More evidence Western vaccine paranoia is being exported to developing countries

Last month, I was lucky enough to get a chance to attend the Pacific Health Summit in Seattle. As I wrote at the time, it was an alternatingly inspiring and frustrating experience. One of the issues I wished had gotten more attention was the ways in which the misinformation campaigns that have influenced public perceptions about vaccines in places like the US and the UK play out in the developing world, where the primary issue regarding vaccine uptake is typically access as opposed to attitudes.

This morning, Art Caplan, the director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, a vocal advocate of vaccines, and a polio survivor, emailed me a link to a study in the journal Human Vaccines titled “Informed consent in vaccination in India: Medicolegal aspects.” Judging by the study’s summary, it seems to validate Caplan’s previously stated concerns about the potential impact of Western fears about vaccines on vaccination efforts elsewhere in the world:

Surprisingly, even when serious life threatening complications are not only reported but on a steady rise due to vaccines, informed consent in vaccination is neither in vogue nor practice. … This paper attempts to present an overall comment on the necessity of informed consent before any vaccination especially in the Indian context in the backdrop of the beginning of vaccine compensation claims and litigation against the complications of vaccination in India.

What’s most jarring to me is how easily the authors obfuscated the difference between “reported” complications and an actual “steady rise” in those complications. The Omnibus Autism Proceeding, in which more than 5,000 families claimed that vaccines had caused their children’s autism, provide a good example of why claims of causal connections are not the same thing as evidence of an actual link. Here’s a brief excerpt from one of the Omnibus rulings. (“Michelle” refers to Michelle Cedillo, a severely autistic girl whose case was one of three “test cases” for the theory that thimerosal-containing vaccines and the MMR vaccine had caused her autism. “Dr. Krigsman” is Arthur Krigsman, a former colleague and collaborator of Andrew Wakefield.)

Nor do I doubt that Michelle’s parents and relatives are sincere in their belief that the MMR vaccine played a role in causing Michelle’s devastating disorders. Certainly, the mere fact that Michelle’s autistic symptoms first became evident to her family during the months after her MMR vaccination might make them wonder about a possible causal connection. Further, the Cedillos have read about physicians who profess to believe in a causal connection between the MMR vaccine and both autism and chronic gastrointestinal problems. They have visited at least one physician, Dr. Krigsman, who has explicitly opined that Michelle’s own chronic gastrointestinal symptoms are MMR-caused. And they have even been told that a medical laboratory has positively identified the presence of the persisting vaccine-strain measles virus in Michelle’s body, years after her vaccination. After studying the extensive evidence in this case for many months, I am convinced that the reports and advice given to the Cedillos by Dr. Krigsman and some other physicians, advising the Cedillos that there is a causal connection between Michelle’s MMR vaccination and her chronic conditions, have been very wrong. Unfortunately, the Cedillos have been misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment.

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15 Responses to More evidence Western vaccine paranoia is being exported to developing countries

  1. Lydia Bush says:

    First, you picked one comment out of one of the 5,000 + cases?
    That is your proof? And the India thing warning about consent forms, which is all true. It’s always someone’s word against another’s. Until you see your child, or as in my case TWO children, change before your eyes almost immediately, and immediately after vaccination maybe you would start to think the benefits don’t outweigh the risks. It is just ignorant to dismiss the link to Autism anymore. And all of the people still perpetuating it are the criminals.

    • Chris says:

      Linda, how many of those 5000 cases actually got heard? Exactly how many test cases were ruled on? It is much less than 5000, here is a good reference the documents to all six cases.

    • Chris says:

      Sorry, for mixing up your name, Lydia. It is late at night.

      Though I do suggest you check out some of that testimony. The parents’ personal recollection in the Cedillo case might be very relevant to your own experience.

  2. Lydia, of those 5,000 cases, only six (IIRC) were heard in court.

    • Chris says:

      And all six lost, five of them appealed and they were dismissed. Of the 5000 cases almost 1000 have been dismissed, and several have exited the vaccine program.

      The Autism Omnibus Proceedings have now officially ended. The petitioners used their best cases, and none of them proved vaccines caused autism.

      It is now time to retire the “more than 5000 families” argument. It can go the way of “thimerosal in vaccines” argument which went null and void almost ten years ago when thimerosal-free versions of all required pediatric vaccines became available.

  3. Janis says:

    Fear will make people believe all sorts of things that aren’t true. I will bet that there was just as intense, just as emotionally committed, and just as absolutely convinced “before your eyes” testimony during the witch trials in Salem.

    People’s emotions run away with them, and they DO NOT THINK STRAIGHT when this happens. Period. If you care about children’s safety, then you don’t get hysterical and ignore the conclusions of science. Otherwise, you should be forced to explain why to every, single solitary parent who watched their kid “change before their eyes” due to devastating illnesses that have been proven without the shadow of a doubt to be caused by viruses eradicated by these vaccines.

    Scared people believe in all sorts of provably WRONG things. They can be forgiven or at least regarded with compassion, but they cannot be permitted to endanger people because of their hysteria. Raise a deafblind child and then tell me that the completely harmless and incredibly beneficial MMR vaccine is evil.

    Andrew Wakefield has a great deal to answer for.

  4. Gaythia says:

    I think that the situation in India needs a broader analysis that looks at vaccination development and use there in fuller complexity.

    India is a scientifically advanced country and a major developer of vaccines, but has not always won acceptance of these vaccines on the global market. For example, there was a recent controversy over whether or not to use India’s cheaper and more readily available vaccine for cholera in Haiti

    India has also dealt with ethical problems with clinical trials of vaccines by major multinational non profits and corporations :

    In the cases where serious anti-vaccine backlash has occurred, the cases have been based on local philosophies and concerns.

    Overall, I believe that success for India in conquering diseases such as polio will come by empowering their own local structures of advanced science and medicine and not by reacting as if major forces either pro or con should be or even could be imposed by the west.

  5. Twyla says:

    Regarding fear: Fear of communicable diseases is blinding some people to the very real problems with vaccines. This is not just an either/or — not just a choice between doing away with all vaccines or accepting our vaccine program exactly as is. It’s a matter of weighing risks and benefits, developing an understanding of risks and benefits based on accurate information rather than just CYA.

    It’s one thing to vaccinate against a few serious prevalent communicable diseases. It’s quite another to give 2 dozen vaccines by the age of two with very little understanding of adverse reactions — both immediate and cumulative.

    There’s absolutely no doubt that vaccines sometimes cause autism. We don’t really know how often this occurs, or exactly why, but sometimes it happens. To assume that thousands of parental reports are like the testimony at the Salem witch trials is simply blind prejudice.

    The recent autism omnibus cases went against the plaintiffs for many reasons, such as that the plaintiffs do not have discovery rights and that adequate science has not been done on how to identify vaccine reactions. But, other cases have been decided in favor of claimants with autism, such as:

    Bailey Banks

    Hannah Poling

    Elias Tembenis

    83 more cases

    Children with autism are much more likely to win their claims in vaccine court if they do not mention autism and instead file based on conditions such as encephalitis, encephalopathy, and seizures. There appears to be a great fear of opening the door to autism cases.

    This kind of problem needs to be addressed. The solution is not to hush it up. People are losing confidence in the vaccine program because of the failure to address the unintended adverse consequences of giving so many vaccines at such a young age. The problem is the problem. We are not living in a totalitarian dictatorship. We are living in a democracy with freedom of speech and supposedly freedom for genuine scientific and medical investigation and discoveries to take place, unhampered by prejudice and vested interests.

    • Chris says:

      here’s absolutely no doubt that vaccines sometimes cause autism.

      Your statement without any evidence means nothing. Legal decisions are not science. (especially if they are misinterpreted). The Pace paper was a survey that was taken, and was done by lawyers who failed to get an IRB approval. It is neither science, and it is telling that the lawyers forgot a very important ethical procedure.

      Again, if you have real scientific evidence that the vaccines cause more harm than the diseases, please present them. I will be gone until next Monday, but since you have failed to present any real evidence in months, I doubt you will have any by then.

      • Twyla says:

        I stand by what I wrote. My statement did include evidence. I do not have evidence that vaccines cause more harm than diseases, because unfortunately the harm caused by vaccines is not well tracked, evaluated, quantified. I do believe in the value of some vaccines. I just think that does not justify ignoring the down side of vaccines. The problems are real and need to be addressed.

        You wrote, “Legal decisions are not science.” That is true, yet in the absence of published peer reviewed studies of vaccine injured children we refer to other evidence. And the decisions I cited do contain discussion of medical evidence, such as Bailey Banks’ MRI.

        Do you have a problem with Seth discussing the Omnibus decisions in his article above? Is it o.k. to refer to decisions which go against the vaccine injured but not to those that award damages to the vaccine injured?

        Note to Seth Mnookin: Do you prefer to be called “Seth” or “Mr. Mnookin”? The first seems too casual, the second too formal.

    • Luna says:

      Twyla, I don’t think you understand: there are multiple academic studies trying to find all those “adverse reactions” which you claim are the result of “too many vaccines at too young an age.” You have been sucked into the emotionally appealing but factually-challenged claims that so many children have “demonstrable damage” of such a wide variety of kinds; having been sucked in by this narrative, I bet you will never find any evidence, ever, which will convince you otherwise. However, researchers who *must* follow the evidence — and more to the point, who actually understand the science at both a basic and a detailed level, which you do not, not if you are claiming the above cases as “autism”* — cannot find the plague of outcomes that are being claimed, and cannot even find the physiological link with the harm being claimed.

      The vaccine compensation court demands a lower standard of proof than any other venue — considerably lower than proper courts of law, and miles lower than standards of scientific evidence. They are set up this way because no legitimate doctor on the planet claims that there is “no such thing” as an adverse vaccine reaction, and one of the principles is to try to be compassionate towards parents who fear this has happened to their children — so all that needs to be established is that this is what could have happened to the child, by “50% and a feather” probability. It does not at all establish that this is what did happen to the child. And then when it comes to more exacting standards — like, for example, the Autism Omnibus court — even with the “best” evidence put forward for it, it fails miserably to establish vaccines as the cause.

      It wasn’t that The recent autism omnibus cases went against the plaintiffs for many reasons, such as that the plaintiffs do not have discovery rights and that adequate science has not been done on how to identify vaccine reactions. — it’s that the evidence presented was, some of it, based on fraud, other bits completely physiologically implausible, and none of it good. That link simply doesn’t exist.

      You’re not going to win the fight to “prove” that all this is linked to vaccines, not because of some vast conspiracy to hush it up, but simply because physical reality isn’t what you think it is.

      *Hannah Poling has a mitochondrial mutation which occurs at a frequency of about 1 person in 4,000,000,000. It didn’t cause autism, but did cause developmental disorder — which, ironically, would also have been triggered by having a fever from any of the serious childhood illnesses. You would have had to protect her from EVERYTHING which could have caused a fever and inflammation. Poor little B. Banks did indeed suffer from a known-possible serious adverse reaction to a vaccine, Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, but it didn’t cause autism, it caused PDD (“Pervasive Developmental Delay”) not PDD-NOS (“Pervasive Developmental Disorder — Not Otherwise Specified”). PDD-NOS is considered a type of autism, but it is a subset of PDD, and not all PDD is autism. As in: all PDD-NOS is PDD, not all PDD is PDD-NOS, in the same way that all horses are hoofed mammals, but not all hoofed mammals are horses. And PDD encompasses a great many types of brain damage that are not autism. Elias Tembenis, on the other hand, simply had a seizure disorder. And so forth and so on; the simple, sad, profound fact is, that tens of thousands of children around the world have serious and complex health problems which we cannot protect them from…and very few of them have a link to any vaccine, and no patterns exist when you look closely. And people who are trained in scientific methodology are able to spot the logical fallacies and sleight-of-hand that are used in the articles you link to, to show any case against the vaccines.

      • Twyla says:

        Hannah Poling’s disorder did not become evident until she received nine vaccines at once in five shots: DTaP, Hib, MMR, Varivax, IPV (for Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hib, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varivax, and Polio). To say that her condition “would also have been triggered by having a fever from any of the serious childhood illnesses” is completely speculative and unscientific. Do you have a time machine enabling you to visit alternative pasts and futures?

        Bailey Banks was diagnosed with autism by two doctors. His neurologist said that he would have diagnosed him with autism except that there was a known cause: “Bailey does not have autism because he has a reason for his deficits.” As if part of the definition of autism is having no known cause! Bailey is described as having speech delays, social interactive difficulties, limited to no imaginary pretend play, severe language delay, poor eye contact, and perseverating. These are the characteristics of autism. Another doctor said, “I think he falls into that autistic spectrum pervasive developmental disorder category, and that
        seems to be fairly consistent,” and noted that a majority of people “use these
        terms somewhat interchangeably”.

        Elias Tembenis was also diagnosed with autism.

        Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the NIH, said that “According to Healy, when she began researching autism and vaccines she found credible published, peer-reviewed scientific studies that support the idea of an association. That seemed to counter what many of her colleagues had been saying for years…”

    • Andrew says:

      Twyla – in what way are you being “hushed up”? You belong to a community that boasts of censoring all opinions but those of its owner, so it’s pretty funny for you to claim to be hushed up, at the very moment you are freely post your opinions on Seth’s blog.

      • The last time I tried to comment on AgeOfAutism, I was “hushed up.” When I paid to attend an anti-vaccine conference last May, I was ejected because the conference organizers disagree with the things I write.

      • Twyla says:

        Actually, I didn’t say that I’m being hushed up.