Fake news, post truth, anti-vaccine

In 2016 use of the terms fake news and post truth became commonplace. Yet for those who address attacks on science, scientific consensus and the use of evidence in designing legislation, both concepts already had a long history.

Evidence based public health policy is attacked through the intentional disinformation of fake news and mocked via the subjective, emotional selective trickery of post truth. Alternatives to medicine rely upon bogus testimonials, false claims of scientific backing and pseudscience.

The anti-vaccine lobby want to be seen to be presenting a range of specific arguments against vaccination. Yet their main aim is to convince the unwary that vaccines cause harm and also kill on a huge scale. This in turn demands a feverish use of fake news and post truth. When their lack of fake evidence fails, post truth themes seeking to enrage an audience because governments “take away their right to choose” what’s best for their children’s health may quite sadly find their mark.

Presently we can see application of these concepts respectively with the promotion of the fraudumentary, Vaxxed and claims that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife profit from their investment in childhood vaccines.

Meryl Dorey

In March last year Meryl Dorey wrote (bold mine);

Australia has a long history of holding its elected representatives accountable when there is even a hint of corruption or profiteering – yet the current PM’s wife is Chairman of the Board of a company involved in vaccination and other pharmaceutical pursuits whose value has increased dramatically due – at least on the surface in my own opinion – to policies which her husband has helped push through Parliament. Did Mr Turnbull excuse himself during the debate on No Jab No Pay? Did he tell Parliament that he had a conflict of interest and excuse himself from the vote on this legislation? These are genuine questions – I don’t know the answer and my investigations so far have not been fruitful. Despite the apparent conflict of interest, not a word has been raised about this in the media or by the opposition.

Ah yes. “Not a word has been raised about this in the media or by the opposition”. Not so. Particularly with the number of media reports on the Turnbull’s investments.

Firstly had Dorey done her research well (or is that not employed the post truth tactic of cherry picking?), she’d know that six months earlier Lucy Turnbull was questioned about potential conflicts of interest for an article that was published in the media. Most importantly, quoting Mrs. Turnbull;

“I am currently in the process of assessing my role on company boards to ensure there are no conflicts of interest,” she says.

“We are seeking advice from various sources, and we hope to be in a position to decide in the next fortnight, whether I can keep doing what I am doing,” she says.

Just over a fortnight later the same paper wrote up Labor’s attacks on the Turnbull’s wealth. The byline was;

Labor’s attacks look like a shabby smear, but the bar is set very high for prime ministers and their partners.

Now in fairness to Meryl I should address why Bill Shorten didn’t challenge the PM for not excusing himself from the vote on No Jab No Pay, based on that conflict of interest. Firstly, Dorey did contend that “on the surface in my own opinion”, the value of Prima BioMed “increased dramatically due to policies which [Turnbull] helped push through Parliament”.

Okay, so it was a feelpinion. Worthless. But we can do better.

Two paragraphs earlier Dorey was ranting at Malcolm Turnbull, including;

Are you afraid that your wife’s profits at Prima BioMed (profits that jumped to AUD $5.5 million mere weeks after No Jab No Pay legislation was announced) might be affected if enough people start to question vaccination?

Above Dorey has linked to a May 21st, 2015 Financial Review piece headed, Patience Pays Off for Prima Chairwoman Lucy Turnbull. A small three paragraph piece, it finishes;

After a $15 million equity injection from US firm Ridgeback Capital last week at 1.73¢ a share, the stock has climbed from 2.2¢ to 16¢ after the bell on Thursday – jumping 190 per cent yesterday alone. And Turnbull’s stake? Now worth a tidy $5.5 million.

Clearly Dorey has fabricated the notion that the value of Prima BioMed increased due to the passing of No Jab No Pay.

Dorey can claim any rubbish she likes to try to sell the line Turnbull is shaping legislation to boost the share value of Prima BioMed. But the $15 million from Ridgeback Capital didn’t go to a company that manufacturers childhood vaccines. Yes Lucy Turnbull is Chair of the board of Prima BioMed, a biotechnology company working on cancer immunotherapy. Dorey really stretches the facts to contend it is accurately described as, a company involved in vaccination and other pharmaceutical pursuits. The company presently focuses on three main products targetting autoimmune disease and cancer which you may read about here.

The most notable link to vaccination is the development of CVac, the commercialisation of which was one reason for the formation of Prima BioMed in 2001. CVac, targetting ovarian cancer, ultimately trialled unsuccessfully. A potential trial for pancreatic cancer was cancelled in Febuary 2015. Read up on CVac here and Lucy Turnbull’s personal financial loss here.

More on the Turnbull’s investments here. Remember it’s now 18 months since Lucy Turnbull told Fairfax she was, “assessing my role on company boards to ensure there are no conflicts of interest”. Her full history of board, Foundation and senior committee positions indicates a person devoted to the success of not for profit, charity and with a love of science and medical innovation.

There is simply no substance to the claim by Dorey and others of a conflict of interest based on profits from childhood vaccines.

Belgin Sila Colak/Arslan

Last October when Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy was targetted by antivaccinationists the public got a glimpse of the name behind the Facebook group Anti-Vaccination Australia. Belgin Colak, aka Belgin Sila Colak, aka Belgin Sila Arslan.

Earlier this Month (March 6th) she posted this on her public timeline.

A “Yale study” eh, I thought. I followed the link and ended up at a “trueactivist” Feb. 17 piece. Under that deceptive headline the authors ran through a number of bogus, disproved claims about vaccines based at best on temporal correlation. A number of comments were scathing as to the misleading intent of the article. Now have a good read of Belgin’s claims above. “Multiple studies and other countries” report vaccine induced disorders. And these “very brave and unabashed scientists [who] have been able to show a correlation of what many have known for quite some time”? Where are they?

Had Belgin read the comments she’d have picked up on the objections to the alternative facts the authors had used. The worst was;

As with most research studies, the researchers stop short of claiming the vaccinations cause the all too common brain disorders.

In other words there really was no study from Yale suggesting autism and multiple brain disorders were linked to vaccines. Belgin’s love of fake news was on display here, for there was in fact an accessible link to the actual study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry. The title was Temporal Association of Certain Neuropsychiatric Disorders Following Vaccination of Children and Adolescents: A Pilot Case–Control Study. The institutes involved were, 1) Department of Public Health Sciences, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, USA and 2) Yale Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.

What conclusion did these “very brave and unabashed scientists” offer? Bold mine;

Conclusion: This pilot epidemiologic analysis implies that the onset of some neuropsychiatric disorders may be temporally related to prior vaccinations in a subset of individuals. These findings warrant further investigation, but do not prove a causal role of antecedent infections or vaccinations in the pathoetiology of these conditions. Given the modest magnitude of these findings in contrast to the clear public health benefits of the timely administration of vaccines in preventing mortality and morbidity in childhood infectious diseases, we encourage families to maintain vaccination schedules according to CDC guidelines.

This is so clear we should thank Belgin. This study offers what antivaccinationists often demand. It’s saying there may be correlation in a small group but not causation. Vaccines work. Keep on vaccinating. The end.

A week ago I noticed Belgin post what can only be described as simply reprehensible exploitation of Saba Button.

The health department knew this vaccine had been reported several times, yet they still administered this vaccine on (sic) children regardless of numerous ER reports. You’re told a fever, seizures and crying is normal. Some never wake up, some end up with autism, and some are permanently disabled. Every vaccine causes damage! They’re still out there murdering babies, destroying lives, pushing more vaccines on children and now on expectant mothers. Every parent should be aware of this and have a choice!

Alternative facts and post truth galore. I addressed this case back in November 2011, because of similar exploitation at that time by Meryl Dorey. There are no excuses or denials to be made. Fluvax was not suitable for under 5 year olds. There were problems with both CSL, who incorrectly advised the TGA and the W.A. Health Department. Meryl Dorey was variously, fallaciously claiming hundreds of cases and hundreds of admissions. The ABC reported “hundreds of reactions” on April 18th, 2010 with 47 taken to hospital reported on April 23. The West Australian on the same day reported 23 admissions. This led to the suspension nationwide by Commonwealth chief health officer Professor Jim Bishop.

Why was it even used? During a 2006 Fluvax trial with a sample of 272, 1 child had a febrile convulsion. The TGA argue that one adverse event in a clinical trial is “not usually regarded as an adequate signal of a major safety problem”. In 2010 the febrile seizure rate caused by Fluvax was 3.3 per 1,000. This is remarkably similar to the rate in the 2006 trial. Yet TGA national manager, Dr Rohan Hammett told a Senate estimates committee hearing that the 2006 data showed “no sign of a febrile convulsion signal”. More so CSL may have advised the TGA of fever (not seizure) rates from 2005 – far less than 2006 fever rates. It is a convoluted, detailed issue. Do read this post. Fortunately Saba was compensated.

Belgin Sila Arslan claims there were or are fatalities and cases of autism. False. Every vaccine causes damage! False. Babies are being “murdered”. Repulsive. A visit to The Saba Rose Button Foundation presents a very different view.

The SABA ROSE BUTTON FOUNDATION is a not-for-profit charity focussed on raising funds to help children who have special needs and their families. The funds raised will pay for these special children to participate in ‘intensive blocks’ of physiotherapy, for specialised equipment that is needed, for parental respite and for care in the home.

Vaccine Injuries

I stated above that antivaccinationists ultimately seek to convince the unwary that vaccines harm and kill on a significant scale. Both references here to Belgin confirm this. Dorey also insists vaccines injure and kill – but never has the subjects or the evidence to confirm this. On her blog she lies smoothly, as here;

Many of you know of children who were injured or killed by vaccines. I personally know the families of at least 10 children who died as a result of vaccination and dozens (this is within my family and my close friends) who are permanently injured.

Other material above shows Dorey beating the conspiracy drum: profit from evil vaccines. Fortunately for me she raised the passing of No Jab No Pay legislation. Professor Julie Leask is not a fan of No Jab No Pay. This may well delight the anti-vaccination lobby. During the Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab No Pay) Bill hearing in Brisbane on November 2nd, 2015, Professor Leask answered questions on vaccine injury. Her submission to the inquiry was firmly against No Jab No Pay. Thus with some hope one may view her information on vaccine injuries as something antivaccinationists might entertain.

Put simply there are between zero and less than five injuries that would require compensation each year, according to Leask citing a vaccinologist.

The audio and text below is from page 41 of the hearing.

If you listened to the audio you heard the anti-vaxxers in attendance groan in denial at the “zero to less than five” serious vaccine injuries per year figure. But this didn’t stop Meryl Dorey publishing Julie Leask’s anti-No Jab No Pay submission to the Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill on her blog. Splendid post truth cherry picking right there.

To conclude we can expect to see anti-science groups gradually develop skills in the use of fake news/evidence and post truth. Recent stories in Australia involving measles cases in the unvaccinated and a case of tetanus are concerning. Cases of vaccine preventable disease are likely to become more and more common. As the unvaccinated spread their wings management of imported disease will demand more resources and frustrate health authorities.

Politically, science has lost a certain respect and may be under threat as rabid post truth movements such as Trumpism take root. Yet the harm such thinking and ideologies cause, and the cost inflicted financially and socially is easily seen and eagerly discussed. Exploitation has its limits.

And that is always a positive.

UPDATE: What does a health minister and an anti-vaxxer have in common?

Pod On The Hill podcast (by Victorian Labor). Episode 6, March 30th 2017.    

  • Outtake of discussion of anti-vaxxers – 3min 27sec – Download mp3
  • Or listen to outtake below:

———————————

Full episode on Soundcloud. Forward to 23 minute mark for beginning of anti-vaxxer discussion.

Del Bigtree misleads his audience over safety of influenza vaccinations

An excellent video published by More Truth © provides a firm evidence based rebuttal to the blatant lies being peddled by Del Bigtree in his promotion of fraudulent anti-vaccine film Vaxxed.

A quick summary of main points raised in this production follows beneath the video.

Lies of Vaxxed: Episode 1 “The Flu Shot”

—————————–

  • The first lie from Del Bigtree is that “mercury” is still in influenza vaccines. “So let’s not kid ourselves”.

Actually the silvery metallic liquid that appears alongside huge needles in images antivaccinationists use to mislead, is elemental mercury. This has never been used in vaccines. The preservative thimerosal is used in multi-dose vials of influenza vaccine only. It is vital multi-dose containers are protected from bacterial infection and thimerosal ensures this.

Once in the body this compound breaks down into 49% ethylmercury which is expelled within approximately one week. A large number of studies confirm its safety for use in childhood vaccines. The mercury in seafood that we consume – methylmercury – is bio-accumulative and a recognised neurotoxin. This is why guidelines exist to ensure safe levels of methylmercury are consumed via seafood.

Of course the anti-vaccine lobby lie just as Bigtree does. Some even counter, bizarrely, that they do not inject fish. Or that ethylmercury is still a form of mercury and crosses the blood brain barrier. Firstly it does not enter the brain. Secondly if one is going to argue ethylmercury is “still mercury” they should apply that flawed logic to table salt; sodium chloride. In that light table salt is “still a form of chlorine”, which is inaccurate.

Thimerosal isn’t used in single shot vials. Finally, to be sure, one can simply ask for an influenza vaccine without thimerosal. There’s more information available here, and also here. So let’s no kid ourselves.

  • Next Del misleads his audience by claiming the influenza vaccine is being given to pregnant women, “and if you read the vaccine insert it’s never been tested on pregnant women”.

There are numerous studies confirming the safety of the influenza vaccine for both mother and fetus. As is clear in the above video this is true for “VAERS reports of pregnant women after the administration of TIV or LAIV”. TIV: Trivalent influenza vaccine. LAIV: Live attenuated influenza vaccine. Also there are significant problems in assuming the content of package inserts is equal to the conclusions of clinical research. Only the latter can be considered evidence.

  • Del continues with, “We now know women are probably miscarrying because of these vaccines, so that’s really horrific”.

Quoting from the video, “There are no studies that show the influenza vaccine can cause miscarriages or stillbirths. An independent study has actually shown that the flu shot can decrease the risk of a miscarriage or stillbirth”. A screenshot [3min 20] from the New England Journal of Medicine, Jan. 24 2013 follows showing an abstract summary of Risk of Fetal Death After Pandemic Influenza Virus Infection of Vaccination. Conclusion as follows:

vaxxed_lies

There are a number of benefits for newborns associated with administering influenza vaccines to pregnant women. Between 2004-2012, 43% of children who died from influenza were healthy with no underlying conditions.

I recommend watching the video which includes evidence of a large number of studies that firmly refute the claims made by Bigtree.

Anti-vaccine Zika virus conspiracy fails to surprise

It was an event so impossible to predict it is absent from the highly respected Before It’s NewsWhat Did Nostradamus Predict For 2016? Or the Top 10 Nostradamus Predictions for 2016. Yet anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists reckon neonatal microcephaly associated with maternal infection with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, is actually due to… a vaccine.

It’s not spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito they warn. This truth of course, is being suppressed by a conspiracy.

A few days ago I wondered what potions, cures or other nonsense homeopaths might be selling to save the world from Zika. As it turned out I happened upon an article entitled Zika Virus. Are we being told the truth? The hosting blog, Homeopathy Safe Medicine is concocted by Steve Scrutton. Steve is also upset that the BBC aren’t playing ball with the CDC whistleblower fallacy that there is indeed a link between MMR and autism (also suppressed by a conspiracy)  – “particularly with black children”, and is happy enough to publish a final email exchange.

A little more searching would save Steve ample time on this point. For example Orac at Respecful Insolence, Rene’ Najera at Science Based Medicine and an even earlier article at SBM yield facts.

Or of course one may visit Snopes.

CDC_whistleblower_snopesSo Steve’s a conspiracy theorist. Anyway, to get back on track, you may have already guessed Steve’s answer to that title question above on Zika virus. From there we’re introduced to a fine upstanding crock of a site named The Unhived Mind III.

Here Steve alerts us to the delicate title Brazilians not buying Zika excuse for babies with shrunken brains. Charming, no? The author of this article, Jim Stone, applies the Judy Wilyman theme of logic. Namely that morbidity and mortality are not high enough for all this fuss. Jim quotes the BBC:

Zika is generally mild and only causes symptoms in one in five people. It is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads dengue and chikungunya.

And adds himself:

My comment: Ok so a do nothing virus is going around that only makes one in five people get mildly sick, with no symptoms in 4 out of 5 people.

Had he continued quoting the BBC we’d have read more on this “do nothing virus”:

Brazil is experiencing the largest known outbreak of Zika.

President Dilma Rousseff, visiting Recife in the worst-affected north-east of the country, said Brazilians needed to engage in the fight against the virus. […]

Forty-nine babies with suspected microcephaly have died, Brazil’s health ministry says. In five of these cases an infection with Zika virus was found.

Jim Stone has his own tortuous conspiracy ramble site including an utterly ridiculous piece on the Zika virus. Jim advises his poor readers:

The claim is that a mosquito naturally carried this disease across almost all of South and Central America in only six months. This defies all logic because mosquitoes have a life cycle that is too long for immediate propagation and won’t fly more than a mile from where they hatch, which would limit the movement of a totally new disease to a mile or so a month, not 30 miles a day.

Jim gets pretty worked up about reports on the Wikipedia Zika virus page suggesting the carrier can “just rip across continents to all corners in months, faster than a bush tribesman could travel. It really is that way, Wikipedia said so!”. Well, no not really. What Wikipedia did note but Jim didn’t is:

The global distribution of the most cited carrier of Zika virus, A. aegypti, is expanding due to global trade and travel. A. aegypti distribution is now the most extensive ever recorded – across all continents including North America and even the European periphery. […]

Jim has also conveniently ignored the impact of human travel. Like many who seem happy to blame the Tdap vaccine, Jim is worried that the association between microcephaly and Zika virus has not been made before. It was initially identified in rhesus monkeys in 1947 then in humans in 1952, in Uganda.

Conspiracy theorists fail to grasp that the first documented outbreak of Zika virus in a human population was in 2007 and 2013 in the Pacific (Yap and French Polynesia, respectively), and later in the Americas in 2015 (Brazil and Colombia) and Africa (Cape Verde) [WHO Zika Fact Sheet]. ( Edit: The possibility of sexual transmission {2} is being investigated ). It is believed to have arrived in Brazil in 2014, and spread slowly. The outbreak in Columbia was reported by the WHO on October 21, 2015.

These relatively recent initial outbreaks are exactly why little is known about complications associated with the disease. Experts, including the WHO are not yet certain a causal link has been established between microcephaly and Zika virus. However health officials are operating under the assumption there is one.

Should this be the case it appears that infants born to mothers who had the virus during the first trimester are at an increased risk of microcephaly. The failure of the Tdap conspiracy theorists is partially evident in their inability to produce any data beyond a crude correlation. The Tdap vaccine is being offered in the third trimester (28 to 32 weeks). In the US and UK when there is a suspicion of foetal microcephaly where pregnant women have returned from Latin America, ultrasound screening will be offered from 20 weeks every 2 to 4 weeks.

Thus foetal microcephaly due to maternal infection with Zika could be evident 2 – 3 months before the vaccine is even offered. Essentially the conspiracy coincidence is vanishingly small and demonstrably false.

It would thus seem there is an opportunity to identify the time of malformation or the absence of genetic material of the Zika virus in placental tissue, to advance the case of the conspiracy theorists. Their case could do with real hard evidence as opposed to yet another vaccine timing coincidence.

The Internet is of course teeming with rubbish sites pushing the lie of vaccine induced birth defects. The Zika virus gives them something to exhaust the correlation gambit on. A nice twist that appears on No Vaccines Australia evokes The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The release of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by a British biotech’ company they fund, named Oxitec has come under scrutiny. However a critical 2010 Science article suggests the Foundation had not funded a 2009 project that saw release of the mosquito on the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman. In a very recent article on the Zika virus the authors give the same GM project the thumbs up.

They write under There must be a better way to control mosquitoes?

Not yet but they’re in the works. A British biotech called Oxitec—which was recently purchased by Intrexon, a U.S. synthetic biology company—has developed A. aegypti mosquitoes containing a gene construct that will kill their offspring before they reach adulthood. When massive numbers of male individuals of this strain are released in the wild, they will mate with local females, producing offspring that are not viable, which has been shown to make a dent in the population.

For now I can offer the below press releases.

To wind up we can turn back to Steve the homeopath to realise that like Nostradamus he’s had a bash at predicting the future.

He writes:

If there is any truth in this, conventional medicine will have to act quickly and effectively.

  • They will have to denounce this as a ‘conspiracy’ theory.
  • They will have to convince us that it is mosquitoes, and not Big Pharma, who have caused this microcephaly.
  • They will have to move quickly to defend mandatory vaccination, especially the vaccination of pregnant women.
  • They will have to convince us that the TDAP vaccine is different to the DPT vaccine that they have been giving our children for decades.

And perhaps most difficult of all, the pharmaceutical industry, and conventional medical doctors, will have to convince us that this time they are telling the truth about this matter!

In fact if there were a conspiracy under way the amount of work needed to pull it off would simply dwarf Steve’s list. More so all evidence suggests it is impossible to convince such minds of the truth – regardless of evidence.

Regrettably this is just another opportunistic and disturbing effort by predictable conspiracy theorists.

——————————————–

———–

SIDS: Not caused by vaccination or ‘mattress toxin’

From a typical anti-vaccine site pushing vaccine injuries:

SIDS_and_pertussis

These figures do not confirm causality. See explanation below ♣

One claim the anti-vaccine lobby use in their attack against the efficacy of the pertussis vaccine is the high uptake rate. The logic being that with high uptake and proper vaccine efficacy, pertussis should be better controlled than it is. In fact completely controlled. Thus the pertussis vaccine is a failure.

Whilst the vaccine may not provide impervious protection, infection of those vaccinated is much less common and markedly less severe.

And those not vaccinated against pertussis? According to Immunise Australia:

In a household where someone has whooping cough, an estimated 80-90% of the unimmunised contacts of that person will acquire the disease.

These realities won’t shift committed antivaccinationists. They will be convinced by the terribly misleading claim above, using unrelated figures on SIDS and pertussis vaccination. I find it astonishing anyone could be swayed by it. Yet for readers unskilled in finding reputable information or not prone to checking alarming claims it has an intuitive ring of causality.

♣ Infants receive vaccine doses at two, four and six months of age. 90% of SIDS cases occur in the first six months of life, and most of these in the first three months. The risk decreases consistently. After twelve months babies are by definition not infants and the risk of Sudden Unexplained Death is significantly reduced.

So the claim above merely sounds plausible because infants are most at risk of SIDS up to six months. Over this time they have three pertussis vaccines. The vast majority of children in developed nations will follow the pertussis vaccination schedule.

SIDS and Kids is an Australian organisation that supports educating the public about the “significantly” reduced risk of SIDS that accompanies immunisation. They have also noted that when the age of first immunisation was lowered by four weeks there was no lowering of the average age of SIDS.

SIDS and kids

SIDS_ImmunisationsDownload the full SIDS and Kids PDF Information Statement – Immunisation

German research published in Vaccine in 2007 indicates that immunisation notably reduces the risk of SIDS. Vennemann et al concluded in Do immunisations reduce the risk of SIDS? A meta-analysis (bold mine):

Immunisations are associated with a halving of the risk of SIDS. There are biological reasons why this association may be causal, but other factors, such as the healthy vaccine effect, may be important. Immunisations should be part of the SIDS prevention campaigns.

A constant assertion from the anti-vaccine lobby is that of “too many, too soon”, contending that modern vaccine schedules overwhelm infants and children in a manner yet to be uncovered. An earlier study by Vennemann et al, Sudden infant death syndrome: No increased risk after immunisation found no evidence for this but rather the opposite.

  • Results:

SIDS cases were immunised less frequently and later than controls. Furthermore there was no increased risk of SIDS in the 14 days following immunisation. There was no evidence to suggest the recently introduced hexavalent vaccines were associated with an increased risk of SIDS.

  • Conclusion:

This study provides further support that immunisations may reduce the risk of SIDS.

A number of studies have been conducted in Australasia, North America and Europe. All confirm that immunisation is not causally linked to SIDS. Thus early immunisation is coincidental to the age at which SIDS is most likely. In fact the reverse is true with respect to causality. SIDS cases are less likely to be immunised or fully immunised. Unlike most “vaccine injuries” this favourite fear tactic of antivaccinationists does have an origin in a published report.

The CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 1979; 28: 131-132 noted in DTP vaccination and sudden infant deaths – Tennessee that four babies had died within 24 hours of being immunised. The following Weekly Report clarifies (pp. 134-135) under Follow-up on DTP vaccination and sudden infant deaths – Tennessee:

Further examination of the vaccination histories of infants who died suddenly has revealed no additional instances of vaccination within 24 hours before death.
Thus, 4 deaths have been found that occurred within 24 hours after receipt of vaccine from Lot No. 64201, compared with no deaths within 24 hours after DTP vaccination in the earlier 8-month period in Tennessee.
In 1991 The Institute of Medicine published a thorough examination of this matter. Item 5 of Adverse Effects of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines: A Report of the Committee to Review the Adverse Consequences of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines, is Evidence Concerning Pertussis Vaccines and Deaths Classified as SIDS. The article reviews the initial CDC Weekly Report along with 38 other reports and research papers spanning the 12 year interval. The summary includes:
All controlled studies that have compared immunized versus nonimmunized children (Table 5-1) have found either no association (Bouvier-Colle et al., 1989; Pollock et al., 1984; Taylor and Emery, 1982) or a decreased risk (Hoffman et al., 1987; Walker et al., 1987) of SIDS among immunized children.
[…]
One small controlled study of infants with unexplained apnea, who may be at increased risk for SIDS, demonstrated improvement in ventilatory patterns following DPT immunization (Keens et al., 1985).
  • Conclusion

The evidence does not indicate a causal relation between DPT vaccine and SIDS. Studies showing a temporal relation between these events are consistent with the expected occurrence of SIDS over the age range in which DPT immunization typically occurs.

It’s important to note that at this stage no research demonstrating a reduction in SIDS due to immunisation had been published. Consequently the authors do not mention this effect.

In 1995 E.A. Mitchell et al examined the association between immunisation and SIDS. They observed there is no increased risk of SIDS following the Hepatitis B immunisation or the 6 week DTP immunisation. They also noted early studies suggesting an increased risk of SIDS with immunisation had no control data. Two studies with controls that suggested such a temporal link demonstrated methodological bias.

Mitchell et al concluded:

Immunisation does not increase the risk of SIDS and may even lower the risk.

Jacqueline Muller-Nordhorn et el published Association between SIDS and DTP immunisation: an ecological study [10.1186/s12887-015-0318-7]. The aim was to analyse this association over time. The body of the paper’s Discussion included;

  • SIDS mortality rates have been inversely associated with DTP immunisation coverage in the United States over recent decades
  • The most notable decreases in SIDS rates occurred from 1991 onwards, coinciding with increases in DTP immunisation
  • In 2011, the Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome included immunisation as one of the recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS [Citation]
  • However, recommendations to the public and the ‘grey literaure’ often do not include immunisation in the prevention of SIDS. Prevailing safety concerns with regard to immunisation may have played a role in this hesistance for many years
  • DTP immunisation may protect against SIDS by preventing infection with Bordetella (B.) pertussis. SIDS might thus be undiagnosed pertussis
  • In approximately 50–80% of SIDS cases, signs of upper and lower respiratory tract infection, characterised by a mild cellular infiltrate, have been found
  • Furthermore, similar to DTP immunisation, OPV immunisation was associated with a reduced risk of SIDS. Case–control studies have associated a similar reduction in SIDS risk with DTP and OPV immunisation, whereas less evidence is available regarding Hib immunisation
  • In addition to the pertussis component, DTP includes diphtheria and tetanus components. Certain countries, such as England and Sweden, previously experienced major decreases in pertussis immunisation but administered diphtheria and tetanus vaccines separately, thus maintaining high coverage
  • The SIDS trends in these countries were similar to the trends in the United States. Thus, diphtheria and tetanus immunisation seem less likely to be associated with SIDS

They concluded:

DTP immunisation is inversely associated with SIDS mortality on the population level. The current findings may strengthen parents’ confidence in the benefit of DTP immunisation, especially as they are supported by the results of two meta-analyses*.

*See Vennemann et al, above.

October 2010 saw the Scientific consensus forum to review the evidence underpinning the recommendations of the Australian SIDS and Kids Safe Sleeping Health Promotion Programme [PDF]. This Position Paper is published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health [doi:10.1111/j.1440-1754.2011.02215.x]

SIDSandKids_key points

The document is an excellent publication covering the evidence and recommendations that apply to reducing SIDS. On page three the topic of Immunisation is addressed:

Parents are advised to immunise their babies according to the national vaccination schedule. The possibility of the DTP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis) vaccination being linked to SIDS has been discussed periodically over the last 20 years, however a series of studies have consistently refuted the association. A recent meta-analysis published provides strong evidence that immunisation is associated with a decreased risk of SIDS (OR 0.54; 95% CI = 0.39–0.76).

We should note that the delightfully immoral antivactionist and author of Melanie’s Marvellous Measles, Stephanie Messenger was involved in peddling a long debunked “prevention” for SIDS. In fact SIDS and Kids have their own evidence based and comprehensive publication outlining why mattress wrapping offers no protection. A March 2003 article in Pediatric and Developmental Pathology, SIDS: Overview and Update offers evidence to debunk both the “mattress toxin” myth and proposed links to immunisation (p. 121).

In 1989 in the UK Barry Richardson contended that the fungus Scopularis brevicaulis broke down fire retardant chemicals in mattresses or their PVC covers. This produced arsine, phosphine and stibine gases from antimony, phosphorous and arsenic. A UK study failed to replicate Richardson’s findings. A follow up study with Richardson’s collaboration also failed to duplicate the proposed findings.

I highly recommend reading the SIDS and Kids information sheet on this pseudoscientific mess and the conspiracy hovering over it. In May 1998 an Expert Group to Investigate Cot Death Theories: Toxic Gas Hypothesis, UK examined all available evidence and found:

…there is no evidence to suggest that antimony or phosphorus containing compound used as fire retardant in PVC and other cot mattress materials are a cause of sudden infant death syndrome.

This conclusion is based upon the following:

  1. Cot mattress contamination with the fungus S. brevicalis is rare, and no more common in SIDS mattresses than in other used mattresses.
  2. There is no evidence for the generation of gases from phosphorus, arsenic and antimony from cot mattresses, by S. brevecaulis, when tested using conditions relevant to a baby’s cot. (the group did, however, identify laboratory conditions, wholly unlike those that could occur in a baby’s cot, in which added antimony is biovolatilised, but to the much less toxic trimethylantimony and not to stibine).
  3. There is no evidence of poisoning by phosphine, arsine, or stibine (or bethylated derivatives) in babies who have died of SIDS.
  4. Low amounts of antimony can be detected in samples from the majority of live babies, and even newborn babies: the concentrations in the tissues of SIDS babies were not different from those dying from known causes. there are a number of sources of antimony in the domestic environment other than the fire retardant in cot mattress materials.
  5. We have found no evidence that the changing rates of sudden infant death correspond to the introduction and removal of antimony – and phosphorus – containing fire retardant in cot mattresses.

SIDS and Kids also mention the conspiracy book Cot Death Cover-up? by N.Z. forensic chemist Jim Sprott. Stephanie Messenger also mentioned this book at her secret seminars wherein she peddled her “mattress covers” to protect against SIDS. There is a fascinating February 2012 account of a conspiracy laden seminar on the Skeptimite blog. In April of this year it was reported that Messenger had the charity status of her “SIDS charity” Get Rid Of SIDS revoked.

Just as well one feels. Not only because the scam had done no charity work and employed nobody. Messenger had gone from blaming vaccination for SIDS to pushing the phoney toxic gas theory as the cause – 20 years after it was first debunked and progressively relegated to conspiracy theory. When Messenger’s plan to bring the very harmful anti-vaccine heroine Sherri Tenpenny to Australia, she then advocated readers purchase her pro-measles book to help her out of debt.

Ultimately nothing has changed with respect to the anti-vaccine claim that SIDS is caused by vaccines. In fact evidence supporting the opposite remains firm.

We may also rest assured that mattress wrapping is an evidence free, conspiracy based waste of time.

The problem of clustered drops in herd immunity

There are many reasons anti-vaccine lobbyists push the falsehood that herd immunity “is a myth”, is not important or simply doesn’t exist.

To listen to recent untruths from Meryl Dorey, one should eagerly accept that it is “documented” in peer reviewed literature as being more or less non-existent. Indeed, “it is a lie” lies Dorey. By essentially mocking the importance of herd immunity, garden variety anti-vaccine tricksters can shirk the responsibility that not vaccinating may harm the wider community, innocent infants or children, and deny larger scale resistance to infection that the immune-compromised rely on.

Herd immunity is an impressive function of mass vaccination. More so it is remarkably easy to understand. But the anti-vaccine lobby refuse to accept any need for or benefit from, mass vaccination. It is even more bizarre when one considers the parallels to so-called “natural immunity” – such as with marvellous measles, or “right of passage” infection and immunity. With mass vaccination we can control the spread of immunity and thus the spread and ultimate impact of vaccine preventable disease.

We should never forget that claims of raising impeccably healthy and disease-free unvaccinated children can exist only for as long as vaccine-induced herd immunity remains at a crucial level. The level that permits a free ride and protection from most vaccine preventable diseases for these very children.

Once again the formula frequently relied upon is “< 100% = 0%” – such as this 1973 article. One popular mode is that if a child is vaccinated against X, they should be safe from infection with X. Even worse is a distortion of epidemiological factors at play. This involves citing nationwide or statewide vaccination rates – which level out as reasonably high – along with reported outbreaks, such as those seen of pertussis or measles. Or including individuals who have had just one MMR jab (in the case of measles) or those whose vaccine-induced pertussis immunity has certainly waned.

This not-very-clever deception ignores the fact that areas with low vaccination uptake provide the ideal conditions for infection to spread rapidly.

The video below compares the difference in infection spread in the sparsely located unvaccinated compared to a cluster of unvaccinated individuals.

Herd Immunity