.  Another cause must be sought, and other means to mitigate or avoid it must be found. It is still not impossible that the timing of the appearance of autistic symptoms may be related to the vaccination experience in a child.

Update March 3rd 2005

Research on the result of the abandonment of the MMR triple vaccine in Japan have produced a clear conclusion to at least one aspect of the debate.

Professor Rutter told the BBC News Website: "If there was a true causal relationship between MMR and autism, one would have expected rates to fall after the vaccine was withdrawn".
He said the research did not deal with the suggestion that there is a small group of children who are unusually vulnerable in whom MMR triggers autism - but there was no evidence that this was the case.

The Times  -  May 29th 2006

US study supports claims of MMR link to autism

By Sam Lister, Health Correspondent

THE safety of the MMR innoculation, the combination vaccine given to young children and widely supported by scientists, will be questioned again this week in a presentation that claims to provide proof of a link to autism.

American researchers say that their study supports the findings of Andrew Wakefield, the discredited gastroenterologist who raised fears that the measles, mumps and rubella injection might be causing autism.

Uptake of the vaccine decreased sharply after Dr Wakefield suggested that MMR should be avoided in favour of single vaccinations. His research, published in The Lancet in 1998, detected traces of the measles virus in the guts of 12 children with autism.

The latest study, led by Arthur Krigsman, of New York University School of Medicine, involved 275 children. Serious intestinal inflammations were found in some of the autistic children and biopsies of gut tissue were performed on 82 of them. Of these, 70 are said to have shown evidence of the measles virus, which so far has been confirmed in 14 cases by more stringent DNA tests.

Steve Walker, assistant professor at Wake Forest University Medical Centre, North Carolina, who analysed the gut samples, said the work mirrored Dr Wakefield’s study. All the children involved were diagnosed with autism and had come to Dr Krigsman and Dr Walker seeking help for symptoms of serious digestive problems for which no explanation could be found.

The research, which is being presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Montreal this week, has yet to be published in a scientific journal and subjected to peer review.

Mainstream science has repeatedly examined the theory of a link between MMR and autism and found no evidence to back it. Supporters of the theory are accused of interpreting two biological occurrences as a causative relationship that does not exist.

Uptake of MMR, which was introduced into Britain in 1988, has improved in recent years, but remains as low as 70 per cent in the wake of ongoing questioning of its possible side-effects. The World Health Organisation recommends 95 per cent coverage, and the shortfall has been blamed for contributing to rising rates of measles and mumps in recent years.

A recent analysis of 31 MMR studies by the Cochrane Library, one of the most authoritative sources of evidence-based medicine, showed no credible grounds for claims of serious harm.

JUNE 12th 2006

The General Medical Council's decision to pursue Andrew Wakefield is a huge gamble, says Jeremy Laurance in The Independent.


JANUARY 26th 2009

Study adds to evidence of vaccine safety

By CARLA K. JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer 

CHICAGO – A new study from Italy adds to a mountain of evidence that a mercury-based preservative once used in many vaccines doesn't hurt children, offering more reassurance to parents.

In the early 1990s, thousands of healthy Italian babies in a study of whooping cough vaccines got two different amounts of the preservative thimerosal (pronounced thih-MEHR'-uh-sawl) from all their routine shots.

Ten years later, 1,403 of those children took a battery of brain function tests. Researchers found small differences in only two of 24 measurements and those "might be attributable to chance," they wrote in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics, which was released Monday.

Only one case of autism was found, and that was in the group that got the lower level of thimerosal.

Autism is a complex disorder featuring repetitive behaviors and poor social interaction and communication skills. Scientists generally believe genetics plays a role in causing the disorder; a theory that thimerosal is to blame has been repeatedly discounted in scientific studies.

"Put together with the evidence of all the other studies, this tells us there is no reason to worry about the effect of thimerosal in vaccines," said the new study's lead author, Dr. Alberto Tozzi of Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome.

The debate over thimerosal and autism has been much stronger in the United States than in Italy, Tozzi said. But the researchers recognized a chance to examine the issue by going back to the children who had taken part in the 1990s whooping cough research.

Randomization sets the new study apart. The random assignment of children rules out the chance that factors other than thimerosal, such as education or poverty, caused the results.

Thimerosal, used in some vaccines to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus, hasn't been in U.S. childhood vaccines since 2001, except for certain flu shots. Italy and other European nations began removing it in 1999. U.S. health officials recommended the removal of thimerosal as a precaution and to reduce the overall exposure of children to mercury.

Safety regulations still require multi-dose vials of vaccines to contain some type of preservative to prevent the spread of infection from contaminated vials.

The study, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drew praise from outside experts.

"It's yet another well done, peer-reviewed research study that has demonstrated there is no risk of any neurodevelopmental outcomes associated with thimerosal in vaccines," said epidemiologist Jennifer Pinto-Martin of the University of Pennsylvania.

"This becomes the fourth study to look for subtle signs of mercury toxicity and show the answer was 'no,'" said Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the author of a book on autism research and the co-inventor of a rotavirus vaccine.

Tozzi said comparing children with no exposure to thimerosal could have improved the study. "However, if thimerosal were a cause of harm, it is likely that this effect would increase with the administered dose," he said.

The children received either 62.5 micrograms or 137.5 micrograms of ethyl mercury from all their shots during their first year of life. Thimerosal breaks down as ethyl mercury in the body. Before the reduction of thimerosal in the United States, the maximum exposure for infants was 187.5 micrograms of ethyl mercury.

The researchers found the children in both groups scored, on average, in the normal range on 11 tests of memory, attention, motor skills and other brain functions.

Those 11 tests included 24 measured outcomes. Small, but statistical differences were found for only two of those areas, and only for girls. The girls with higher exposure scored worse on a finger-tapping test with their dominant hands, and on a vocabulary test in which they were asked to name common objects.

There was no difference in boys on those outcomes or others. Researchers also found no difference in tic disorders. And the one autism case found in the lower-intake group was likely a chance finding, Tozzi said.


MAY 26th 2010
On May 24th
The General Medical Council found Dr Andrew Wakefield guilty of serious professional misconduct over the way he carried out his controversial research.

Dr Wakefield's argument is that his duty was to his patients, not to the NHS or even the community as a whole. He never advocated the stopping of MMR vaccinations, only that the public should be given a choice between the multiple MMR jab and two less strong jabs at an interval of weeks or months. The government advisors told the government it was too difficult to go with Wakefield's suggestion and that it could cause chaos, and that the full MMR jab was safe. The government then withdrew the single, lesser vaccines.
The underlying arguments got diverted into charges of conflict of interest because Wakefield received funds from backers including parents of autistic children and also took out a patent on an MMR vaccine.