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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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Page 1, 2, Notes


Another example of changes to the US vaccination protocol was the addition in 2006 of a second dose of varicella (chickenpox) vaccine to the childhood immunization schedule. This dose is recommended for universal vaccination of all children at ages four to six and for any child, adolescent or adult who previously has received only one dose. The first dose of the varicella vaccine was recommended for children in 1995.76

The ACIP recommended the second dose at four to six years of age "to further improve protection against the disease."77 The fact is, outbreaks of varicella have occurred despite increasing coverage with the first dose of the vaccine. In a survey of 59 jurisdictions (states, large cities, and US territories) by the CDC, 45 jurisdictions were notified of at least once varicella outbreak in 2004, and 13 were notified of six or more. Data obtained on 190 outbreaks in 2004 showed that two-thirds occurred in elementary schools.78

Varicella outbreaks may occur even in highly vaccinated communities, and vaccinated children are still at risk of contracting the disease.79-81 According to the CDC, 11% to 17% of vaccinated children have developed chickenpox—so-called "breakthrough varicella"—in recent outbreaks of the disease among vaccinated schoolchildren.82 In three studies, rates of infection in vaccinated individuals ranged from 18% to 34% anywhere from five to ten years following immunization.83-85

In other recent studies of chickenpox outbreaks, vaccine effectiveness against varicella of any severity ranged from 44% to 87%. Effectiveness was as high as 97% for moderate or severe illness.86-91 Research also shows that people with breakthrough varicella tend to have milder illness than do unvaccinated people who contract the disease,92 although the vaccinated individuals can be just as infectious.93

VAERS received 6,574 reports of adverse events for the varicalla vaccine from March 17, 1995 to July 25, 1998. Approximately four percent of reports concerned serious events (such as anaphylaxis, thrombocytopenia, pneumonia, and convulsions) and deaths.94

The dangers of adult chickenpox. In most cases chickenpox is a benign, self-limiting disease in children, and the natural immunity derived from contracting the disease is permanent. Vaccine-induced immunity, on the other hand, lasts only an estimated six to ten years. The temporary nature of vaccine-induced immunity can create a more dangerous situation by postponing the child's vulnerability until adulthood, when death from the disease is 30 times more likely.

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), Vienna, Va., advises parents to seriously consider not using the chickenpox vaccine in healthy children. According to Barbara Loe Fisher, cofounder and president, "The case/fatality ratio in healthy children is one death per 100,000 children. In adults, it rises to 31 deaths per 100,000. So it basically is an experiment. That is really what happens with most of these vaccines that they bring out. They really don't know what the long-term effect is going to be." Dr. Link, however, cautions that if most children are immunized according to the current US policy of universal vaccination, "it may be unwise to try to avoid vaccination because of the hazard of later acquiring varicella as an adult."95

The temporary immunity provided by the vaccine is a particular concern for pregnant women. Normally, 90% of adult women are immune to varicella and transfer this immunity to their babies during pregnancy. But the immunity induced by vaccination, which lasts only five to ten years, may be gone by the time a woman enters her reproductive stage, leaving pregnant women at risk of contracting the infection and transmitting it to the fetus. Fetal varicella syndrome is characterized by multiple congenital malformations and is often fatal for the fetus.96 In addition, children born to women whose vaccine-induced immunity has faded are unprotected during the first year of life, when their immune system is still developing, and may suffer fatal complications if exposed to the infection.

Another potential problem in the coming years is an increase in the rate of shingles due to widespread use of the varicella vaccine. As Dr. Link explains, the varicella zoster virus causes both chickenpox and herpes zoster (shingles). The virus could lie dormant for many years and later become active and cause shingles due to a reduction in immunity. One report states that mass vaccination with varicella "is expected to cause a major epidemic of herpes zoster."97 And while some research has not found in increase in the rate of shingles, reports Dr. Link, it will be years before we know whether the vaccine virus is too weak to be activated or the immunity produced by the vaccine is too weak to control the virus.98

It is of interest that the FDA approved the first vaccine for herpes zoster in 2006. Zostavax is a live vaccine licensed for use in people age 60 and older. In a study of approximately 38,000 people, the vaccine reduced the incidence of herpes zoster by about 50% overall. Effectiveness ranged from 64% for people age 60-69 to 18% for those 80 and older.99


The hepatitis B vaccine became commercially available in the US in 1982 and was recommended for certain high-risk groups of people. However, when vaccination programs aimed at these groups did not stem an increase in hepatitis B infections, the ACIP recommended universal immunization of infants against this disease in 1991.100

An analysis of reports made to VAERS over 11 years—from 1991 to 2001—found that hepatitis B was the most frequently mentioned vaccine in 1991-1995 reports and the second-most commonly mentioned (after varicella) in 1996-2001 reports.101

An earlier study found that 12,520 adverse reactions to hepatitis B were reported to VAERS from 1991 to 1994, with 14% of these reactions involving newborns and infants.102 Approximately one-third of reactions involved an emergency room visit or hospitalization, according to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). There were 440 deaths, about 180 of which were attributed to SIDS.103

Dr. Jane M. Orient, executive director of AAPS, has stated that according to a federal government study, "Children younger than 14 are three times more likely to die or suffer adverse reactions after receiving hepatitis B vaccines than to catch the disease."104

In adults, hepatitis B vaccination was associated with serious autoimmune disorders in one analysis of VAERS data and a review of the literature, published in 2004. These disorders included arthritis, pancytopenia/ thrombocytopenia, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, myelitis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and optic neuritis. In adult use of the hepatitis B vaccine, there were 465 positive re-challenge adverse events.105

Other articles associate the hepatitis B vaccine with complications of the nervous system106-110 and joints111-116 and other adverse effects.117 The Institute of Medicine stated in 2002 that "the epidemiological evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between the hepatitis B vaccine in adults and multiple sclerosis." (The evidence was inadequate to accept or reject a causal association with other demyelinating conditions.)118 A case-control study published by the CDC in 2003 also found that the hepatitis B vaccine is not associated with an increased risk of multiple sclerosis or optic neuritis.119 However, a case-control study published in 2004 concluded that its findings "are consistent with the hypothesis that immunization with the recombinant hepatitis B vaccine is associated with an increased risk of MS, and challenge the idea that the relation between hepatitis B vaccination and risk of MS is well understood."120

The purpose of vaccinations is to reduce the risks of complications associated with the diseases they are designed to prevent. Complications from a vaccine should not outweigh those derived from the disease. And yet, according to Dr. Philip Incao, who has studied vaccinations and the immune system for three decades, in the case of hepatitis B, "...the conclusion is obvious that the risks of hepatitis B vaccination far outweigh its benefits."121

Are vaccine-induced antibodies only temporary? Vaccine supporters claim that the development of an antibody response to a vaccine virus equals protection against the disease. So we now vaccinate children against hepatitis B to prevent them from contracting the disease later in life. But for this to occur, the level of antibodies that are supposed to be protective must remain high for very long periods of time.

A study published in 2004 reports that antibodies to hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBs) had disappeared by five years of age in most of the low-risk children studied who were vaccinated from birth against hepatitis B.122 A study in the Gambia found that fewer than half of vaccinees had detectable anti-HBs 15 years after vaccination and that vaccine efficacy against infection among 20- to 24-year-olds was 70.9%. A positive finding was that hepatitis B vaccination in early life can provide long-lasting protection against carriage of the hepatitis B virus—a major risk factor for liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma—despite decreasing levels of anti-HBs.123

One study of adult hepatitis B vaccination evaluated the persistence of anti-hepatitis-B antibodies in 635 homosexual men immunized against the virus. After five years, antibodies no longer existed in 15% and had declined sharply—below levels deemed to be protective—in another 27%. Hepatitis B developed in 55 men, and two became carriers of the virus.124 Another study found that after three years, 36% of individuals who initially responded to the hepatitis B immunization lost anti-hepatitis-B antibodies.125

Why then are we needlessly vaccinating millions of children if by the time they'll be adults and might be exposed to the virus, they won't have the antibodies that are supposed to protect them? And, in any case, are these antibodies offering protection against the disease?


In recent years, two of three diseases targeted by the MMR vaccine—measles and rubella—have been virtually eliminated in the United States. The last major resurgence of measles occurred in 1989-1991, when more than 55,000 cases and approximately 120 deaths were reported. The ACIP recommended in 1989 that a second dose of measles-containing vaccine be added to the childhood vaccination schedule, and the incidence of measles began to fall in 1992. A record low of 37 cases were reported in 2004.126,127 In 2000, a panel of experts convened by the CDC determined that measles was no longer endemic in the US.128 Similarly, the incidence of rubella fell to nine cases in 2004, and it was determined that rubella is no longer endemic in the US.129

Despite this success, concerns remain about adverse effects of MMR vaccination. The Institute of Medicine has found evidence that this vaccine can cause anaphylaxis, thrombocytopenia, and acute arthritis.130,131 Other research has associated the vaccine with adverse effects on the nervous system132-137 gastrointestinal tract,138 and joints.139-141

Meryl Dorey, editor of the Australian publication Vaccination? The Choice is Yours and president of the Australian Vaccination Network, points out that the MMR vaccine is associated with Guillain-Barre paralysis, multiple sclerosis, and aseptic meningitis, a swelling of the lining of the brain that can be fatal. The CDC has noted that while cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome following MMR vaccination have been reported, the IOM has found the evidence "insufficient to accept or reject a causal relationship."142

Measles Vaccine

Vaccine failures. A study published in 1994 evaluated all US and Canadian articles reporting measles outbreaks in schools and found that, on average, 77 % of these infections occurred in vaccinated people. The authors concluded, "The apparent paradox is that as measles immunization rates rise to high levels in a population, measles becomes a disease of immunized persons."143 The New England Journal of Medicine has reported that 60% of all measles cases among American schoolchildren between 1985 and 1986 occurred in those who were vaccinated.144 Other studies confirm a high percentage of measles among vaccinated subjects.145,146

Vulnerabilities related to the measles vaccine. Natural immunity to measles—derived from contracting the disease—is permanent and is transferred from mothers to babies in utero through the placenta. Babies born to mothers who have had the disease are protected from the infection during their first year of life by the presence of a high concentration of natural antibodies circulating in their blood. Measles vaccination, on the other hand, induces lower antibody titers than does natural infection. Neutralizing measles antibodies passed by vaccinated women to their newborns disappear rapidly, leaving the babies susceptible to the infection in their first year of life, when they are more at risk of complications.

This difference in infants' immunity levels is reflected in a 1995 study. Researchers found that 71% of nine-month-olds and 95% of 12-month-olds had no detectable neutralizing measles antibodies in their blood. All infants with detectable measles antibodies at nine or 12 months had mothers born before 1963, before the vaccine era.147

Research confirms that antibody response to the vaccine virus is only temporary. One study shows that four years after MMR vaccination, measles antibodies fell below the putative protective levels in 28% of children and were no longer present in another three percent of vaccinees.148 Experimenting with high-potency vaccines produced even poorer results.149

Jamie Murphy, author of
What Every Parent Should Know About Childhood Immunization, argues that rather than preventing measles, the vaccine may simply suppress it, only to have it manifest as other forms of disease with age.150 He asserts that quite a few diseases are associated with the measles vaccine, including "encephalopathies (brain damage), aseptic meningitis, cranial nerve palsy, learning disabilities, hyperkinesis, and severe mental retardation...."151 Several studies have documented that measles vaccination produces immune suppression that contributes to an increased susceptibility to other infections.152,153 One study links measles vaccination to Crohn's disease.154

Problems with vaccine testing. In a response to information provided by the World Health Organization, author and lecturer Trevor Gunn has identified shortcomings in the testing of vaccines and the rationale for mass immunization, particularly with regards to measles.155 One problem is that vaccine studies use seroconversion, or antibody presence in the bloodstream, to indicate effectiveness. When UK health authorities say that the measles vaccine is 90% effective, they do not mean that it reduces the incidence, severity, or death rate of the disease by 90%, but rather that 90% of recipients produce a certain level of antibodies to the viral agents. However, the level of serum antibodies does not correlate with the body's ability to fight illness. People with low antibody levels may demonstrate immunity, while people with higher antibody levels may have no immunity.

Given this disconnect, says Gunn, we must "place a greater reliance on obtaining efficacy results of immunisation from population studies." These studies measure the level of disease protection in populations after they've been inoculated, using cohort groups matched for age, population, and disease exposure similarities, and so forth. Although WHO quoted references to a number of population studies in its communication with Gunn, the author says that all of the studies were conducted in developing countries. Thus, the results cannot be "directly extrapolate to developed countries," where people may fear that the risks of vaccination outweigh the risk of contracting a disease such as measles.

In addition, notes Gunn, population studies referenced by WHO show the difficulties of vaccine testing. One study, for example, suggests that measles vaccination reduces childhood mortality by 30%. However, the control group was not non-vaccinated, but rather included children who did not seroconvert and thus were assumed to have no immune response to the vaccine. In this case, we would not know whether deaths in the control group were due directly to the vaccine, to its lack of effectiveness, or to lack of natural immunity provided by the measles itself. In another group in this study, 15 of 123 did not have antibody conversion after vaccination, so their results were excluded as well. Three of this group actually died. We do not know the cause of these deaths, or whether the remaining 12 in the group were prevented from getting the disease.156 In another study, the cohort group was cherry-picked for people who did not have a history of measles. This group may have been less likely to die from measles in general or may be heartier in general than the people who were selected against in the study.157

Mumps Vaccine

Although mumps infection is a largely benign disease when contracted during childhood, it becomes more dangerous in older children and adults, who are more susceptible to severe neurological, testicular, and ovarian complications from the infection. It is alarming to see that vaccination is clearly shifting the occurrence of this disease from young children toward those who are older.158

A large outbreak of mumps occurred in the United States in 2006, with 5,783 cases being reported to the CDC in less than ten months (from January 1 to October 7). The median age for the mumps patients was 22 years, and the highest age-specific rate was among people 18 to 24 years of age, many of them college students.159

Questions about efficacy. The resurgence of mumps raises concerns about vaccine failure. Although the CDC does not know the vaccination history of all the 2006 cases, it has reported that 63% of 1,798 patients in Iowa (which had the highest number of cases) had received one or two doses of the MMR vaccine.160

Other mumps outbreaks have occurred in highly vaccinated populations in the US and Europe.161-163 The populations in several of these studies had virtually complete vaccination coverage. In a high school population with more than 95% coverage, 53 of 54 students who got the disease were vaccinated.164 In a Tennessee school with 98% coverage, 67 of 68 students who got mumps were vaccinated. Thus, mumps cases in this instance were attributed mostly to vaccine failure.165

Perhaps the boldest statement on the efficacy of the mumps vaccine comes from the authors of an epidemiological study conducted in Switzerland. They found a fivefold increase in the number of mumps cases from 1990 to 1993, especially in vaccinated children. Among the authors' conclusions was: "The Rubini [mumps] strain vaccines, which are the most commonly used in Switzerland, seem to have played an important role in the clear increase in mumps cases since 1990."166

Urabe strain and meningitis. Another strain of mumps virus used in vaccines has been associated with the development of aseptic meningitis.167 The Urabe strain is not used in vaccines in the US, but it has been used in Canada and the United Kingdom in the past. This strain of mumps virus was identified as the cause of aseptic meningitis in 1989 in patients who developed meningitis 21 days after injection. The virus isolated from these patients was identical to that used in the vaccine.

The Urabe strain of the mumps virus was removed from Canadian vaccines in 1989168 because of a meningitis outbreak. The strain was removed in the UK in 1992. According to Trevor Gunn, when laboratory and hospital reports were cross-linked to vaccination records there, "the [perceived low risk of meningitis from this particular vaccine] rose to between one in 4,000 and one in 21,000."169 Despite these vaccine withdrawals, a mass immunization campaign targeting children one to 11 years old was carried out in 1997 in Salvador, Brazil, with a Urabe-containing MMR vaccine. An outbreak of aseptic meningitis followed, with 58 cases diagnosed.170

Rubella Vaccine

A study published in 1981 found that 15 years after receiving rubella vaccination, one in 11 children lost protection and became susceptible to re-infection.171 This is worrisome because rubella infection is especially dangerous when contracted during pregnancy, since the fetus may develop malformations if exposed to the virus. Again, the lack of permanent immunity offered by vaccinations is creating serious problems down the line.
Viera Scheibner, a retired research scientist, notes that in a 1991 report on the adverse effects of pertussis and rubella vaccines from the Institute of Medicine, "the evidence indicated a causal relationship between RA 27/3 rubella vaccine and acute arthritis in 13% to 15% of adult women. Also some individuals were shown to go on to develop chronic arthritis."172

In Part 3: Rotavirus, meningococcal, and smallpox vaccines; provocation diseases associated with vaccination; economic and legal issues and the right to refuse vaccination.

Page 1, 2, Notes

Gary Null, PhD
2307 Broadway
New York, New York 10024 USA
646-505-4660/ Fax 212-472-5139

Gary Null, PhD has authored more than 50 books on health and nutrition and numerous articles published in research journals. He holds a PhD in human nutrition and public health science from the Union Graduate School. Dr. Null's website,, presents information on how to optimize health through nutrition, lifestyle factors and alternative medicine.

Martin Feldman, MD practices complementary medicine. He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Neurology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.


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