Author Archives: elizabethhart

Conflicts of interest and ‘the science of immunisation’

In November 2012 the Australian Academy of Science entered the vaccination fray with its publication “The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers

As the Australian Academy of Science has taken it upon itself to engage in this matter, it can expect to be held accountable.

For example, I have forwarded emails to Sir Gus Nossal, Chair of the Oversight Committee for “The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers”, enquiring if disclosure statements for members of The Science of Immunisation Working group, i.e. detailing any possible conflicts of interest, are publicly available on the Australian Academy of Science website. (January 2013.)

My emails to Sir Gus Nossal also include reference to discussion threads relevant to the topic of vaccination on the university and CSIRO funded The Conversation website.

On 5 March 2013, I forwarded another email to Professor Suzanne Cory, President of the Australian Academy of Science, again requesting disclosure statements for people associated with The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers.  

In response to my email to Professor Cory, Martin Callinan, Science Policy Manager of the Australian Academy of Science, contacted me to advise the Academy is now going to address this matter.

On 13 May 2013, I contacted Dr Callinan to check on progress.  Dr Callinan advised that a ‘Central Register of Interests’ is going to be established, but was unable to advise when the register would be accessible to the public.  Dr Callinan indicated that a media release is likely to be published when the Academy’s new Central Register of Interests is available.

Developments on this matter are awaited with interest.  It’s about time the public was privy to the potential conflicts of interest of academics working in the areas of vaccine development and vaccination policy.

For information, members of the Australian Academy of Science’s Science of Immunisation Working Group are:

  • Professor Ian Frazer (Co-Chair)
  • Professor Tony Basten (Co-Chair)
  • Professor Francis Carbone
  • Professor Patrick Holt
  • Dr Julie Leask
  • Professor Peter McIntyre
  • Professor Terry Nolan
  • Professor Judith Whitworth

Members of the Science of Immunisation Oversight Committee are:

  • Sir Gus Nossal (Chair)
  • Professor Ian Gust
  • Professor Fiona Stanley
  • Professor Robert Williamson

Is universal HPV vaccination justifiable?

hThe very questionable human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines are being pushed upon girls and boys around the world.

Are these young people and their parents being properly informed that the co-inventor of the technology enabling the HPV vaccines, Professor Ian Frazer, has acknowledged that the risk of cancer associated with the HPV virus is very low?

In an article on the university and CSIRO-funded The Conversation website, titled “Catch cancer? No thanks, I’d rather have a shot!”, Professor Frazer stated:

“Through sexual activity, most of us will get infected with the genital papillomaviruses that can cause cancer. Fortunately, most of us get rid of them between 12 months to five years later without even knowing we’ve had the infection. Even if the infection persists, only a few individuals accumulate enough genetic mistakes in the virus-infected cell for these to acquire the properties of cancer cells”.(1)

If only a few individuals accumulate enough genetic mistakes in the virus-infected cell for these to acquire the properties of cancer cells”, is it really justifiable to coerce mass populations of children to have HPV vaccination, particularly as the long-term consequences of the HPV vaccines are unknown?

The Australian National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) website notes: HPV infection is very common and in most people it clears up naturally in about 8-14 months…Genital HPV is so common that it could be considered a normal part of being a sexually active person.  Most people will have HPV at some time in their lives and never know it…”  The NCSP website highlights that: “It is important to remember that most women who have HPV clear the virus naturally and do not go on to develop cervical cancer.”(2)

It’s interesting to note that the Gardasil HPV vaccine was originally rejected by the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) in 2006.

An article by Matthew Stevens in The Australian at the time, reports the PBAC rejected Gardasil because it was “too expensive and, just maybe, not what it was cracked up to be anyway”.  Apparently, Tony Abbott, then the Australian Federal Health Minister “took to the airwaves, passing on PBAC’s concerns about the efficacy of Gardasil and even floating the bizarre idea that a misplaced confidence in the effectiveness of the vaccine might actually result in “an increase in cancer rates”.”(3)

According to Matthew Stevens very interesting report in The Australian, it took just 24 hours for the then Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, to “put an end to the nonsense”, delivering “sparkling prime ministerial endorsement to Gardasil along with a clear direction to Minister Abbott that the immunisation program should proceed. And pronto.”(3)

So is this how important decisions on vaccination practice are made?  On the whim of a Prime Minister in pre-electioneering mode?  John Howard’s wife had cervical cancer.(4)  Did this personal experience affect Howard’s decision?  Was this appropriate considering the complexity of the issue in regards to low risk of cancer, controversy re appropriate age for cervical cancer screening etc?

What sort of lobbying took place to overturn the PBAC’s original decision to reject Gardasil?

This decision to add HPV vaccination to the Australian vaccination program for both girls and boys is impacting on millions of children around the world.

Getting a vaccine on the national schedule must be the ‘golden goose’ for vaccine manufacturers as this assures a mass market for their vaccine product.  It also helps create a ‘domino’ effect as other countries follow suit and adopt the vaccine, creating a mass global market.

No wonder Ian Frazer was willing to forego royalties from developing countries(1) – how much profit will he reap from sales of the vaccine to governments in developed countries?

The case for universal HPV vaccination is unconvincing, and the motives for its promotion are suspect.  It’s time there was an investigation into the aggressive marketing of the HPV vaccine.

For more information, read my detailed letter forwarded to Chris Mitchell, Editor-in-Chief of The Australian newspaper, on this topic: “Is universal HPV vaccination necessary?

 References:

  1. “Catch cancer? No thanks, I’d rather have a shot!”. The Conversation, 10 July 2012: https://theconversation.com/catch-cancer-no-thanks-id-rather-have-a-shot-7568
  2. HPV (human papillomavirus) – Australian National Cervical Screening Program: http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/Content/hpv
  3. Howard rescues Gardasil from Abbott poison pill. The Australian, 11 November, 2006: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/opinion/howard-rescues-gardasil-from-abbott-poison-pill/story-e6frg9lx-1111112503504
  4. How the Rudds profited from Janette Howard’s cancer scare. Crikey, 22 February, 2007: http://www.crikey.com.au/2007/02/22/how-the-rudds-profited-from-janette-howards-cancer-scare/

“Tot given MMR jab without mum’s permission”

This recent report in the UK publication the Liverpool Echo describes how a nurse gave a four year old boy a measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) live vaccine, against his mother’s explicit wishes: “Liverpool NHS trust probe launched after tot given MMR jab without mum’s permission“.

It is unclear from the article if the boy had previously been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine. Children are likely to be immune after the first shot of this ‘live’ vaccine. For instance the ‘live’ measles vaccine appears to be one of the few vaccines likely to provide lifelong immunity, much like natural infection. I question arbitrary revaccination with this vaccine product, particularly as serological testing can indicate if a person is already immune.  Currently, parents are unlikely to be informed of this option.

Cautious parents may prefer the option of serological testing for their children, rather than arbitrary revaccination, and may be willing to pay to verify a response to vaccination, i.e. evidence-based medicine.  It appears unlikely from the Liverpool Echo article that the boy’s mother was given this option. 

In Australia, new vaccination guidelines state that children who were vaccinated with the MMR vaccine at 12 months will have to undergo revaccination with the MMR + V (varicella/chickenpox) at 18 months, despite the fact  they are likely to be already immune to measles, mumps and rubella.  I am following up on this matter, see my recent email to Professor Terry Nolan, Chair of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).

On the subject of ‘advisory groups on immunisation’, there is inadequate transparency regarding members of vaccination committees who dictate government vaccination schedules. These people are not subject to the scrutiny of the electorate, and yet they wield enormous power. Who exactly are the people on these committees? Do they have any relationships with vaccine manufacturers? Potential ‘conflict of interest’ information is not currently publicly declared in Australia.

It’s time to question the multitude of vaccine products being pressed upon children and adults. Vaccine industry-funded studies published in ‘peer-reviewed’ journals are used to push vaccine products, but just how reliable is this information? The term ‘peer-review’ has lost currency in this highly conflicted area.

We are being coerced into having repeated vaccinations with vaccines of questionable value, which provide so-called ‘immunity’ that ‘wanes’, e.g. whooping cough ‘boosters’ and annual flu vaccines. Is this what passes for the ‘science’ of immunisation? Children are also being lined up for the 3 shot experimental HPV vaccine, the long-term effects of which are unknown.

Doctors and nurses are over-stepping the mark in forcing people and children to have questionable vaccinations. What expertise do these people have in the areas of immunology and vaccinology beyond reading vaccine manufacturers’ vaccination instructions, and questionable government vaccination schedules?

We are now in the invidious situation where healthy people/children have to justify not having government ‘recommended’/mandated medical interventions of questionable value, in the shape of the ever-growing vaccination schedule. We are on a slippery slope and it’s about time people woke up to the ‘big picture’ on this and the potential dangerous infringement on our human rights.

When is somebody going to blow the whistle on the lucrative exploitation and over-vaccination of people that is currently being allowed to run unchecked?

In whose interests is this vast global vaccine market being developed? Where are the ethicists on this issue?

It’s about time the lawyers stepped up to protect people’s human rights and challenged government ‘recommended’/mandated vaccinations of questionable value.

For further background re the MMR ‘booster’ refer to “Is the MMR ‘booster’ necessary?“.

The reluctance to acknowledge adverse reactions to vaccination

Here’s a link to an article that illustrates the medical/scientific establishment’s reluctance to publish material that casts vaccination in a bad light: “Special Report: How vaccine scares cast shadows over science”.

Some quotes:  (Emphasis added.)

At a Finnish medical convention in January 2011, a colleague approached neurologist Markku Partinen, laid a hand on his shoulder and said: “Markku, it’s going to be a bad year for you.”

In the following months, other scientists ridiculed him, questioned his methods and motives, and raised doubts about his mental stability. Colleagues began crossing the street to avoid him, he says. 

Partinen, director of the Helsinki Sleep Clinic and Research Centre, had raised the alarm about a GlaxoSmithKline vaccine called Pandemrix. He had discovered the drug, used to protect people from H1N1 swine flu, may be linked to a jump in cases of narcolepsy, a rare sleep disorder, in children and young people. He knew his findings might help limit the risks of narcolepsy for other children around the world, but was fearful nonetheless. The work was bound to generate scientific suspicion and public anxiety. Indeed, he struggled to get his paper on the vaccine published.

His story underscores an increasingly tough challenge for scientists balancing compelling data with public concern over vaccines and their side effects. Treatments which stimulate immunity to disease are highly controversial. In the past couple of decades – especially after a British doctor made now-discredited claims linking the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism – the field has become even more charged. After the false alarm sounded by British doctor Andrew Wakefield, some scientists say they are more hesitant to credit reports of potential side effects from vaccines.

Partinen is keen to distance himself from Andrew Wakefield, calling Wakefield a “fake”.  It will be interesting to see how history views Andrew Wakefield, time will tell on that score…

The article provides another scientist’s perspective:

At a medical centre on the outskirts of Helsinki, another Finnish scientist agrees with Partinen’s results and is probing the mechanics of the Pandemrix-narcolepsy link, which she thinks may have to do with the vaccine’s super-charging effect on the immune system.

Outi Vaarala previously worked in research on autoimmune diseases and diabetes. Since crossing over into the field of vaccinology, she says she has found herself harangued in emails and phone calls by people on one side accusing her of undermining trust in vaccines, or on the other begging her to join an anti-vaccine crusade. 

“There’s not the kind of open discussion we used to have. You’re afraid you will lose your whole career if you say something bad,” says Vaarala. “When you’re dealing with vaccine it suddenly becomes like working in politics, or religion.”

Partinen tells of the problems he encountered in publishing his results:

Partinen attended another Helsinki medical conference last month, two years after he had been warned about difficult times ahead. But this time he was leading the first Nordic Symposium on Narcolepsy and its links to the H1N1 swine flu vaccine.

“When we found this, we wanted to publish our results and spread the news to the world because we knew Pandemrix was also being used in other countries,” he said. “But there were big problems.” 

Having double- and triple-checked his findings, Partinen approached the New England Journal of Medicine, one of the world’s most respected medical journals, and submitted his study for publication. He says the journal asked for several revisions to the paper, then finally declined to accept it.

“After that we sent it to The Lancet,” he said, stressing that this was the same journal which published the now discredited Wakefield paper.

While it is not unusual for such high-level medical journals to reject many papers, Partinen said he was shocked by the strength of The Lancet’s resistance to his.

“It was quite exceptional, they asked for revision and revision and revision,” Partinen said. “Then they said they’d made an editorial decision – that they couldn’t publish it because we didn’t know the (biological) mechanism (behind the link between narcolepsy and Pandemrix).”

Partinen argues that scientists don’t know the biological mechanisms behind a whole host of diseases – multiple sclerosis and diabetes to name just two – yet The Lancet is full of peer-reviewed papers about those.

Neither The Lancet nor the New England Medical Journal would comment on their editorial decisions.

By the time Partinen’s study was published – March 2012, in the open-access journal of the Public Library of Science, PLoS One – many more scientists had replicated his findings, the H1N1 flu pandemic that Pandemrix was designed to protect against had been declared over, and the vaccine’s use had been restricted.

For those with narcolepsy it was already too late.

“There is no doubt any more that there is a link,” Partinen said. “But it’s taken three years to get here.”

It’s alarming that the medical and scientific establishment, for example highly influential journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet, is reluctant to acknowledge safety problems with vaccines. 

The public is ill-served by this cover-up to protect the status quo.  

With so many vested interests in play, who can be relied upon to provide objective research into vaccine effectiveness and safety?

For more general discussion on flu vaccination see: Annual flu vaccination and the influenza industry

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Reference:

Special Report: How vaccine scares cast shadows over science. Thomson Reuters News & Insight. 21 March 2013: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/21/us-vaccines-narcolepsy-specialreport-idUSBRE92K06620130321

MMR + Varicella – required in Australia July 2013

An article published recently in the Australian online publication AdelaideNow: “Chief medical officer Paddy Phillips says it’s time to end debate on jabs” refers to “the release of two major studies…” on chickenpox and the 2009 outbreak of H1N1, and appears to be an advertorial for chickenpox and flu vaccination.

On the subject of chickenpox vaccination, the MMR + V (i.e. MMR plus varicella/chickenpox vaccines) is being rolled out in Australia and, according to the Australian Government’s “Definition of ‘fully immunised’ for the Family Tax Benefit Part A Supplement“, from July 2013 will be required at 18 months of age (after the first MMR vaccine at 12 months).

The paper re chickenpox/varicella referred to in the AdelaideNow article is “Changes in Patterns of Hospitalized Children with Varicella and of Associated Varicella“.  The paper has been published online by The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal (POST ACCEPTANCE, 17 December 2012)

The paper is not currently freely accessible on the journal website.  (UPDATE 23 March 2014: The final version of this paper is now freely accessible online: “Changes in Patterns of Hospitalized Children with Varicella and of Associated Varicella Genotypes After Introduction of Varicella Vaccine in Australia“)

The corresponding author is Helen Marshall, Vaccinology and Immunology Research Trials Unit, Discipline of Paediatrics, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, North Adelaide, South Australia.  The Disclosures statement on the paper notes:

“Helen Marshall has been a member of vaccine advisory boards for Wyeth and GlaxoSmithKine Biologicals and her institution has received funding for investigator led research from Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Pasteur, and has received travel support from Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals and CSL to present scientific data at international meetings.” 

Marshall’s paper refers to two varicella vaccines, Varilrix (GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals) and VARIVAX (Merck & Co).

There was no reference to the disclosure information in the AdelaideNow article…  (AdelaideNow is a News Limited publication.)

For more background on the MMR vaccine, in particular arbritrary revaccination with the second dose see Measles / Mumps / Rubella (MMR) ‘booster’.