ANH Vaccine Choice campaign
launches February 6, 2009
Reprinted with permission from
Alliance for Natural Health,
ANH medical director, Dr Damien Downing, a practicing medical doctor and
President of the
British Society for Ecological Medicine, who has taken a deep interest in this issue for some years, tries to
get closer to the truth about vaccine efficacy and safety.
Millions of parents every year face a grave dilemma; should we give our
child the usual vaccines and risk autism, or refuse them and risk meningitis
and other complications, plus increasing pressure to vaccinate from the
authorities? How to evaluate the evidence? Who can we trust?
Government policy, in the UK and USA, is clear; all your children should
have all the vaccines. If they don’t you may be prosecuted (New
York), and they may be barred from school (UK). Some countries may refuse
immigration of unvaccinated children (Australia). And year by year the
list of vaccines just grows.
Because vaccines are the new Pharma. While most of the big-earning drugs
are nearing the end of their profit cycles, vaccines are just selling
more and more; over $10 billion per annum worldwide, not a profit centre
any company wants to abandon. The pharmaceutical multinationals not only
have preferential access to government circles via lobbyists and other
less transparent links; they are the ‘jewel in the crown’
of industry, so successful that governments dare not threaten them lest
they take their jobs and taxes elsewhere.
What should you do? Should you give your child the MMR? Should your daughter
have the cervical cancer jab? Should you have the flu jab yourself?
The first principle is that, in a democracy, it should be your choice.
Most of us in Europe used to be a democracy until recently, but now, where
the Lisbon Treaty is still being pushed through despite a 100% rejection
rate by any citizens (France, Holland, Ireland) asked for their opinion,
they talk about post-democracy. Post-democracy is a system where most
policies and laws are made not by elected representatives voting according
to the wishes of the electorate, but by regulations, establishing quangos,
and presidential-style decrees that largely bypass any democratic process.
Where countries go to war despite the will of the people; where indeed
the elections are not representative. And where compulsory vaccination,
alongside compulsory medication of our children for their putative ADHD
(attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), is imposed against our will.
And where nutrients that can provide cheap, safe and effective treatments
for many problems are being outlawed on the basis of manipulated and flawed evidence.
The second is that you should be provided with the information necessary
to make an informed decision. But you won’t get the truth from the
government or from the manufacturers. You certainly don’t get the
truth from your broadcasters, as those of us in the UK have found out
to our chagrin
now that dear Old Aunty (the BBC) seems to be towing the pro-pharma pro-vaccine
health line. You won’t even necessarily get the truth from your
doctors; although there are many excellent doctors who acknowledge and
stand up for their patients’ rights, there are many who are, as
some of them will admit, afraid to put their heads above the parapet.
They have learnt what not to say in order to get on, to have a career.
This couldn’t be truer of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
How do you decide when you don’t know who to trust? You do your own
research and make up your own mind. You know that when people or websites
are selling something they may not be offering completely unbiased information
- and that goes for governments and companies as well as individuals of
course. You know that medical research isn’t always pure and unbiased (see
link on this website on how pharmaceutical advertising biases what journals publish). You know
that you have to form your own judgment even about what we say - and we
wouldn’t have it otherwise. So listen to what we say, then look
at some of the links we provide, then exercise your vaccine choice.
The frequently-repeated assertion at the heart of autism-denial is that
research has proved that there is no link between vaccines and autism.
Much of the time this refers back to one paper by a Danish group[i] in
2003 - a group with a vested interest, working as they did for the state-run
vaccine industry. The paper considered children diagnosed with autism
between 1971 and 2000; thimerosal was removed from vaccines in Denmark
in 1992, and the paper argued that because they found that autism cases
continued to rise after that date, thimerosal could not have been a causative
factor. But regressive autism typically manifests in the second year of
life, but is not diagnosed for some years; 75% of affected children in
Denmark are thought to be diagnosed and reported between the ages of 5
and 19 years, so the reporting rate would not be expected to fall significantly
in the 8 years from the removal of thimerosal to the end of the study.
This is not the most glaring problem in the study, however; that would
be the fact that the authors moved the goalposts from 1995 onwards by
including children diagnosed as out-patients; prior to that date only
in-patients were included. Naturally, out-patients made up the vast majority
- 93% of all cases in the analysis, guaranteeing a rise in numbers whatever
The next favourite paper is by Andrews, Miller and others in the UK in
2004[ii]; again there are questions about both the ethical probity and
the methodological soundness of the study. Ethical questions arose because
the two main authors worked for the Health Protection Agency - so they
were partly responsible for the vaccination policy which they were reviewing
- and because they did not declare in the paper that they had received
money from several vaccine manufacturers; multiple conflicts of interest
in fact. The methodological issues included inadequacies in the UK General
Practitioner Research database on which the study was based, and the fact
that the authors, despite their affilliations, even got the dose of thimerosal
wrong, throwing out their calculations. This came to light subsequently,
but the study has never been withdrawn, and continues to be cited as valid.
Since then there have been a number of other studies claiming to demonstrate
that there is no vaccine-autism link. Most of them have been reviews of
other studies (which allows media to quote them as “new research
shows that….” when it is nothing of the sort), but the latest
is a study from Italy[iii] which is actual, not warmed-over research.
The paper, by Dr Alberto Tozzi, has been publicized as demonstrating yet
again that thimerosal does not contribute to autism or neurodevelopmental
problems. But guess what; it also turns out to have ethical and methodological
issues. The ethical one is that the author does not declare any conflict
of interest, despite having received grants in the past from Wyeth, GlaxoSmithKline
and from Novartis - all major vaccine manufacturers. The methodological
one is that there was no real control group; the study compared subjects
who had received two different doses of thimerosal in a whooping-cough
vaccine in 1992-3. The authors themselves have admitted that “comparing
children with no exposure to thimerosal could have improved the study”,
which didn’t prevent it being hyped as further proof of the safety
of thimerosal. The other curiousity about the study is that in 1700 students
they found only one case of autism; hardly a useful group to compare to
primary school children in the UK or USA, where the same number would
have more than 20 cases. There may be good reasons why Italian children
are different to American ones - chiefly to do with their exposure to
other toxins such as pesticides[iv].
The other standard assertion is that there is no research to link autism
to mercury, as contained in the thimerosal preservative; but as Bernard
Rimland pointed out time and again, you can only make that assertion by
ignoring the evidence - which is what usually happens[v]. The next step
is to muddy the waters by recommending that pregnant mothers should avoid
eating fish due to its mercury content - although mercury in vaccines,
or in your teeth, is perfectly safe! As is the tapwater, food and the
air we breathe; the pesticides, flame retardants and other toxins we can’t
avoid are all harmless, we’re told.
Let’s be clear on this. Mercury, wherever it comes from, is poisonous
to some degree. The younger you are, the more toxic it is; developing
brains are much more vulnerable to mercury and to all the other toxins
than our adult brains. The mercury in vaccines is in addition to exposure
from incinerator fumes, from the mother’s dental fillings, from
all the background exposures we all receive. And in addition to the pesticides,
flame retardants and so on that pervade our ecosystem. Polar bears, otters,
fish, humans, we are all being poisoned. Just removing mercury from vaccines
won’t solve that, it will only remove the worst culprit.
One team of doctors then came up with some possible evidence for an MMR-autism
link. The study was published in one of the world’s most prestigious
Lancet in 1998. Dr Andrew Wakefield and colleagues from the Royal Free Hospital
in London reported specific bowel symptoms in a prospective case series
of twelve consecutive vaccinated children diagnosed with autism spectrum
disorders and other disabilities, and alleged a possible connection with
the MMR vaccination. In the wake of the paper’s publication, the
doctors faced a massive assault from the media, the vaccine manufacturers,
the government, the UK’s
General Medical Council (GMC) and a large clutch of doctors. They were accused of professional
misconduct, booted from their jobs and in March 2004 the GMC announced
it was going to instigate an inquiry.
Last month, the GMC resumed its hearing in the case of Andrew Wakefield,
along with colleagues Dr Simon Murch and Professor John Walker-Smith.
This hearing has now been running intermittently for 18 months, has cost
the taxpayer millions, has kept good doctors from helping autistic and
other children, and incredibly, still manages to control mainstream public
opinion. Where are the dissenting views? Where is the news about events
in this field in the USA? Well it is all on the web, most notably perhaps at
Cry Shame (see also
ANH feature, 10 July 2008), an apt name for the site that spearheads the news on this travesty of
justice and its role in controlling us all; read
Martin Walker‘s fascinating account
there of the entire hearing, and read also what is happening with regard to
autism in real life.
Our position on Andrew Wakefield and his co-defendants is clear and unchanging;
ethically they had no choice, back in 1998, but to report on their identification
of what may still be an important finding in a minority of children with
autism. The Lancet saw this at the time and published without hesitation;
the editor, Richard Horton, must have come under severe pressure thereafter
which led him to change his tune, and to allege a conflict of interest
on the part of Wakefield.
Nevertheless, in the GMC hearing (last year) Horton asserted that the science
of the paper “still stands“, and that he “wished, wished, wished” that the clock
could be turned back and the paper be considered again in the light in
which it was first presented. So say we all.
I couldn’t quite believe my ears last week when I heard everybody’s
‘favourite’ media doctor-cum-scientist, Ben Goldacre, on London’s
BBC Radio 4 suggesting that autism is a fashionable diagnosis. I thought
this one had been put to death long ago - if not by Bernard Rimland writing
in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine in 2000, and
elsewhere, then by Gillian Baird’s Lancet paper in 2006.
In 2000 Rimland said[vi];
and went on to substantiate this by reference to a number of studies in
In 2006 Baird et al said[vii];
and reported that, of 56,000 children aged 9 or 10 they surveyed in the
South Thames area, 1 in 86 had autism or ASD. Since then, further doubt
has been left in the air by a report in the Observer in 2007 (since removed
from the newspaper’s website) that the
Autism Research Centre in Cambridge had conducted their own studies, and found an incidence of
one child in 58. All attempts to get this confirmed or denied have been
So why do we now have a media ‘scientist’ jumping back a decade
to imply that there is no epidemic of autism, only fashionably neurotic
parents, misled by unscrupulous people (like me, I guess)? He’s
entitled to his opinion, of course, so the question is more “Why
do we never hear dissenting voices to the chorus of government, industry
and academic voices declaring unanimously that vaccines are entirely safe?”
Equally, why do we never hear, unless we log on to certain, mostly American,
websites (see below for links), about the constantly accruing evidence
that mercury and other toxins can cause autism? Not to mention that mercury
is found in
We know that they are not right about these things, so they must be either
lying or stupid. Since “they” includes the FDA in America
and New Labour over here, it can’t be the latter. Could it be that
Why do we hear no dissenting voice on the media? Why does, for instance,
the UK’s BBC allow Professor David Salisbury to state, unchallenged
and repeatedly on the Radio 4 Today programme, that;
The first two statements are questionable, the third is plain falsehood:
Unlikely. The ‘scare’ started in 1999, but as this graph (from
a 2007 London Assembly report[viii]) shows, vaccination rates did not
fall until 2002, and not significantly until 2005. Also, DPT vaccination
rates fell exactly the same as MMR at the same time. This suggests a loss
of faith in the government statements on the whole subject of vaccine
safety - just as many young people lost faith in statements on drugs -
rather than a response to the media “scare” about MMR.
Since rates for all vaccinations have always been much lower in London,
other ethnic and cultural factors must play a part as well.
Up to a point, Minister. Since GPs seem to retire in their 40s these days,
I wonder if there are many around with experience of managing measles?
The MMR vaccine was introduced in the UK in 1988, and there is no doubt
that it slashed measles rates, so very few GPs under 60 now will have
seen much. But as a GP in the 70s I had responsibility for seeing a number
of children through measles, and it was a relatively easy matter for the
large majority; rest, quiet, minimal television, fluids, call again if
any problems arise. The only serious risk of complications is in children
with pre-existing problems or risk factors (living with two smoker parents
The real problem with measles is the possible complication of measles encephalitis,
which can be fatal, but this only happens in one in several million measles
sufferers. As a parent, one has to weigh this against the risk of developing
autism or a disease on the autistic spectrum, which is currently at least
1 in 100 for boys, and perhaps as high as 1 in 58; if MMR vaccination
contributes to this risk, should you have your child vaccinated with it?
See above; all the studies that claim to disprove the link have serious
questions over their probity and methodology, which are never acknowledged.
A reasonable guesstimate of the truth that will no doubt eventually emerge
is that MMR is a minor factor in precipitating autism, or perhaps just
a common “last straw”, but that toxins, particularly but not
only mercury preservatives in vaccines, are a major factor.
What is really irrational is to impose the multiple vaccines, such as MMR,
on us all, when there is a real doubt over a link to autism. It is unprincipled
for government to “manage” the information, and deny us the
wherewithal to make informed judgements for ourselves. It is also “irrational”
because it destroys trust in the government’s statements, on vaccines
or on anything. This is the best explanation for the drop in vaccination
rates - an entirely rational suspicion that governments and manufacturers
are covering up the truth.
The manufacturers have a simple reason to do this; profit. Profit now,
from the current vaccine programme, and future profit from the increasing
numbers of vaccines that are being rolled out for other diseases. For
government it’s about control; in our post-democratic surveillance
state they seek to control everything we do, without recourse to the democratic process.
One London paediatrician has given more than 3000 single vaccines, and
reports them to be equally as effective as MMR in achieving seroconversion,
which is notably less effective than the manufacturers and the government
claim; both MMR and single vaccines achieved 90% seroconversion for measles,
93% for rubella and only 80% for mumps, against manufacturers’ claims
of 97% for all three. Equally important is the fact that none of the 1000
children given single vaccines has gone on to develop autism or ASD, in
a population that should probably have contained around 17 cases. So why
not make the single vaccines available on the NHS?
“Selfish” is the latest label the pro-vaccination media now
give to parents who have thus far avoided vaccinating their children -
out of concern for their most beloved. That kind of language pulls at
the heart strings and requires even more effort on behalf of busy parents
who care about making properly informed choices that effect not only their
children but more and more, also themselves. It’s not fun being
a social outcast because you’ve apparently decided that it’s
okay to let other children be vaccinated so your own unvaccinated child’s
risk is lessened.
On the website of the University of Calgary, where the research happened,
you will find one of the scariest movies you’ll ever see;
http://commons.ucalgary.ca/mercury. This shows just what mercury can do to nerve cells, and at minute dosages.
We don’t believe that anybody could view that and then dismiss the
mercury-autism theory as “implausible”.
On Youtube you will find
many other clips, including some of
Robert Kennedy Jr. on mercury and autism; he wrote a seminal article in Rolling Stone on
the subject. Listen to that and a few more (you’ll get both sides
of the argument there), read what the excellent anonymous blogger, Acta
Non Verba, has to say on
his/her blog, and have a look at the links below too. Then make your own mind up.
You decide - it’s your right. Personally, if it were my child, I
would decide about each vaccine on its merits, and have, or give, single
vaccines as and when appropriate. There is no question that vaccines do
work, and there are some diseases so dangerous that it’s a “no-brainer”;
the obvious example is tetanus. Bird flu would be another - if they could
make a vaccine that worked. As to the vaccines in MMR; rubella can be
very damaging to unborn babies, so girls should definitely be vaccinated
before they are old enough to get pregnant. Mumps can be damaging to males’
wedding tackle after puberty, and rarely life-threatening. But do all
these vaccines have to be given to babies and toddlers? In my opinion,
and that of a growing group of my medical colleagues, their immune systems
are just not geared up to handle this onslaught. And I would be particularly
careful if either parent, or their parents, has a history of allergies
or other immune problems, or of problems with chemicals, or of neurological
problems such as Alzheimer’s or Multiple Sclerosis. There are a
few private doctors and clinics around the country who will give you single
vaccines (I’m not one of them). You’ll find them through any
But those are my opinions. Now it’s your turn to make your choice.
Dr Damien Downing MB BS
Medical Director, Alliance for Natural Health
President, British Society for Ecological Medicine