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.

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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

The importance of relative risk in understanding vaccine effectiveness

A while back I noticed that Greg Beattie was deceiving his readers about pertussis vaccine efficacy by misrepresenting NNDSS data.

Yes, the same Beattie with the bogus claim that vaccines did not reduce infectious diseases. He dresses this up with misleading graphs comparing mortality from vaccine preventable disease to the introduction of X vaccine. These graphs are also bogus in that he omits the impact of vaccine introduction. The stunning success of the vaccine itself and the elimination of infection is always absent from his peculiar artwork.

Beattie’s claim back in 2012 was that the pertussis vaccine failed because high numbers of notifications had been vaccinated against pertussis. This is thunderously misleading in that it’s at the same level as dismissing seat belt safety because most fatalities on our roads involve seat belt wearing occupants. He also avoided explaining all reasons as to why notifications were high. Increased awareness, testing and follow up, pockets of low vaccination driving an epidemic, low booster uptake.

You can check the post here to follow my review of the same data table Beattie used. But it’s pretty simple. By 2011 close to 95% of 0-4 year olds were fully vaccinated by age 2 [NCIRS]. Using the table provided it turns out those not fully vaccinated made up 27.2% of notified infections. Fully vaccinated notifications equal 56.7%.

Relatively speaking a child fully vaccinated against pertussis has a notably reduced chance of being infected. Conversely, the small number who are not fully vaccinated have a frightfully high chance of being infected. To be sure, if 56.7% of notifications collected over 2008 – 2011 are from fully vaccinated children one can argue the vaccine could (and needs to be) more effective. But when the 5% who are not fully vaccinated make up 27.2% of infections, then the claim the vaccine is not effective is patently absurd. A dangerous and irresponsible lie.

Basically this is a story of relative risk being falsely presented as absolute risk. Choose some data and omit other data and the claim looks sound. But the post itself is limited in examining Vaccine Effectiveness vs Relative Risk (Risk Ratio – see screenshot). Understanding related and relative data sets is crucial in grasping how vaccine efficacy can be misrepresented. Regrettably many falsehoods peddled by the anti-vaccine lobby stem from such misrepresentation.

Fortunately an excellent piece addressing this was recently published on The LymphoSite by kill3rtcell. Headed But most of the people who got the disease were vaccinated for it! the post comprehensively addresses vaccine effectiveness, risk ratios and even provides interactive calculators. These crunch values of vaccine effectiveness, vaccination rates and resultant cases in the unvaccinated or vaccinated.

Do head over and read what is an excellent contribution to the deconstruction of misinformation peddled by antivaccinationists.

The screenshot below helps explain what this post accomplishes.

relative risk

© kill3rtcell – The LymphoSite

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The awful autism obsession of the antivaccinationist

On page 11 of the most recent Health Care Complaints Commission investigation into the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network, we see the absurdity of vaccines causing autism rearing its head.

The AVSN claim to present on their website 68 “medical journal studies [that] support the link between vaccination and autism”. According to the HCCC the expert they consulted concluded a case of correlation confused as causation was evident. A read of the list shows the expert is being kind in no small part. Given that the AVSN claim these studies show a link between vaccines and autism, the list is quite absurd.

Despite the absence of mercury in childhood vaccines we get much on environmental mercury and autism, ADHD and blood mercury levels, swollen brains and autism, etc. But we have a numeric problem Houston. Of the 68 (cough) articles, I could count just 30 that included the word “vaccine” or “vaccination” in the title, abstract or conclusion. But maybe I’m expecting too much. Articles are numbered but items 5, 12, 48, 49 and 68 don’t exist. At all.

The AVSN use the typical misinformation that succeeds at confusing young worried parents and educated, affluent parents who can afford lots of Internet time. Such as citing the damage huge doses of certain toxins or heavy metals can do, without stressing vaccines contain either another variant or minuscule amounts long shown to be perfectly safe. Since having changed their byline from Love them, Protect them, Never inject them to Because every issue has two sides, they have done a poor job of presenting both sides.

The AVSN for example do not provide access to the Institute Of Medicine publication, Adverse Effects Of Vaccines; Evidence and Causality. This has been pointed out by the HCCC along with a host of biased schemes the AVSN execute in the hope of driving the public away from vaccination. In addition the hubris-riddled response that has been crafted for the HCCC and published online, is indicative of a mindset with no concept of community responsibility.

Myths and concerns about vaccination note on page 29 under “Mercury in vaccines can cause autism”:

There is no evidence that thiomersal (a mercury based preservative) in vaccines has caused any health problems, except perhaps minor reactions such as redness at the injection site. […] The form of organic mercury contained within thiomersal is “ethyl mercury” which doesn’t accumulate in the body, unlike the closely related methyl mercury which does accumulate and is neurotoxic. […] MMR vaccine and other live attenuated viral vaccines never contained thiomersal.

Of course there is a dollar to be made insisting vaccines cause autism and other disabilities. As reported recently by Fairfax:

The Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing has confirmed it is investigating ”problems” in the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network’s financial statements.
The anti-vaccine group has raised nearly $2 million in the past seven years but has never done any ”charity”, according to Stop the AVN, a coalition of critics formed after the parents of a baby who died of whooping cough were targeted by the network. […]

The 2008 financial statement said the group had more than $50,500 of assets, yet in its 2009 statement, assets from 2008 are listed as only about half that amount.
And nearly two-thirds of $281,855 in expenses listed on its 2010 financial statements are not explained, given only the title ”other expenses”. The 2012 statement for the group has not been submitted.
A chartered accountant who examined the documents for Fairfax Media, but declined to be named for fear he would be harassed, said the documents were ”the worst set of financial statements I have ever seen”.

$2 million! And where is that money? Well, you see… no-one really knows. A visit to this document reveals a copious tally of financial irregularities and charitable breaches by the (then) AVN. Both the Charitable Fundraising and Charitable Trusts Acts are called into question, “on a number of occasions” according to the NSW state watchdog, the OLGR.

Published just recently at Diluted Thinking the article, AVSN Pays Meryl Dorey is a must read. It is a thorough breakdown of financial irregularities and unanswered questions from 2004 to 2008.

It is of course beyond ironic that a hero of the AVSN is disgraced “vaccine/autism” fraudster, Andrew Wakefield. It’s old news that Brian Deer was able to track Andrew Wakefield’s scam because the latter had left a trail of intriguing financial records and/or references.

Follow the money was what Deer did in true investigative journalistic style. It is indeed somewhat silly that the anti-vaccine lobby today bellow follow the money, but in doing so can draw only one step from a vaccine to its manufacturer. The money trail Deer uncovered was far more impressive.

Wakefield was paid £150 plus expenses per hour by Richard Barr’s law firm. In total this came to £435 643, which was arguably to create a syndrome to drive the class action of anti-vaccine and genuinely misled (by Wakefield) litigants.

But Wakefield needed to ensure he profited from all the sufferers of his syndrome. Once the world had been fooled into believing “autistic enterocolitis” was a genuine syndrome, then it would have to be diagnosed. First he filed for his March 1995 Diagnostic patent that claimed in part:

Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis may be diagnosed by detecting measles virus in bowel tissue, bowel products or body fluids

Based on this, on September 9th 1996 a client of Richard Barr known as Child 2 was the first child subject to what the GMC later described as a “clinically unwarranted” ileocolonoscopy.

The day after Child 2 had undergone his ileocolonoscopy Wakefield produced a document headed, Inventor/school/investor meeting 1. 4 which calculated that by working on MMR litigant samples, profits of £72.5m per year were to be had. This document left no doubt as to from where the money should be sourced. The profits would go to a yet to be formed company specialising in molecular viral diagnostic tests:

In view of the unique services offered by the Company and its technology, particularly for the molecular diagnostic, the assays can command premium prices. The ability of the Company to commercialise its candidate products depends upon the extent to which reimbursement for the cost of such products will be available from government health administration authorities, private health providers and, in the context of the molecular diagnostic, the Legal Aid Board.

More could be gleaned from a confidential submission (1999) to the Legal Aid board in his quest to secure the future of an immunodiagnostic business he would be director of. Unigenetics Ltd was incorporated in February of that year with Dublin pathologist, John O’Leary and would be registered in the Republic of Ireland. Here Wakefield argued the link b/w MMR and autism had been shown. Unigenetics scored £800 000 of tax payer funds to conduct PCR tests of dubious pursuit.

In addition to these petty “legal costs and salary” monies Wakefield would get another £90 000 per year – more than half of which was for travel. Deer reported that trading was to be fronted by another planned immunodiagnostic company Carmel Healthcare Ltd (also registered in the Irish Republic) and named after Wakefield’s wife. Within this venture Wakefield would take 37% of the earnings, the parent of child “Number 10″ would take 22.2%. A venture capitalist would get 18%. Royal Free’s professor of gastroenterology, Roy Pounder would get 11.7% and Professor John O’Leary another champion of “MMR causes autism” would get 11.1%.

Deer was given a copy of a prospectus 35 pages long.

This included confirmation of planned “litigation driven testing” from the USA and UK, along with delightful profit. Of course all business relied upon Wakefield’s new syndrome which at this point remained to be proven. As he had not found Crohn’s disease in the 12 children, Wakefield coined the term “autistic enterocolitis”. The prospectus sought to raise an investment of £700 000.

It is estimated that the initial market for the diagnostic will be litigation driven testing of patients with autistic enterocolitis from both the UK and the USA… It is estimated that by year 3, income from this testing could be about £3 300 000 rising to about £28 000 000 as diagnostic testing in support of therapeutic regimes come on stream.

[…]

Once the work of Professor O’Leary and Dr Wakefield is published, either late in 1999 or early in 2000, which will provide unequivocal evidence for the presence of the vaccine derived measles virus in biopsy samples the public and political pressure for a thorough, wide ranging investigation into the aetiology of the bowel conditions will be overwhelming.

As a consequence of the public, political and legal pressures brought to bear, the demand for a diagnostic able to discriminate between wild type and vaccine derived measles strains will be enormous.

Deer reported on yet another new company which was for the running of a joint business with the UCL medical school. Immunospecifics Biotechnologies Ltd would produce immunotherapeutics, vaccines and a diagnostic test. Beneficiaries were as with Carmel. Wakefield, the parent of “number 10”, the venture capatilist, Pounder and Prof. John O’Leary.

There are issues around Wakefield’s immunodiagnostics which antivaccinationists should simply admit, and by not admitting such merely lend their cause less credence (if that were possible).

  • Transfer factor for use in vaccines and treatments had basically been written out of the literature. A lack of evidence, risk of infection and unjustified cost had relegated this 1940’s blood product to the realm of an Internet peddled cure-all scam.
  • The Neuro Immuno Therapeutics drama run by Hugh Fudenberg. To cure autism – which he reckons is caused by MMR – Hugh would use, you guessed it, Transfer factor. In August 2004 Brian Deer caught up with him. At the time he was under sanction for use and prescription of controlled drugs. Help yourself to a search-and-read on Hugh. If you remember Bill Maher’s claim that a flu shot five years consecutively equals a ten-fold increase in the chances of developing Alzheimers, you might be relieved to know that the source is Hugh Fudenberg.
  • The Dublin measles tests which could not deliver consistency of results, emerged as a problem years later, during vaccine related lawsuits in the USA and Britain.

One caper of Wakefields that many know of is his “safer vaccine” patent for a monovalent measles vaccine. As the Royal Free Hospital approached the release of his paper Wakefield made copies on tape as to how he should announce his bogus findings. One – which is in circulation today – includes:

There is sufficient anxiety in my own mind for the long term safety of the polyvalent vaccine—that is, the MMR vaccination in combination—that I think it should be suspended in favour of the single vaccines

But of course! Just as well that like the patent for immunodiagnostics he had the “safer vaccine” patent for the single measles vaccine. And he filed for this nine months before his now retracted paper was published.

Wakefield patent

The opening paragraph is breathtaking:

The present invention relates to a new vaccine for the elimination of MMR and measles virus and to a pharmaceutical or therapeutic composition for the treatment of IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease); particularly Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis and Regressive Behavioural Disease (RBD).

After falsely claiming MMR vaccination leads to Crohn’s disease and other forms of IBD we read on page two (far right) above (bold mine):

What is needed therefore is a safer vaccine which does not give rise to these problems and a treatment for those with existing IBD. I have now discovered a combined vaccine/therapeutic agent which is not only most probably safer to administer to neonates and others by way of vaccination, but which also can be used to treat IBD whether as a complete cure or to alleviate symptoms.

This was first revealed in the UK Sunday Times. Wakefield denied this “conspiracy”:

The claim appears to be that, whilst at the Royal Free Hospital, I was developing a new vaccine to compete with MMR and that I conspired to undermine confidence in MMR vaccine in order to promote this new vaccine, and that this represented a conflict of interest. This is untrue. The facts are that: […]

it has never been my aim or intention to design, produce or promote a vaccine to compete with MMR; […]

A provisional patent filing was made for the use of measles virus-specific TF in regressive autism and inflammatory bowel disease (Regressive Bowel Disease; RBD).

The reference to the possible use of TF to protect children against measles infection – the thrust of the Sunday Times’ conspiracy theory – was put in as an afterthought in the patent. It was entirely speculative and never pursued in any shape, manner or form.

The provisional patent filing was entirely speculative and was for a possible therapy; as such, it had no bearing on the 1998 Lancet paper.

That the patent application with its firm conclusion of an MMR derived pathology appeared nine months before publication of his paper is not the only Crystal Ball caper by Wakefield. A fortnight before selecting any children that eventually made up his insignificant 12 child sample, Wakefield and Richard Barr co-authored a letter that included (bold mine):

Children with enteritis and disintegrative disorder, form part of a new syndrome. The evidence is undeniably in favour of a specific vaccine induced pathology

That claim would have taken the word of Hugh Fudenberg at that particular time in history.

The end for Wakefield came just after plans for Carmel Healthcare were finalised, potentially making way for his incredibly profitable business. A new head of medicine, Mark Pepys was appointed to the UCL Medical School (once known as the Royal Free and University College Medical School). He is a fellow of the Royal Society and ensured impressive grant money. He wasn’t impressed by Wakefield, threatening to not transfer his own unit to UCL if Wakefield was even there.

With the help of theoretical physicist Chris Llewellyn-Smith he made his move in December 1999. A mere two months after Pepys moved to the Royal Free Wakefield was called to UCL’s London head offices. There, at last, he was made to face the audacity of his scam and handed a two page letter of his very own to have and to hold and of course, to read. It included:

We remain concerned about a possible serious conflict of interest between your academic employment by UCL, and your involvement with Carmel. This concern arose originally because the company’s business plan appears to depend on premature, scientifically unjustified publication of results, which do not conform to the rigorous academic and scientific standards that are generally expected. […]

Good scientific practice now demands that you and others seek to confirm or refute robustly, reliably, and above all reproducibly, the possible causal relationships between MMR vaccination and autism/“autistic enterocolitis”/inflammatory bowel disease that you have postulated.

Yay verily.

UCL were keen to help, offering him an ongoing position on staff or a full twelve months paid absence to allow for further research. 150 subjects would be provided to Wakefield. 12.5 times larger than his initial sample. Wakefield agreed.

Time passed.

After three months he was asked for a progress report. Six months later in September 2000 Wakefield replied:

It is clear that academic freedom is essential, and cannot be traded. It is the unanimous decision of my collaborators and co-workers that it is only appropriate that we define our research objectives, we enact the studies as appropriately reviewed and approved, and we decide as and when we deem the work suitable for submission for peer review.

Fail. By October of 2001 he was asked not to let the door hit his lying backside on the way out. In January of 2010 the General Medical Council found Wakefield had been “dishonest, irresponsibile and showed callous disregard for the distress and pain of children.”  [Science Based Medicine]

After close to a decade of multiple studies had failed to replicate his “findings” or any link between MMR, its components and autism the Lancet retracted the Wakefield paper [Science Based Medicine] [BMJ] on February 2nd 2010. The journal’s editor, Richard Horton described the statements in the “fatally flawed” paper as “utterly false”.

On May 25th of that year he was struck off the medical registrar by the General Medical Council.

Still today, as is clear above, there are scam artists profitting from peddling the lie that vaccines cause autism. Their paper-thin efforts may well be pathetic but still have a measurably negative effect on public health. With no regard for evidence or responsibility for the consequences of their actions, one can hope that these arrogant fraudsters will one day too face the weight of the law.

Yay verily.