Gardasil makes the news again

The opening lines of an article by Susan Brinkmann for The Bulletin, an locally-owned, independent Philadelphia newspaper, read:
Dr. Diane Harper, lead researcher in the development of two human papilloma virus vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, said the controversial drugs will do little to reduce cervical cancer rates and, even though they’re being recommended for girls as young as nine, there have been no efficacy trials in children under the age of 15.
Please do yourself the justice of reading the entire article here.

Getting Educated: H1N1

Because so many others have already stated what I would desire to make clear about H1N1 and the vaccine that has been introduced for it I invite you to visit some of the following links to further your understanding. Please educate yourself and make an informed decision based on fact.

-National Vaccine Information Center
-CBS News
-5 Things Parents Should Know About the H1N1 vaccine
-More Information on the H1N1 vaccine

Here are some facts that I have found:

Because H1N1 is already considered a pandemic, the CDC stopped testing for individual cases of swine flu back in August. (Source: CDC)

As a result, doctors and clinics are no longer testing for H1N1 specifically but labeling any influenza-like illness (ILI) as probable H1N1.

The CDC states (emphasis mine):
In an effort to add additional structure to the national 2009 H1N1 reporting, new case definitions for influenza-associated hospitalizations and deaths were implemented on August 30, 2009. The new definitions allow states to report to CDC hospitalizations and deaths (either confirmed OR probable) resulting from all types of influenza, not just those from 2009 H1N1 flu.
However, the syndromic reports of all hospitalizations and deaths recorded as either influenza or pneumonia will mean that the case counts are less specific than before and will include cases that are not related to influenza infection.

I don't deny that novel H1N1 flu exists. I don't deny that people (someone's brother, sister, mother, father, daughter or son) have died as a result of the disease. But I do question the accuracy of the information that is being shared via the media. I question the tone and intention in which that information is shared. I question the motive behind the movement for vaccination against this disease.

If the government intends to have individuals such as myself support their approach to vaccination, they will need to begin operating on fact and not fear, with full disclosure of specifics not probabilities.


Vaccines: a product marketed for profit

I came across an article today regarding the HPV vaccine: "New study examines safety of HPV vaccine." One of many, I am sure, because of new information just released from the CDC regarding Gardasil.

I was interested to read the background and findings of this study as I am always in pursuit of new information regarding vaccines, their effectiveness, and their safety. I was shocked to discover that this study was not a careful examination and observation of the cause and effect on a controlled subject but rather a simple review of information reported to VAERS, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

Regardless of the side of the controversy on which you stand, most agree that the accuracy of the information reported to the VAERS system is left wanting. In fact, the VAERS brochure as published by the CDC and the FDA, co-sponsors of VAERS reads:
VAERS is unable to determine that a vaccine caused or did not cause an adverse event.

Further, the Minnesota Department of Health, in an attempt to quell fears regarding reports to VAERS on Gardasil wrote in a Special Issue of Got Your Shots? News dated July 9, 2008:
VAERS data are updated continuously and the number of reports and the type of adverse events will vary depending on the date of analysis.

While the author of the article I read, Renee Tessman of KARE, was clearly trying to put a positive spin on the findings, it was also clear that members of the medical community were attempting to downplay the legitimacy of VAERS for fear the report may stir up concern regarding the vaccine. Kris Ehresmann of the Minnesota Department of Health is quoted in the article by Tessman saying: "I do think that the data is very useful but we do sort of have to keep it in context." The article goes on to say:
Ehresmann, who is division director for infectious disease, says that VAERS is set up so that anybody, a parent, a doctor, anyone, can call in to report a problem. Details of those reports are investigated later. So, she says, its possible problems and deaths reported may not always be a direct result of the vaccine. She says, "Is it really because the child was vaccinated or were they hit by a car?

And literally those kinds of things are in that system."

I won't get derailed on the foolishness of her comments. My question is: How can we, therefore, rely on such dynamic, uncontrolled data as a source for significant information regarding vaccines whether we are looking to the system in favor of vaccines or against them? And therein lies the crux of the issue.

There are two parties at play in this controversy - those that are in favor of vaccines and those that are against them. There is truly little room for a middle ground as I, and others, have discovered through this struggle.

So ask yourself this, what do those that are against vaccines have to gain by releasing information and studies regarding the concern of a vaccine? And what does the government or Merck, in the case of Gardasil, stand to gain when a study is released regarding the safety of a vaccine?

Just like every other product on the market, a company doesn't stay in business if their product doesn't sell. While the CDC, the FDA, and Merck would like to rely on data from VAERS as evidence of the safety, or lack of sufficient evidence regarding concern, of the HPV vaccine they are also quick to shirk off the information as insufficient when numbers and findings start pointing to concerns. But how many deaths is enough? And if the information is unreliable then why isn't the government looking to implement a more effective system? Why? Because when you start asking questions, you start getting answers, and you aren't always going to like what you hear.


National News headline: US infant mortality rate lags behind other developed nations

I came across this article today:

US infant mortality rate lags behind other developed nations

The United States ranks 29th in the world for infant mortality. That's far behind other developed countries.

Infant mortality measures the number of children who die before their first birthday.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. rate in 2004 was almost seven infants per 1,000 live births.

Rates are generally the lowest, below 3.5, in countries like Sweden, Norway, Japan and Hong Kong.

Officials say the increase in the number of preterm births is one reason for the United States' ranking.

(Copyright 2008 by NBC. All Rights Reserved.)

My mind couldn't help but wonder what the vaccine schedule looks like in the countries with the lowest infant mortality, as mentioned in the article, Sweden, Norway, Japan, and Hong Kong.

The following information is provided for your education. Please draw your own conclusions.

Vaccines administered to children under age 12 months in Sweden (2nd lowest in infant mortality):
At birth: None
(The Hep B vaccine is only given at birth to infants of mothers positive for hepatitis B. The BCG vaccine (tuberculosis vaccine) is only recommended to children considered high-risk groups. Vaccination is normally given at 6 months or later.)
3 Months: DTap, IPV, Hib (as one combination vaccine)
5 Months: DTap, IPV, Hib (as one combination vaccine)
12 Months: DTap, IPV, Hib (as one combination vaccine)

Total vaccines received by 12 months of age: 9
(Please note that in 2009 the schedule will be amended to include the PCV7 vaccine at 3, 5, and 12 months of age bringing the total vaccines administered by 12 months to 12.)
Source: EUvac.net

Vaccines administered to children under age 12 months in Norway (10th lowest in infant mortality):
At birth: None
(The Hep B vaccine is recommended for risk groups only. The BCG vaccine is given to children of immigrants from countries outside low endemic countries.)
3 Months: DTaP, IPV, Hib, PCV7
5 Months: DTaP, IPV, Hib, PCV7

12 Months: DTaP, IPV, Hib, PCV7

Total vaccines received by 12 months of age: 12
Source: EUvac.net

Vaccines administered to children under age 12 months in Japan (3rd lowest in infant mortality):
At birth: None
(The Hep B vaccine is recommended for children whose mothers test positive for Hep B.)
Between 3 and 12 Months: 2 doses OPV, 3 doses DTaP
(The BCG vaccine is also administered before 12 months of age but it is unclear from the information if it is given only to certain risk groups or to all infants.)

Total vaccines received by 12 months of age: 5 (possibly 6)
Source: Infectious Disease Surveillance Center (the most current schedule available is from mid-2005)

Vaccines administered to children under age 12 months in Hong Kong (4th lowest in infant mortality):
At birth: BCG, Hep B
(It appears that both the BCG vaccine and the Hep B vaccine are administered to all infants without regard to risk.)
1 Month: Hep B
2 Months: DTaP, IPV (combination vaccine)
4 Months: DTaP, IPV (combination vaccine)
6 Months: DTaP, IPV, (combination vaccine), Hep B
12 Months: MMR

Total vaccines received by 12 months of age: 11
Source: Centre for Health Protection

Vaccines administered to children under age 12 months in the United States:
At birth: Hep B
1-2 Months: Hep B
2 Months: Rota, DTaP, Hib, PCV, IPV
4 Months: Rota, DTaP, Hib, PCV, IPV
6 Months: Hep B, Rota, DTaP, PCV, IPV
(The Influenza vaccine is also recommended starting at age 6 months on a yearly basis.)
12 Months: Hib, PCV, MMR, Varicella, Hep A

Total vaccines received by 12 months of age: 22 (23 if you include the Influenza vaccine)
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Source for infant mortality rankings (Note: this source actually lists the US as 41st in lowest infant mortality; I did not find the list that ranked the US at 29th): CIA World Factbook


The Myth of Immunity

I got a call from my clinic a few months ago. I am non-immune to Rubella. Not a big surprise. When they tested my blood while I was pregnant it indicated low immunity, which is why I had the follow up test done.

According to Merriam-Webster,

IMMUNITY: the quality or state of being immune; especially : a condition of being able to resist a particular disease especially through preventing development of a pathogenic microorganism or by counteracting the effects of its products

When I typed in immunization it forwarded me to the definition of immunize, which says "to make immune."

If I have been immunized, then why am I not immune? Though my child has not received the MMR vaccine, I did, all of them, before I entered junior high, which was only 15 years ago.

a: a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone; especially : one embodying the ideals and institutions of a society or segment of society

b: an unfounded or false notion

By purposefully using the words immunize and immunization in place of words like vaccinate or vaccine the medical community, the government, and various other "segments of society" perpetuate the belief that vaccines somehow create immunity to dangerous diseases. That may be the goal but it is not a guarantee. And until it is, it should not be spoken of in that way.