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From the Townsend Letter
November 2007


An Updated Analysis of the Health Risks
Part 2

by Gary Null, PhD, and Martin Feldman, MD

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Part 1 appeared in October 2007
Part 3 December 2007

Page 1, 2, Notes

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the reasons why we should challenge the assumption that vaccines are safe and effective. These reasons include the adverse effects associated with vaccines, the unsound principles on which they are based, questions about whether vaccinations have really eliminated disease, the toxic ingredients used in vaccines, and vaccine failures and waning immunity. In Part 2, we look at the effects of specific vaccines, including those for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, chickenpox, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella.


Diphtheria Toxoid
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the incidence of diphtheria was reduced to zero by 2004, from an estimated average of 21,053 cases per year in the 20th century.1 But as with other infectious diseases, much of the decline in mortality from diphtheria had occurred before the vaccine was used. This mortality rate fell from 40 deaths per 100,000 in 1900 to approximately 16 per 100,000 in 1920, when the diphtheria vaccine was introduced in the US.2

Pertussis Vaccine
Despite high levels of childhood vaccination coverage for pertussis (whooping cough), the largest outbreak of this disease in four decades has occurred in recent years. There were 25,827 reported cases of pertussis in 2004 (the actual incidence could be higher due to underreporting), compared with a low of 1,010 in 1976.3

According to the CDC, the reported rate of pertussis per 100,000 population increased from 1.8 in 1994 to 8.9 in 2004. The 2004 rate was the third consecutive annual increase in the incidence of pertussis. The CDC notes that two-thirds of reported cases of pertussis now occur among adolescents and adults due to the waning of vaccine-induced immunity. This waning occurs five to ten years after receipt of the vaccine. 4

Similar trends in pertussis were noted nearly 20 years ago in a 1988 report. After the US mandated whooping cough vaccination in 1978, the incidence of the disease in the next eight years trebled. The highest incidence was in infants less than one year old. However, the highest relative increase was in adolescents and adults.5

In 2006, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) addressed the rise of whooping cough among adolescents by recommending that they receive another dose of pertussis vaccine. The Tdap vaccine (which also contains tetanus and diphtheria toxoids) is now recommended for all children age 11 to 18 and replaces the tetanus-diphtheria booster previously given to adolescents. The Tdap booster adds to the five doses of diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus that children already receive before their seventh birthday.6

Several research papers suggest that immunization programs have not yet brought pertussis under control. A 2006 article reports that pertussis "has reemerged worldwide as a cause of substantial morbidity and mortality in infants, children, and adolescents, despite high vaccination rates."7 Another report, published in 2005, states that an increased incidence of pertussis "has been observed worldwide since the introduction of widespread vaccination." These researchers say that there has been "a general shift in the age distribution of pertussis toward older groups" and that "despite high coverage rates for primary immunization in infants and children, pertussis continues to be a global concern, with increased incidence widely noted."8

On the other hand, the merit of the pertussis vaccine is indicated by a 2006 paper. This research evaluated state-level rates of nonmedical exemptions (those based on religious or personal beliefs) to mandatory vaccination from 1991 to 2004 and the incidence of pertussis among people 18 and younger from 1986 to 2004. The study found that an increased incidence of pertussis was associated with state policies granting personal-belief exemptions and the easier granting of exemptions.9

Replacement of the whole cell pertussis vaccine. The US made a major vaccine substitution in the 1990s when it replaced the diphtheria, tetanus, and whole cell pertussis vaccine (DTP) with a diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP).10 The whole cell vaccine has been associated with serious adverse reactions (such as seizures and encephalopathy).11

Studies have since found a decline in the number of adverse reactions to pertussis-containing vaccines. An analysis of reports made to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) from 1991 to 2001 found that the overall reporting rate decreased substantially after use of the acellular petussis vaccine compared with the whole cell version (12.5 vs. 26.2 reports per 100,000 net doses distributed).12

An analysis of VAERS data from 1995 (when the whole cell vaccine was in use) to 1998 (when the acellular vaccine was predominant) found that the number of reports concerning pertussis fell from 2071 in 1995 to 491 in the first half of 1998. Events categorized as "nonfatal serious" fell from 334 in 1995 to 93 (first-half '98). However, the decrease in reports involving deaths was modest, from 85 deaths in 1995 to 77 in 1997 and 41 in the first half of 1998.13

Recent comparisons of the whole cell and acellular pertussis vaccines confirm that the older version caused more adverse reactions. One study of VAERS evaluated the number of emergency room visits, life-threatening reactions, hospitalizations, disabilities, deaths, seizures, infantile spasms, encephalitis/encephalopathy, autism, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and speech disorders that began within three days of receipt of pertussis-containing vaccines. The study found statistical increases for all of these events, except cerebellar ataxia, following whole cell vaccination compared with acellular vaccination.14 In Japan, an analysis of two decades of use of the acellular vaccine showed that while neurological illnesses were rare with both types of pertussis vaccine, the incidences of encephalopathy/encephalitis and status epileptics/frequent convulsions, febrile seizures/provocation of convulsions, and sudden deaths were significantly lower with the acellular than the whole cell vaccine.15 A study in Canada reported a 79% decrease in febrile seizures and a 60% to 67% decrease in hypotonic-hyporesponsive episodes following the introduction of the acellular vaccine there.16

Other research has associated the whole cell vaccine with neurological complications, including convulsions, hypotonic-hyporesponsive episodes, paralysis, and encephalopathy.17,18,19,20,21,22 Sadly, the DTP vaccine also has been associated with SIDS, the unexpected death of an infant for which autopsy cannot reveal a determining cause. In 1982 William Torch reported that his investigation of 70 SIDS cases (which was triggered by a report of 12 such deaths occurring within three-and-one-half hours to 19 hours of DPT vaccination) found that two-thirds of the victims had been vaccinated from a half-day to three weeks prior to death.23

Torch reaffirmed a link between DTP and SIDS in 1986, when he presented 11 new cases of SIDS and one of near-miss syndrome occurring within 24 hours of DTP injection24 Analysis of these and more than 150 cases of DTP post-vaccinal deaths reported in the literature—about half of which were sudden or anaphylactic—led Torch to conclude: "Although many feel that the DPT-SIDS relationship is temporal, this author and others maintain a casual relationship exists in a yet-to-be-determined SIDS fraction."25

Other researchers also have uncovered a relationship between DTP and SIDS.26,27 However, the CDC reported in 199628 that several studies conducted in the 1980s did not find an association between DTP vaccination and SIDS.29,30

Pertussis vaccination and asthma. A 1994 study found that children immunized against whooping cough were five times more likely to suffer from asthma than those who did not receive the vaccine.31 Another study of almost 2,000 children born between 1974 and 1984 showed that vaccination against whooping cough was associated with a 76% increased risk of developing asthma and other allergic diseases later in life.32 On the other hand, a study published by the CDC of more than 160,000 children did not find an association between the DTP vaccine and the risk of asthma.33 A 2006 report from the Netherlands also found that receipt of the DTP/polio vaccine in infancy was not related to reported atopic disorders at primary school age.34

Tetanus Toxoid
The literature includes articles on neurological reactions to the tetanus vaccination35-40 and other adverse reactions.41-43


Three types of polio vaccines have been used throughout the world: 1) the OPV, or oral polio vaccine (Sabin vaccine), consisting of live attenuated poliovirus; 2) the IPV, or inactivated polio vaccine (Salk vaccine), consisting of killed poliovirus and given by injection; and 3) the eIPV, an enhanced potency inactivated polio vaccine, consisting of killed poliovirus with high viral antigen content.

In the United States, the IPV (enhanced potency version) has been recommended for routine childhood vaccination against polio since 2000. Before that, the live attenuated OPV was the polio vaccine of choice for more than three decades. This vaccine, however, actually caused polio—vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis (VAPP)—in a small percentage of recipients.44 The risk of VAPP "became more difficult to justify" as polio was controlled worldwide and importations of wild poliovirus to the US became less likely, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.45

As a result, in 1996 the government recommended a sequential schedule using both IPV and OPV for the childhood polio vaccination series. The ACIP then recommended the all-IPV schedule in 2000.

According to the CDC, the overall risk for VAPP is approximately one case in 2.4 million OPV doses distributed, while the first-dose risk is one case in 750,000 doses distributed. The OPV has caused the only indigenous cases of polio reported in the US since 1979. Between 1980 and 1998, 144 cases of VAPP were reported.46 Another VAPP case occurred in 1999, and in 2005, a case of imported VAPP was reported in the US after an unvaccinated American woman traveled to Central America and was exposed to an infant vaccinated with OPV.47 In late 2005, four cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) involving a poliovirus strain used in the OPV were identified in unvaccinated children in an Amish community in Minnesota. The source of these infections is not known, since the OPV has not been used in the US since 2000.48

During the time that the trivalent OPV was used in the US (from 1963 to 1999), an inactivated polio vaccine was available. The original IPV, developed by Jonas Salk, was used to immunize American children from 1955 to 1962. According to the JAMA article, the OPV became preferred to the IPV because it provided better intestinal immunity, was able to indirectly vaccinate susceptible contacts through transmission of vaccine polioviruses, was easier to administer, and cost less.49

Although IPV does not cause VAPP, the severity profiles of reports to VAERS on IPV and OPV in infants up to six months of age were "remarkably similar." Among the most frequent symptoms reported for IPV were fever, SIDS, convulsions, agitation, apnea, and stupor. Reports of fatalities in 1998 per 100,000 doses distributed were somewhat higher for IPV than for OPV. Of 142 fatalities reported for both IPV and OPV in 1997-1998, 89 indicated SIDS.50

Polio vaccine and Guillain-Barre syndrome. GBS is a disease that involves the nervous system and is characterized by muscle weakness, numbness, loss of reflexes, and paralysis.

In Finland, in 1985, there was an increase in the incidence of GBS a few weeks after the implementation of a nationwide campaign using OPV.51,52 And in Brazil, an analysis of 38 cases of paralysis diagnosed as GBS led in all cases to the isolation of the vaccine strains of the poliovirus. All patients had been vaccinated with the OPV months or years before the onset of symptoms.53 In contrast, two other studies failed to find a correlation between GBS and the OPV.54,55

Vaccine viruses also have been isolated from patients with paralysis diagnosed as transverse myelitis (TM), and in patients with facial paralysis (FP).56 Most individuals with TM and FP had received the OPV months or years prior to the onset of disease, indicating that the virus may remain latent and revert to virulence later in time.

Polio vaccine and SV40-related cancers. Research conducted in the past few decades has revealed that several types of cancer may be associated with the receipt of polio vaccines more than 40 years ago that were contaminated with a monkey virus.

In 1960, it was discovered that the Salk IPV was contaminated with SV40 (simian virus 40), which was derived from the monkey cells used to grow the vaccine viruses. The SV40 survived inactivation with formaldehyde, the method used to kill the poliovirus for use in the vaccine. More than 98 million Americans were vaccinated during the time period (from 1955 to 1963)57 that injectable and oral doses of the polio vaccine were contaminated with SV40. These people today have SV40 sequences integrated into their genetic code.

Animal studies have demonstrated the ability of SV40 to integrate its DNA into that of the host cell and induce malignancy. Unfortunately, studies show that the virus retains these same properties in humans and is associated with increased rates of certain cancers.58 Integration and replication of SV40 has been documented in 13% to 43% of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas,59,60 47% to 83% of mesotheliomas (malignant tumors of the lining of the lungs),61,62 11% to 90% of different types of brain tumors,63-66 50% of osteosarcomas,67 more than 33% of other types of bone tumors,68,69 and 28% of bronchopulmonary carcinomas.70

A continuing concern is that SV40 may be transmitted from person to person. The virus has been detected in people born in the 1980s and 1990s, decades after the tainted polio vaccine was no longer in use.71 SV40 is now present in children, as noted by Kurt Link, MD, in his 2005 book The Vaccine Controversy, and the CDC takes this as evidence that SV40 is a naturally acquired infection unrelated to exposure to the contaminated polio vaccine. But as Dr. Link states, it is more likely that people infected by the vaccine have transmitted SV40 to others or to their offspring (such as through semen). The implication, he says, is that "any SV40 problems may not, as had been hoped, fade away with time. There is even now, ironically, work being done to provide a vaccine against SV40."72

It should be noted that other research indicates there is no association between SV40 and an increased risk of rare cancers such as ependymomas, osteosarcomas, and mesotheliomas. One study compared rates of cancer after 30 years in birth cohorts who were likely to have received SV40-contaminated vaccine as infants and children with rates in people who not unexposed. Age-specific cancer rates were not significantly elevated for those exposed to the tainted vaccine.73 Another study found no increased number of cancer deaths among 1,073 people who received SV40-contaminated vaccine,74 and a 35-year follow-up found no deaths from the types of tumors that have been linked to SV40.75

Page 1, 2, Notes



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