The story began reasonably enough. It told the tragic tale of a very young baby who has just died of whooping cough up in Lismore, near the idiot hippie capital of Australia. The child was too young to be immunised, and because the level of immunisation in the area is so low, she was infected by an older child whose parents had not kept his or her shots up. Not only was that original child made very ill, just like the other 3300 Australian whooping cough cases in the first two months of this year, it has killed four-week-old Dana.
Dana's parents wanted her vaccinated, but she was too young.
Up to this point the news story was quite scientifically accurate. But after clearly outlining the facts, it went on to say 'Tell that to parents like Wayne Bennet whose son suffered an adverse reaction to the diptheria vaccine, which caused brain damage.'
To which I say ... hold on a minute, sunshine.
Now you will find lots of pages on the internet telling you that the diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, (DPT) vaccine causes brain damage, just as you will find many telling you the MMR vaccine causes autism.
Diphtheria is a highly contagious disease that kills 4-10% of people who contract it and causes severe chronic illness in many others. Tetanus and whooping cough you probably know about. In the 1970s, a UK study suggested that one in 310,000 children would have a serious reaction to the DPT vaccine, and as one of the children who would have contributed to those statistics, I have to say that it's what I consider an acceptable risk. However, subsequent studies and reinterpretation of the original data all came to the same conclusion. There was in fact NO PROVEN SERIOUS RISK. Mild rashes, nausea and the very rare cases of anaphylaxis which can occur with ANY substance and which are best off occurring in a doctor's surgery or with a trained nurse armed with adrenalin standing beside you were the only reactions shown by the data.
Wayne Bennett is a famous football coach. His son suffered seizures after his DPT vaccination. He believes that it was causal. It is possible that it was. People have all sorts of strange and unique allergic reactions. It's also possible that it was a coincidence and another factor caused the seizures at a close time to the vaccine, the boy's sister has serious genetic issues and it may just have been that his were under the radar until that day, or even that the baby had been suffering smaller seizures previously that had gone un-noticed until his system was challenged by the vaccine, which led to a larger physiological response. It is a very sad event, and the family have been great, but it is a specific and individual case.
To give this single case the same weight as the entire DPT vaccination programme, which has not only delivered no proven risk of serious reaction caused by vaccine, but also demonstrably prevented hundreds of thousands of cases of diseases that have definite death rates -- quite high ones in the case of diphtheria ... it goes beyond bad journalism to being overtly unethical.
You've almost certainly heard all about the MMR--autism link, it was massively reported when first mooted. What has been less reported is that the doctor who proposed the link has been found guilty of falsifying his data. Now to begin with, the whole thing was idiot pseudo science, since the sample size was 12. If you cherry pick your sample size of 12, you can 'prove' most things. After the publication of his 'reasearch', the vaccination rates in the UK fell dramatically, destroying herd immunity. This now means that British children who cannot be vaccinated for legitimate reasons, including HIV, childhood cancer or other illnesses, are at real risk from their peers, because their parents are idiots.
When I was a young lass in the 60s and 70s, I knew one girl who died of measles and another who was severely disabled thanks to her mother's rubella. That was in England. When I travelled with dad, I met many families in India, Kenya and Tanzania who had members who had died of measles. It is not an insignificant nor trifling disease, nor is mumps or rubella.
Thanks to the vaccine, measles death rates have plumetted. In 2000, according to the CDC, 750,000 people died of measles. In 2007, with the disease wiped out in many countries, 197,000 people died of it. However, in the UK, where the idiot falsifying doctor first published, measles infection rates climbed more than 30% in 2007, and about the same amount in 2008. I do not think there have yet been any deaths, but serious complications including mental retardation are known consequences of measles itself.
Now I do not pretend that vaccines are all sunshine and roses. They hurt, they cost, and in some people, like me, they leave you feeling nauseated or headachey for days (as do most drugs, I am a big girl's blouse, as they say).
And if you are taking the rabies vaccine, there actually IS a risk of mental retardation and other brain problems because of the vaccine's ingredients. However, you only take this if you have been bitten by a rabid animal, and since you WILL DIE of rabies, most people choose to accept the risk.
Some of you may know about Jade Goody, the formerly ridiculous now tragic UK reality TV creation who is currently dying of cervical cancer. I do not have her medical records, but am going to stride out on a limb and say that her cancer was most likely caused by HPV. This virus is the cause of 70% of cervical cancers, and the overwhelming majority of those in the young. There is a vaccine, Gardasil, that has been around for several years. In Australia, it is given free to all young women.
There have been any number of news stories stating that schoolgirls have suffered adverse reactions to Gardisil. Tell us your stories! many say. And it is true to an extent. In the years since the vaccines began there have been over 1000 Australian girls who have suffered adverse reactions. Headaches, rashes at the injection site, dizziness, nausea ... 12 cases of anaphylaxis, which were all dealt with by trained staff administering the vaccine. (That is many times smaller than the number of cases of anaphylaxis caused by bees, peanuts and shellfish, by the way.)
There have been over 3.7 million doses of Gardasil administered here. All of these women have drastically slashed the likelihood they will end up like Jade Goody. Or the over 200 Australian women who die each year of cervical cancer.
It would be great if none of those girls ever felt sick, but the possibility of a headache and nausea -- even if it persisted for weeks as some anecdotal cases have alleged (which may or may not actually have been caused by Gardasil, I crashed with glandular fever after my rubella vaccination, this was a coincidence) -- is nothing compared to the possibility of an early painful death.
For journalists to pretend that they are providing a 'balanced' report by slipping notes such as the Wayne Bennett comment into stories on vaccination infuriates me. But my fury is nothing.
That sort of thinking killed Dana. She was only four weeks old.