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Who’s telling the truth?

by Lynne McTaggart November 1998.

"A study carried out by Dr Andrew Wakefield at the Royal Free Hospital in London and published in The Lancet (28 Feb. 1998) revealed a possible association between the MMR vaccine and the development of inflammatory bowel disease and autism, immediately denied by the government and the medical community, who urged parents to continue to give their children the triple jab, lest a "social tragedy" - i.e., a measles epidemic - ensue. And now the government is quoting a recent Finnish study of 3m children, also published in The Lancet (2 May 1998), which could make no such association between the vaccine and autism. Wakefield's research team, however, still advise parents to have the jabs separately until further research is carried out. Since then, parents’ confidence in the vaccine has dropped, some mothers even considering the MMR vaccine more dangerous than measles itself and national vaccine coverage has fallen by 1 to 2%. The scientific facts below are offered in answer to the official ‘party line’ quotes shown in bold.

"The link between autism and the vaccine is purely coincidental."

Dr Wakefield and his team conducted the study over 12 children referred to the hospital having a history of diarrhoea and abdominal pain. The children had been all developing normally when they suddenly lost their speech and other skills. Significantly, all 12 had intestinal abnormalities, with 11 showing patchy, chronic inflammation of the colon, 7 exhibiting abnormal growths of small nodules of lymphoid tissues and two suffering from thrush-like ulcers, reported Wakefield, markedly in excess of anything seen before. Since publishing the study, the team has examined 48 other children with similar behaviour problems after receiving the vaccine, 46 of whom exhibited bowel disorders similar to those seen in the study subjects. More than could be attributed to chance, believe Wakefield's team. Their hypothesis is children genetically susceptible to autism may have their intestinal function damaged by the vaccine, which could then allow food by-products called peptides to pass through the intestinal walls, disrupting brain function and development. Urine tests on the subjects caused Wakefield to notice B12 deficiencies, a substance necessary for the normal development of the central nervous system.

According to solicitors Hodge, Jones and Allen, who have been contacted by some 1,500 families whose children have allegedly been damaged by the vaccine, autism is by far the most common side effect occurring twice as much as any others. Many of their clients have videotapes showing their child normally developing from birth—walking, assimilating a small vocabulary and interacting with the family—and suddenly losing speech and social interaction, regressing into behaviour patterns which are considered to be autistic, such as severe communication difficulties or repetitive and obsessive movements. Cases include a child developing normally until the age of 4, a bilingual three-and-a-half and triplets, who all three developed behaviour considered typical of autism. All these cases cannot only be coincidental, since autism is normally diagnosed at a much earlier age. Doctors increasingly have been reporting cases of "atypical autism" described as a disease where the child is developing normally and then suddenly develops autistic behaviour, unlike common autism, which starts from birth. A decade ago, 350 cases of autism were reported each year. According to the National Autistic Society, nationwide, there are now 518,000 cases.

"The Finnish study proves that there is no link between inflammatory bowel disease and autism."

At first glance, the evidence from the vaccination campaign launched in Finland in 1982 to administer the MMR vaccine to all children at 12-15 months and then at age 6 appears compelling. All side effects were supposed to be reported. The study could find no link between inflammatory bowel disease and autism among 31 subjects who developed gastrointestinal symptoms. However, unlike Wakefield's study which began on children diagnosed with an autistic-spectrum disorder and then he made the link with the bowel problems, here, the Finnish doctors carried out a passive study reliant upon their capacity or will to notice and report any abnormal reactions to the vaccine. Many doctors who were not particularly looking for autism as a side-effect, may not have connected it with the vaccine or bothered to record cases. Furthermore, there were some serious side effects, even among the 31 supposedly benign cases of bowel problems.

"There is no evidence that the MMR causes long-term brain damage."

Scientists accept that vaccination can cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain resulting in a bulging and red fontanel in infants. Doctors recognise it happens, but insist it occurs only once in every 100,000 cases. The child may seem to recover completely, but he may actually have suffered some long-term damage. In many instances—whether epilepsy, autism or minimal brain damage—what ‘bent the twig’ is an attack of encephalitis in infancy, caused in most cases by routine vaccination. When the Public Health Laboratory Service first tested the MMR vaccine on thousands of children, convulsion cases were reported – 1 subject out of 400 – but the PHLS said the incidence was acceptable, estimating all babies would recover completely, even though no long-term studies were ever done to see if they were minimally brain damaged or had learning difficulties. "Most symptoms are mild and the children will recover," said Dr N. Begg, a consultant epidemiologist with the PHLS. The most definitive and largest study was conducted by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDS), using database technology to monitor the progress of 500,000 children. They identified 34 major side effects to the jabs, ranging from asthma, blood disorders, infectious diseases, diabetes and neurological disorders, including meningitis, polio and hearing loss. But it was the incidence of seizure (epilepsy, convulsions and fainting) that leaped off the graph. Its rate increased three times the norm 24 hours after receiving the DPT (diphteria-pertussis-tetanus) and, after the MMR vaccine was administered, 2.7 times within 4-7 days and 3.3 times within 8-14 days (Pediatrics, 1997; 99: 765-73). Similarly, the PHLS found that the vaccine increased seizure risks by 3 and that 2/3 of the seizures were imputable to the measles component alone (The Lancet, 1995; 345: 567-9). The mumps portion can cause encephalitis. Studies conducted in Germany, Canada and Yugoslavia boil down to that conclusion too.

"Deaths from measles are common in some European countries and this is directly related to poor vaccine coverage" (Norman Begg –BMJ, 14 Feb 1998).

Deaths from measles are not common in developed countries and the virus doesn't strike and kill randomly. When blood concentration of vitamin A is low, the outer layer of our mucous membranes become scaly and the turnover of cells decreases, thus enabling the virus to infect the body. An acute vitamin A deficiency would result in eye damage, respiratory diseases and diarrhoea. However, even well-nourished children may be subjected to such a deficiency.

"Deaths from measles… are directly related to poor vaccine coverage" (Norman Begg again).

The British CDS and PHLS jointly attempted to demonstrate that in areas where coverage with the DPT vaccine was high, whooping cough was 10 to 100 times lower than where immunisation was "disrupted" by "anti-vaccine movements". The truth is that Holland has suffered an epidemic of whooping cough, despite its 96% vaccination rates, the same is happening in Norway and Denmark.

"The vaccine is perfectly safe."

This is what you will hear from most GPs or nurses. During the 1994 campaign Operation Safeguard, the British government stated that "side effects to booster jabs are very unlikely, having been carefully studied by looking at large numbers of children in the USA" — although no such study had been conducted at that time. No vaccine is known to be completely safe, and the MMR jab is among those with the most reported side effects.

Bulletin of Medical Ethics editor Dr R. Nicolson points out: "The government has to change its approach to give people an honest picture of what we do and do not know. There are remarkably few interventions in medicine that don’t carry some risk. So to say that vaccines are perfectly safe is highly unlikely." Until long-term safety studies are carried out, if you want your child vaccinated against the MMR, but don’t want the triple jab, insist that your doctor give the shots separately. If he can’t get the supplies, write to your MP demanding them. If you don't want the shots, make sure your child's level of vitamin A is high. You may also wish to investigate homoeopathic nosodes, which have some evidence of success. If a booster shot is offered, insist on a blood test to check your child's antibody levels to these diseases before allowing him to be subjected to a knee-jerk—and potentially dangerous—jab.

* Lynne MacTaggart is joint editor of ‘Natural Parent’ and of ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You.’ For subscriptions ring 020 8944 9555. ‘Natural Parent’ magazine is bi-monthly £24.95 or £2.50 on newsstands. ‘The Vaccination Bible’ (£6.95 from them too) is a comprehensive book that goes in depth into every jab. It’s full of facts, figures and scientific evidence, much from America.

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