Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Times: Scientists provide fresh hope for ME sufferers

Hannah Devlin Science Editor
Last updated at 12:01AM, April 23 2013
Scientists have found compelling new evidence for an underlying biological cause for the constant fatigue suffered by ME patients.
The study revealed abnormalities in the muscle cells people suffering from ME which are likely to contribute to feelings of tiredness and the inability to cope with sustained physical activity that many experience.
An analysis of muscle biopsies suggested that the cells had undergone substantial changes making them less able to cope with exertion.
The finding shows that whatever the initial trigger for ME, the condition leads to a cascade of physical changes right down to the cellular level.
Some patients still report facing stigma due to popular misconceptions that the condition is “all in the mind”, despite growing evidence that ME has real physical symptoms.
Julia Newton, Dean for Clinical Medicine at Newcastle University who led the study, said that the latest science was “changing people's perception of this terrible symptom”.
Professor Newton presented the findings at a meeting in London yesterday marking the launch of a collaboration aimed at generating more research into the disease.
In the study, scientists took muscle biopsies from 10 patients and ten healthy but sedentary volunteers.
The muscle cells were grown into small pieces of muscle and then subjected to “exercise” in the form of electrical impulses.
The cells from ME patients produced on average 20 times as much acid when exercised, suggesting an underlying cause for aching muscles that patients often experience as soon as they begin to exercise.
The cells also showed other abnormalities such as reproducing more slowly.
“We have found very real abnormalities” said Professor Newton.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Emmanuel's Land

Time for another favourite hymn -
The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of Heaven breaks;
The summer morn I've sighed for,
The fair, sweet morn, awakes:
Dark, dark hath been the midnight,
But day-spring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel's land.
O Christ, He is the fountain,
The deep, sweet well of love;
The streams on earth I've tasted,
More deep I'll drink above:
There, to an ocean fullness,
His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel's land.
With mercy and with judgment,
My web of time He wove;
And e’en the dews of sorrow
Were lustered with His love;
I'll bless the hand that guided,
I'll bless the heart that planned,
When throned where glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel's land.
The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear bridegroom's face;
I will not gaze at glory,
But on my King of grace,
I rest upon His merit,
I know no other stand:
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel's land.
I’ve wrestled on towards Heaven,
‘Gainst storm and wind and tide;
Now, like a weary traveller
Who leans upon his guide,
Amid the shades of evening,
While sinks life’s lingering sand,
I’ll hail the glory dawning
From Emmanuel’s land.
Anne Ross Cousin, 1824-1906

Monday, 15 April 2013

Ignore the finger-waggers. You SHOULD go to work on an egg!


PUBLISHED: 23:43, 11 April 2013   UPDATED: 07:35, 12 April 2013

Another week, another humiliating blow for the healthy eating lobby. Yet again, their advice on nutrition, delivered in those familiar authoritative, disapproving tones, has proved to be completely misleading.

For years, these self-styled experts have warned us against eating too many eggs. Despite the fact our ancestors happily consumed this natural food for centuries, not so long ago the finger-wagging professionals suddenly decided that they were public enemy number one.

Eggs promoted heart attacks, clogged arteries, caused high blood pressure and weight gain, they declared, adding that we should eat a maximum of no more than two or three a week.

Now, though, it turns out that their advice is not only false, but even counter-productive. Just as these experts have been shown to be wrong about the dangers of red meat, cheese, milk and butter, so they have been hopelessly wrong about eggs.

Contrary to their grim admonitions, this week, scientists have declared that eggs are, in fact, a health food, packed with nutrients and proteins. The more eggs we eat, the healthier we should feel.

This new research has comprehensively demolished the claims that eggs are bad for the heart and the circulatory system. Just the opposite is true. Scientists at the Jilin University in China have found that one of the key components of egg whites can be just as powerful as specialised medication in reducing blood pressure.

This component is a peptide — one of the building blocks of protein — which appears to have the ability to inhibit the action of substances in the body that raise blood pressure.

‘Our research suggests that there may be another reason to call it the incredible, edible egg,’ said Dr Zhipeng Yu, the scientist in charge of this project.

His findings back up a recent study from the University of Alberta in Canada, which revealed that proteins in eggs can prevent the narrowing of blood vessels in the body, while researchers at the University of Missouri discovered that eggs are the best way to control appetite.

The health promotion lobby has long maintained that eggs are dangerous because they contain cholesterol, and high levels of cholesterol in the blood are supposed to be damaging to the heart.

But this argument now seems as dodgy as the rest of the theories they have inflicted on us.

For cholesterol, far from being a threatening substance, is an enriching natural product, vital for the healthy functioning of our bodies. Cholesterol is essential for making hormones, building cell membranes and digesting fats; that is why it is found in large amounts in mothers’ breast milk.

If cholesterol was really bad for us, then why would nature have made it an integral part of our biological composition in the first place?

This question goes to the heart of what is so wrong with the health promotion brigade. The frankly unscientific campaign against eggs reflects the wider propaganda effort that constantly pumps out misleading information about what we should eat.

So we have been led to believe that we should cut down on meat and dairy produce at the same time as increasing our intake of carbohydrates. On the NHS’s ‘Eatwell Plate’ — a plate which shows the proportions of food groups we should have and is a key tool of the food lobbyists’ campaigning — by far the largest portion is given over to ‘bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods’.

Meanwhile, the portion on the Eatwell Plate given to ‘meat, fish, eggs and beans’ is less than half this size. Just as disturbingly, the Eatwell campaign also urges us to buy low-fat products, like skimmed milk, rather than more natural, full-fat ones.

Such advice could hardly be more wrong-headed. It is no wonder we are facing an obesity epidemic in this country. In their demonisation of meat and dairy products, along with their enthusiasm for carbohydrates and so-called ‘low-fat’ items, health campaigners are actually encouraging us to consume far more processed, unhealthy, high-sugar foods, with the disastrous consequences visible all around us.

Healthy eating is not complicated. The basic message is that natural foods, including free-range eggs, full-fat milk and organic meat, are good for us.

In contrast, foods that have been through the industrialised, high-tech, factory-farmed process have had all the goodness taken out, with their nourishing ingredients replaced by chemicals.

But, of course, this message not does suit big producers and retailers, who make their money from processing. Driven by this vested financial interest, they pretend that natural foods are full of dangerous timebombs, like heart-threatening fats and cholesterol, which they will defuse for us. So we end up in the absurd position where we are encouraged to eat more refined bread, which has few real health benefits, and to ditch eggs, which are perhaps the most nutritious of all foods.

Even more than meat, eggs are packed with the amino acids, minerals and high-quality proteins that are essential to our bodies’ continual process of regeneration. It is no exaggeration to say that every egg is an Aladdin’s cave of nutrients.

Indeed, except for Vitamin C, they contain every single vitamin that we need. They are especially useful as a source of Vitamin D, of which British people are often deficient because of the lack of sunshine in our climate.

Vitamin D can be consumed through oily fish such as herrings and sardines, but many people are not keen on such pungent dishes, so eggs are an attractive alternative.

Moreover, eggs also contain several vital antioxidants, which are essential for the prevention of disease, as well as the important nutrient choline, which helps with the development of the brain.

One of the many fallacies of the health promotion lobby is that the yolk is particularly unhealthy, a dogma that gave rise to the fashion for eating only egg whites.

The egg-white omelette, for instance, became a faddish statement of healthy eating in Hollywood circles. But it is just more nonsense. The yolk is the best part of the egg, not only delicious but full of all the right, health-giving ingredients.

In truth, there is no food that can match the egg in its nourishment, value and variety of uses. It is tremendously cheap. A box of half-a-dozen free-range eggs usually costs less than £2, much less than a sugar-packed, microwavable ready meal.

The purveyors of junk fast foods like to proclaim that they are providing convenience in our busy lives, but there has never been a better instant meal than a couple of eggs.

Indeed, the variety of dishes with eggs at their centre is almost infinite, from the sophistication of Eggs Benedict to that great Caledonian favourite of my homeland, the Scotch egg, which is a far healthier snack than any bag of crisps.

The only thing you need to worry about when buying your eggs is that they are free-range. Just as meat from organic and grass-fed livestock is far better than the produce of factory-farmed animals, so eggs from caged battery hens are nothing like free-range eggs.

If only the health lobby was not so blinded by dogma and commercial influences, they would recognise that eggs could be a vital weapon in the fight against obesity.

As I know from my own experience, an egg at breakfast wards off hunger pains right through until lunchtime, something that is never achieved by a couple of slices of toast or a bowl of muesli.

Any food agency that really cared about the nation’s health would be embracing egg consumption rather than frowning upon it. For, as we all knew before the arrival of the lobbyists and their commercial allies, we should all be going to work on an egg.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Jane Colby Presentation: Department for Education (DfE) Guidance On Sick Children

The 11th of January DfE statutory guidance to local authorities on educating children with health needs has taken account of the advice of the TYMES Trust (The Young ME Sufferers Trust) in many aspects.

Entitled “Ensuring a good education for children who cannot attend school because of health needs," the guidance clarifies what must be done by local authorities for children who cannot attend mainstream or special schools due to illness.

In order to help you understand the implications of the new DfE Guidance on Sick Children, we invited Jane Colby, Executive Director of the TYMES Trust, to be our guest speaker at a webinar. Jane reviewed the guidance, and shared her thoughts including potential solutions in implementing it. After her many years as a head teacher, and now at the helm of the TYMES Trust, she has worked tirelessly to get the right support for medically ill children. Her advice is invaluable.

She knows what works and what doesn’t.

You can watch a video of her presentation by clicking here.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Keep it from the parents: what the government doesn’t tell you about vaccinations

Government agencies are withholding worrying safety information about vaccinations, as secret minutes to key decision-making committee meetings reveal

Government health officials have for 30 years consistently misled parents about the dangers of the childhood vaccination programme by hiding or ignoring studies that show how vaccines like the measles–mumps–rubella (MMR) vaccine could cause permanent injury and even kill.

According to private minutes to meetings of the UK government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), members were made aware of a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism 10 years before Andrew Wakefield published the controversial paper that eventually resulted in his being struck off the medical register.

From 1983 up to just recently, the minutes—obtained under Freedom of Information legislation—suggest that important information about vaccine safety that would almost inevitably have affected the take-up rate needed to achieve ‘herd immunity’ was not revealed to the public.

The JCVI acts as an advisory service to the UK’s health minister, and many of its committee members over the years have had ties to the pharmaceutical companies making vaccinations (see below).

Spin, not science

In an analysis of the private minutes covering monthly meetings of the JCVI between 1983 and 2010—which still contained many redactions and omissions—medical researcher Dr Lucija Tomljenovic from the University of British Columbia, Canada, makes eight serious charges against the committee and the UK’s Department of Health.

Charge 1. Instead of re-examining vaccine policies when new safety concerns were raised, the JCVI took no action, or skewed or selectively removed worrying safety data from reports released to the public, or made extensive efforts to reassure the public about the ultimate safety of the vaccines.

As long ago as 1981, the JCVI had extensive information concerning serious adverse reactions to the MMR vaccine, including sudden death and encephalitis, from studies going back to 1970. The JCVI said the high numbers of deaths and injuries were “surprising”.

After receiving even more worrying data on adverse reactions, a “commercial in confidence” JCVI subcommittee in 1986 decided to put a positive spin on the safety of two measles vaccines by reporting that “results showed that 70 per cent of children were well after receiving Attenuvax and 61 per cent after receiving Rimevax . . . [and] if children with mild general reactions were added to those who were apparently well, then the numbers associated with Attenuvax were 85 per cent and those with Rimevax 80 per cent.”

Another way of interpreting the same data is that between 15 and 20 per cent of children given one of the vaccines would suffer a serious adverse reaction.

The subcommittee agreed to stop the study, and concluded that the vast majority of adverse reactions were probably nothing to do with the vaccines but were, in fact, “temper tantrums”.

The same subcommittee was also told of 90 serious adverse reactions to the DTP (diphtheria–tetanus–pertussis, or whooping cough) vaccine, including convulsions, abnormal fever and two cot deaths.

By 1988 the JCVI was becoming concerned by an association in the public’s mind between vaccines and death or brain damage. Legal claims began to be brought to the courts, and JCVI members were given secret documents concerning vaccine safety levels on the express understanding that they were never to be made public. One paper on the scientific evidence of harm caused by the DTP vaccine conflicted with the current legal opinion that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the vaccine caused permanent harm, the committee was told—in other words, there was sufficient evidence, but the government was sitting on it.

The following year the committee was given evidence from the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) that indicated a link between the mumps component (Urabe Am9 strain) of the MMR vaccine and meningitis and encephalitis, an association that would be drawn 10 years later by Andrew Wakefield in his controversial Lancet paper. The NIBSC suspicions were vindicated by 1990 when 10 definite cases of meningitis/encephalitis were established by analyzing cerebrospinal fluid taken from recently vaccinated children.

Despite these findings the JCVI agreed to not make any changes to the then current vaccination policy although, by 1991, reports on adverse reactions from other countries, such as Canada and Japan, were mounting, prompting the committee to seek the guidance of the vaccine manufacturers. The drug companies concurred that the UK government’s approach of “surveying adverse events” was the correct one. But by 1992, SmithKlineBeecham, as the company was then known, decided to stop manufacturing the Urabe MMR vaccine on the advice of lawyers, and the JCVI was told that, in light of that sudden decision, it needed to “act quickly”.

In secret meetings with their European counterparts in September of that year, UK health officials decided not to revoke SKB’s licence to produce the vaccine because it would have “caused a worldwide vaccine crisis”.

Despite these growing concerns, the JCVI set aside £800,000 for a publicity campaign and £1.4 million to help meet increased vaccine costs, education and the “reprogramming of children’s computers”.

Charge 2. Health officials reduced the number of contraindications—the circumstances in which a vaccine should not be given—just to increase vaccination take-up rates.

By 1980, public confidence in the whooping cough vaccine (the pertussis element of the triple DTP vaccine) had reached a low point, and only 40 per cent of eligible children were being vaccinated. A new subcommittee was then created by the JCVI to address the problem; it was tasked with relaxing the parameters of defining the ‘at-risk’ children. The subcommittee had been told that “the right balance had to be struck between the need to keep acceptance rates for vaccination as high as possible and the need to protect groups of children who had an increased risk of adverse reaction to vaccination” (the contraindicated vaccine recipients).

But the emphasis was on the reputation and safety profile of the vaccination and not the wellbeing of the vaccinated child. Respiratory disease was one contraindication that should be removed, some committee members mooted, while others pointed out that the contraindication “protected the reputation” of the vaccine. Respiratory disease was often associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and the vaccine could be dragged into the controversy if those children received the vaccine.

A similar argument was put forward to members who wanted epilepsy to be removed as a contraindication. Again the vaccine could be blamed if the child suffered convulsions or seizures. Yet even in healthy children, the vaccine was causing fits, and the child stopped developing. “It is very difficult to assess this as a random event,” the committee was told.

However, to fulfil its brief the subcommittee finally agreed that there should be “special consideration”, but not necessarily exemption, of children with cerebral damage from birth, with a history of convulsions, with a family history of epilepsy, with developmental delay or with neurological disease. The risk posed by the vaccine in the child with a familial history of epilepsy was “slight”, said the subcommittee, while developmental delays and neurological disease were stable conditions and so would not be worsened by the vaccine.

These statements, designed to reassure parents, had little or no basis in fact and were not supported by any evidence.

Although the subcommittee was keen to play down the risks of the DTP vaccine, it had been told of 95 adverse reactions, including one death, in children given the vaccine during the four months leading up to September 1986. The report concluded that “there is reason to believe that the increased relative risk of prolonged convulsions after DTP was a real one”.

Not only was it real, the risk was also high, the subcommittee was told after reviewing 12 cases of vaccine-induced encephalopathy, which included two deaths and five cases of long-term impairment.

Despite having these data, the subcommittee issued reassuring statements to parents that downplayed the risks—while also advising the vaccine manufacturers to alter their data sheets to include the risks and so avoid legal action later.

Charge 3. The JCVI worked closely with the vaccine manufacturers to amend the accompanying data sheets even though they often conflicted with its official advice to parents.

From 1987 onwards the JCVI worked closely with the pharmaceutical company Mérieux, which was making a booster MMR vaccine and a DTP vaccine, to encourage it to change the data sheets so that they were in line with forthcoming changes to the Department of Health’s own guidelines to doctors. Without that conformity, the JCVI was worried that the UK government would be leaving itself open to damages claims.

But the drug company felt it could not make the changes while litigation, brought by the parents of a child injured after being given the pertussis vaccine, was ongoing. Nonetheless, the JCVI had private meetings with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and solicitors for the Department of Health to see if some help could be given to Mérieux. The discussions were described as “commercial” and “in confidence”.

Presenting a united front became imperative after the JCVI received a report that year from the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM), which stated: “No scientifically unassailable link has been established between DTP immunisation and serious neurological illness, but we have come to the conclusion, on the basis of all present evidence, that there is a prima facie case that such a link may exist. We would also agree that the evidence suggests that the vaccine causes convulsions in some children.”

Despite its concerns, the CSM supported the JCVI’s view that the DTP vaccine was safe. According to Dr Tomljenovic, the JCVI made legal “discovery” of negative reports difficult and so evaded potential legal repercussions.

Charge 4. The JCVI persistently relied on dubious studies, and dismissed independent research, to promote vaccine policies.

To promote the MMR as a safe vaccine, the JCVI always welcomed studies that appeared to support that view while dismissing any that raised concerns. It greeted one population-based study, which could find no link between autism and MMR, as “persuasive” even though it is not the purpose of epidemiological studies such as this to look for causation.1 Indeed, four years later the prestigious Cochrane researchers looked at the same study and concluded that “the number and possible impact of biases in this study were so high that interpretation of the results is impossible”.

In the same Cochrane review, which looked at 31 studies of MMR and autism and Crohn’s disease, the researchers concluded that the studies were so poorly designed that they were “largely inadequate”.2

The JCVI reserved a similar critical eye only for those studies that suggested problems with the MMR. In 2002 its experts reviewed five critical studies, including one that found a direct link between the MMR and autism, and concluded there was “no evidence” of any causation (see below).

Charge 5. The JCVI persistently played down safety concerns while exaggerating vaccine benefits.

The number of legal claims over injury from the pertussis vaccine was reaching a crescendo by 1985, and the JCVI wanted to put a lid on rising public concerns. In one confidential paper issued in 1986, it said it “deprecated” the use of the term ‘brain damage’ when talking about the vaccine as “the public might consider [it] a permanent entity”.

The JCVI clearly didn’t want to find out if any damage was permanent as, in the same paper, it stated that it was “unreasonable to ask paediatricians to report for a period of six years”. This was a strange decision as one review, known as the Meade Panel Study, reported to the JCVI examples of children “who had a fit soon after vaccination which was followed by a fit at a later time and then followed by cessation of development”. The length of time that development stopped was not known.

The vaccine also triggered encephalopathy, a disease that damaged brain function, the JCVI was told in a confidential paper, and one-third of these cases resulted in a permanent handicap for at least a year following vaccination.

The JCVI was also told that the DTP vaccine could cause febrile convulsions lasting more than 10 minutes or repeating over a 24-hour period, and that 10 per cent of these could cause “permanent handicap”.

Despite these clear descriptions of permanent harm, the JCVI thought it best to keep the facts from the public. The minutes of one meeting recorded that “if the public was given a risk ratio—any ratio—they would see it as a scientifically proven risk. It was therefore preferable not to use insecure figures if possible but to stress the benefits from vaccination.”

Charge 6. The JCVI promoted new vaccines of questionable efficacy and safety into the routine vaccination schedule on the assumption that licenses would eventually be granted.

In May 1999 the JCVI met to discuss the introduction of new group C meningococcal vaccines designed to protect against septicaemia and meningitis. Three brands of the vaccine were likely to be adopted as part of the mass vaccination programme, and members were reminded that the issue was “extremely sensitive, commercially and politically”. Because of the sensitive commercial nature of the discussions, four of the committee members declared a conflict of interest as they had close ties to the drug companies manufacturing the vaccines, but rather than barring these members, the committee allowed them to stay as “they would be able to provide a valuable input”.

The Department of Health and the JCVI seemed determined to introduce the new vaccine as quickly as possible, although there was no evidence that it was effective. “To actually test the efficacy . . . it would be necessary to introduce the vaccine and then conduct a Phase III or Phase IV study to test efficacy; this would be very difficult to do and would delay introduction by three to five years,” the JCVI was told.

Moving on, the JCVI then had to decide on the age group that should be given the vaccine. One committee member said “there was very little to choose between the priority age groups” and suggested that infants were easier to target. It was agreed that all infants should receive the vaccine, even though nobody knew if it would work.

Within a year the first safety worries surfaced. Headache and muscle stiffness were common side-effects, although the symptoms were not the result of meningitis since, wrote the JCVI, “the vaccine could not cause this”. The committee also noted that “this information would not have been available without the cooperation of the manufacturers. This had given everyone much more confidence in the vaccine programme and was a unique cooperation.” The statement suggests this was the first time ever that the drug companies had shared adverse events information with the UK officials.

But confidence was beginning to wane by October 2000, when 14 deaths were linked to the vaccine, including seven SIDS cases and two because of meningitis. Again the JCVI moved to put a lid on public concerns. It felt the statement from the Medicines Control Agency that there was “no evidence that the vaccine caused meningitis” was too mild and instead proposed the statement that “the vaccine categorically did not cause meningitis”, although it had no evidence to support that claim.

In fact the JCVI was told there had been 17,000 adverse events reported by family doctors using the ‘yellow card’ system for reporting adverse reactions, which represented one adverse event per 2,000 doses of the new vaccine. Department of Health solicitors also told the JCVI that the yellow card system was not routinely used by doctors and so the true extent of adverse reactions was probably far higher than that reported.

Charge 7. The JCVI actively discouraged research into vaccine safety issues.

As early as 1985 the numbers of infants who had died immediately after vaccination were beginning to cause concern, and an expert from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was asked to review the data. In a letter to the JCVI, he thought that the government’s estimates of vaccine-related SIDS were about right—suggesting some causal link, albeit small—but “given the importance of the subject, a more thorough examination of the subject seems appropriate”.

But scientists from Nottingham University, who were sent the letter, strongly advised against further investigation. “There is no foolproof method of discrediting the hypothesis [that vaccines cause SIDS]”, they wrote, suggesting that they had already made their minds up, and they advised that nobody should look too closely at the issue.

This reluctance in the scientific community was highlighted by the European Medicines Agency’s Professor Luigi Matturri, who noted that full post-mortem examinations—including brain-stem analysis—were not carried out on five infants in Germany who had died within 24 hours of vaccination. This prompted a letter from two researchers who asked: “The main problem is that vaccine specialists have failed for decades to establish any tests or other criteria to find out if adverse events are linked to vaccinations or not. To our knowledge they did not even try hard—why?”3

Underpinning this reluctance are apparently two assumptions: that vaccines are inherently a ‘good thing’, so any suggestion that they could cause harm would reduce the numbers having them, thus impacting on the protective effects of ‘herd immunity’; and that vaccines are assumed to be safe. This is perhaps why no one has looked too hard for serious adverse effects; as America’s Food and Drug Administration has stated, “Historically, the safety assessment of preventive vaccines has often not included toxicity studies in animal models. This is because vaccines have not been viewed as inherently toxic”.4

Charge 8. The JCVI deliberately took advantage of parents’ trust in vaccinations to promote a scientifically unsupported immunization programme that could put certain children at risk of severe long-term neurological damage.

In October 2010 the JCVI decided to make fundamental changes to the UK’s immunization programme by introducing a six-in-one jab in one visit rather than spreading them out over a few months. At 12 months an infant would receive vaccinations for Haemophilus influenzae and meningitis C, measles, mumps and rubella, and pneumococcal infection, all in one day.

The Department of Health said this simplified policy would streamline the process, while “independent scientific research has shown that providing these vaccines at the same time is safe, effective and more convenient for parents”.

The statement isn’t true. The ‘independent’ research was in fact carried out by the Department of Health itself, while the safety of the vaccines was assessed at seven days after vaccination and then only for localized reactions such as swelling and tenderness immediately around the site of injection.

In 2009 the JCVI had started the ball rolling by concluding that there is “no scientific reason to keep the . . . vaccines separate”. Again, the statement is untrue. A year earlier the JCVI counterpart in the US, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), had recommended dropping a four-in-one jab, which combined the MMR with one for varicella (chickenpox), after it was found to double the risk of febrile seizures compared with the MMR vaccine on its own. In the same year the European Medicines Agency had recommended the withdrawal of a six-in-one (hexavalent) vaccine for safety reasons.

Ignoring these warnings from other countries, the Department of Health thought it was “unwise” to offer parents a choice between the current policy of spreading the vaccines over several months or giving their child the six-in-one. Instead, health professionals should reassure parents that the new strategy was “entirely safe” and that, partly in response to the Wakefield controversy, the “MMR is safe”. Yet, just months earlier the UK government had paid out damages of £90,000 to the parents of Robert Fletcher, who had suffered epilepsy and severe mental retardation following the “entirely safe” MMR jab.

The JCVI also seems to have a short-term memory. In 1974 it was advised that “[as] an interval in the administration of live vaccines [is] advocated in view of the probability of adverse reactions . . . the committee agreed that it would be inopportune to change the guidance that an interval of at least three weeks should be allowed to elapse between the administration of any two live vaccines.”

In spite of this, the health professionals had to downplay any risks. The best strategy, the Department of Health advised in a circular to clinics, was to hand out a sheet listing possible adverse reactions to parents “immediately before vaccination so that parents feel they have been given advance warning, but do not dwell on the content to the extent that they begin to worry”.

The path to hell
These recommendations were based on market research carried out by the Department of Health among parents to determine how best to implement the new six-in-one vaccine and how to gauge resistance to the MMR vaccine in particular. What came out of this ‘attitudinal’ research was the vast gap between the trust of parents and the cynical fast-and-loose approach of policy makers.

Typical comments from parents revealed an assumption that vaccines have been thoroughly tested and that policy makers have the best interests of their children at heart.

In a sense the latter statement is true: vaccine policy makers truly believe that vaccinations can save countless lives, although this protective effect can be achieved only through ‘herd immunity’, when around 95 per cent of the targeted population has been immunized.

It’s a belief that surpasses science and takes on more of a religious zeal so that any inconvenient truths—such as adverse reactions up to and including death—are discounted or disbelieved. They just don’t fit with the paradigm that vaccines are safe and effective.

Parents don’t want religious zeal or the preservation of paradigms. They want to know their children’s safety is paramount—and yet it isn’t. Vital safety information is being deliberately withheld, which makes the parents’ consent to have their children vaccinated not informed—raising the possibility that every vaccination is an illegal act.

1. Pediatrics, 2001; 108: e58
2. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2005; 4: CD004407; 2012; 2: CD004407
3. Vaccine, 2006; 24: 5781–2; author’s reply 5785–6
4. US DHHS, FDA, Office of Women’s Health. Workshop on: Non-clinical safety evaluation of preventive vaccines: Recent advances and regulatory considerations, volume 1. Washington, DC: Miller Reporting Co, 2002

Andrew Wakefield lost his job as a consultant at the Royal Free Hospital in London, and eventually his licence to practise medicine, after he suggested a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism. He was found guilty of fraud in preparing the 1998 paper in which he first postulated such an association.

The General Medical Council hearing that struck Wakefield off the medical register in 2010 had been told that no researchers were able to replicate his original findings of a possible connection between a gut disorder caused by the measles component of the MMR vaccine and autism.1

The JCVI jumped on this statement as further evidence of the safety of the vaccine—but, yet again, it wasn’t true. In 2002, researchers from Utah State University analyzed blood samples from 125 autistic children and compared them with blood taken from 92 healthy children. In 75 instances in the autism group, antibodies in the blood indicated an abnormal reaction to the vaccine. The antibodies attack the brain by targeting the building blocks of myelin, the insulating sheath that covers and protects nerve fibres. As a result, the nerves fail to develop properly and so possibly affect normal brain functioning. None of the non-autistic children had such antibodies in their blood samples.

Lead researcher Dr Vijendra Singh, an immunologist, said there was a relationship between the abnormal reaction to the vaccine, which happens in some children, and autism.2

1. Lancet, 1998; 351: 637–41
2. J Biomed Sci, 2002; 9: 359–64

Herd, but not seen
Vaccines protect the general population when 95 per cent or more of the targeted at-risk group is vaccinated, according to the concept of ‘herd immunity’. This one theory can explain the JCVI’s consistent blocking and denial of evidence of adverse reactions, as any ‘bad news’ like this could affect the take-up rate.

But does the theory hold up? According to the evidence, it doesn’t. After one outbreak of measles in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1985, researchers discovered that 99 per cent of the children affected had received the measles vaccination and at least 95 per cent were supposedly ‘immune’, according to their blood samples.1

Three years later, there was an outbreak of 84 measles cases at a college in Colorado, and yet 98 per cent of the students had been vaccinated and were still immune, according to blood-serum analyses.2

This was followed by a chickenpox outbreak at a school where 97 per cent of children had been vaccinated. Those who had been vaccinated more than five years previously were especially at risk, the researchers concluded.3

1. N Engl J Med, 1987; 316: 771–4
2. Am J Public Health, 1991; 81: 360–4
3. Pediatrics, 2004; 113: 455–9

Keeping up standards
As with anyone holding public office, the members of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are supposed to meet exacting standards. These are encapsulated in the ‘Seven Principles of Public Life’, set out by the Nolan committee, which include:
  • Selflessness. Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
  • Objectivity. In carrying out public business, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
  • Accountability. Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
  • Openness. Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands it.
After reading the secret minutes reported in this article, how many of these principles do you consider JCVI members have broken?

Turning to the JCVI’s own rules about personal financial interest, “if a member has in the last 12 months received, or plans to receive, a financial payment or other benefit from a business or representative body relating to vaccines or any other product or service, including carrying out consultancy or fee-paid work, the member must declare an interest . . . [I]f this interest is specific to an agenda item and the payment or other benefit is connected specifically with the product under consideration, the member will be required to absent him/herself from the discussion and any subsequent vote”.

Yet according to the minutes regarding the introduction of the group C meningococcal vaccine, members with a direct link to the manufacturers were allowed to stay as “they would be able to provide a valuable input”.

How many other times has this rule been broken?

Bryan Hubbard
WDDTY vol 23 no 12