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Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Vaccination: Panacea or Pandora ’s Box?

Vaccination: Panacea or Pandora ’s Box?

“Breastfeeding is bad for babies”. No! That is not the news. “Breastfeeding is bad for beauties (oops, mothers)”. No! That is also not the news. The news is that breastfeeding is bad for rotavirus, or more accurately for live rotavirus ingested via say Rotarix (made by Glaxo Smith Klines) or RotaTeq (made by Merck) vaccines. Now this would be welcome news to anyone, especially mothers & their babies. It means that evolutionary mechanisms that got selected for the protection of our species are working fine. But no, it got some researchers worried. Before we come to the cause of worry, let us see what havoc the evil Rotavirus visits on infants. Incidentally, both Rotarix and RotaTeq were found to be contaminated earlier by Centre For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC): “In March 2010, it was learned that a virus (or parts of a virus) called porcine circovirus (PCV) is present in both rotavirus vaccines”; though it helpfully adds: “There is no evidence that porcine circovirus is a safety risk or causes illness in humans”.
“Rotavirus is a leading cause of severe diarrhoea among infants and young children” is what RotaTeq website informs us. It further adds: “Rotavirus is an extremely common and easy-to-catch virus, and it can be serious. Nearly all children are infected by the time they’re 5 years of age”.  The symptoms of rotavirus infection may include “fever, vomiting, upset stomach, and watery diarrhoea that can last from 3 to 9 days”. Then it alarmingly informs us that “Historically in the United States, rotavirus infection was responsible for more than 200,000 emergency room visits and 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations each year”. Put this way, it should strike the fear of god in any bosom and make the corresponding pair of feet bolt to the nearest doctor for vaccinating the precious infant. Since nearly all children by the age of 5 are infected by it, just how many children get infected in USofA? The Census Bureau tells that according to 2010 census there were 20,201,362 individuals under the age of 5 in USofA. That is a huge number and *nearly all of them* are preyed upon by the *scary* rotavirus. Out of so many victims, only 0.99% or say 1 in 100 children is brought to the emergency room. The hospitalizations are still lower at 0.27% to 0.34% or say 1 in every 300 children. Is this frightening statistics? One is not even talking of fatalities here that are estimated at 0.002% or some 400 odd deathssee table below in the entire 20 million population of under 5 years individuals in USofA.

On the other hand, vaccination itself is not risk free. “In 1999, a previous rhesus-human reassortant rotavirus vaccine, RotaShield (Wyeth Laboratories, Marietta, PA), was withdrawn from the US market 9 months after its introduction because it was associated with intussusception (=The invagination of one portion of a tubular anatomical structure (especially intestines or blood vessels) within the next. Invagination= To turn or fold inwardly, Infolding to create a hollow space where none had existed)”. Later, FDA approved in February 2006 RotaTeq and in April 2008 Rotarix. Consider this in the light of a CDC study conducted in 2003, which said that “Since 1985, deaths from diarrheal diseases in children have declined substantially around the world, and a recent analysis suggested that deaths from rotavirus infections might also have been reduced during this period. Furthermore, scant information is available on the global extent of illness from rotavirus disease, particularly hospitalizations, which constitute a major component of total rotavirus illness and deaths in industrialized nations”. Three points strike immediately: (a) deaths from diarrhoeal diseases were already in decline since 1985 and that too without vaccination, (b) Information on illness caused by rotavirus was scanty, & (c) The assertion that hospitalizations constitute major component of total rotavirus illness is false as only 1 in 300 cases requires hospitalisation. This obviously called for studying the causes of decline and for bridging information gaps through more comprehensive disease surveys. Most of the fatalities in diarrhoeal diseases including those caused by rotavirus are as a result of dehydration and the patient receiving necessary lifesaving rehydration too late. The answer clearly lies in augmenting basic health care delivery and improving quality of potable water as well as sanitation; and not in some massive vaccination programs. No doubt that in developing countries the deaths due to rotavirus are unacceptably high and constitute bulk of the *estimated* global rotavirus fatalities, which are put at five hundred thousand. Yet, palpably the main causes of this tragedy are malnutrition, poor sanitation, contaminated drinking water and paucity of timely & competent health care. Rotavirus thus claims only those children as its trophies, who are denied basic human rights by the iniquitous economic and social order.
Now we come to the juicy part, albeit poisonous. But first we begin with an assertion of the fundamental right of every infant to be breastfed, exclusively if possible, until at least the age of six months: “(NaturalNews) Babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life contract significantly fewer infections than babies fed from bottles, and get less sick even when they do get infected, according to a study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood”. Contrary to this proven wisdom, when the researchers at CDC went out to study as to why “Live Oral Rotavirus Vaccines (LORV)” have been less immunogenic & efficacious among children in poor developing countries compared with middle income and industrialized countries; they came back with galling & utterly shocking recommendation- The strategy of delaying breastfeeding at the time of immunisation (with LORV) should be evaluated. Simply put, if the vaccine is not producing the *desired immune response*, then withhold the lifeline of breastfeeding. Researchers collected samples of human breast milk from India, Vietnam (both poor developing), South Korea (Middle Income), and USofA (industrialized) and tested these against 3 (+1) rotavirus strains in vitro. The findings from the “abstract of the study” are worth quoting fully:

FINDINGS: Breast milk from Indian women had the highest IgA and neutralizing titers against all 3 vaccine strains, while lower but comparable median IgA and neutralizing titers were detected in breast milk from Korean and Vietnamese women, and the lowest titers were seen in American women. Neutralizing activity was greatest against the 2 vaccine strains of human origin, RV1 and 116E. This neutralizing activity in one half of the breast milk specimens from Indian women could reduce the effective titer of RV1 by ∼2 logs, of 116E by 1.5 logs, and RV5 G1 strain by ∼1 log more than that of breast milk from American women.

IgA stands for immunoglobulin type A and is an antibody that plays a critical role in mucosal immunity and some 3 to 5 grams of it are secreted every day in the intestine. It helps in identifying and neutralising foreign bodies such as bacteria and viruses. Obviously, it helps in fighting rotavirus infection, which affects the gut. Is it surprising that Indian mothers produced the best immune response of all, exposed as they are to probably to one of the worst polluted and pathogen infested environments? Not only that, but they were passing this valuable immunity on to their offspring through breast milk until the infants own immune system matured enough to fend of the challenges thrown at it by the environment. The fact that the mothers in USofA were not having enough or effective immunoglobulin-A in their milk, is no reason why children in poor developing countries should be deprived of the protective nourishment afforded by their mothers’ breastfeeding of them. The object of the research doesn’t seem to be the welfare of the children whom it avowedly attempts to protect through immunization; but seems to be the welfare of vaccine manufacturers, who would otherwise lose out on the huge market in developing countries if vaccination proves futile or even unnecessary.
There is a reason why mother’s milk is rich, especially in early days, weeks and months, in immunity granting factors. Infants are not miniature adults. They differ from adults in several ways such as body proportions, softness of cranium, or their circulatory system just prior to birth when their lungs are in collapsed state, and inflate only with the first cry belted out once outside the womb. Another significant way in which they differ is their yet immature immune system. There is a reason for that too. Immune system develops & matures through interaction with outside world from which it has been largely secured inside the womb right until birth. A crucial task of a developing immune system is to unerringly distinguish between *self* and *not-self* – the system must decisively respond to outside threats but not to overreact to harmless stimuli or to harm body’s own tissues. If a developing foetus were to have a well-honed immune system, then it would have created havoc both for the mother as well as itself. The foetus is genetically different from mother (and also father). What stops the mother and foetus from treating each other as *not-self* and thereby try to destroy the other? In 2009, researchers based at University of California, SFO discovered that mothers train their foetuses budding immune system by slipping across the placental barrier their cells and thereby teach the foetuses to treat these as own cells. These cells from the mother caused the foetal tissue to produce regulatory T cells that typically inhibit or suppress immune response. Pregnant women similarly produce regulatory T cells on their own in large numbers as a result of pregnancy to prevent their own immune system from attacking foetuses as foreign objects. This fosters the live and let live policy between mother and her foetus without which the miracle of life would have been impossible (There is another prior miracle without which conception itself would be impossible. After all, sperms too are foreign bodies in the female reproductive tract: “The female reproductive tract is a “hostile environment” for foreign cells which are readily attacked by the immune system but sperms move through apparently undetected”). When such policy fails to be in place properly it gives rise to pregnancy related conditions likes preeclampsia in which high blood pressure and other symptoms develop in the second half of pregnancy. When the fully developed foetus emerges out of the womb as a unique individual s/he has to somewhat unlearn this *let live policy* and also has to train proficiently its lethal arsenal to fight myriad pathogens in order to live. Mother’s milk that is rich with immunity enhancing factors aids this transition. Now, should this natural protection be stymied for the success of vaccination and vaccine manufacturers?
If the answer is left to Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) – a self-declared Public-Private-partnership (PPP) or Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation, then it would be an emphatic yes.

The vaccination juggernaut rides on the *apparent success* of Small Pox and Polio vaccines. This impression though doesn’t square up with facts as this article “Polio Eradication, A Dubious Claim” in Hindu Business Line points out. Government of India (GOI) has spent more than INR 120 Billion in last 12 years on pulse Polio program to eradicate polio, when polio accounted for some 20,000 cases and less than 500 deaths annually in 1995 – a year when under the influence of international agencies GOI’s commitment to polio eradication program was secured. On the other hand, Tuberculosis control receives much less –INR 1.84 billion in 2006-07 against INR 10.04 billion for pulse polio- though it accounts for 15 million cases and some 400,000 deaths annually (On the back of Extensively and Multi Drug Resistant (XDR/MDR) cases of TB that have been prevalent for some time, India recently reported TBR or Totally Drug Resistant variety in a dozen patients in Mumbai). Same article further points out: “The justification for the polio eradication programme is that it would substantially reduce the incidence of lameness in children, because polio constitutes the most important cause of preventable lameness in children. But in reality, the incidence of limb-paralysis in children has increased after the Polio Eradication Initiative! The Web site of the National Polio Surveillance Project (NPSP) reveals that the number of cases of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) in children increased from 3,047 to 60,466 (20 times) during 1997 to 2011! Officials argue that this rise in figures is because of thorough documentation and increased sensitivity of the surveillance system for recording AFPs, and that most of these children are later found to be normal. However, if the sensitivity of the surveillance system is increased in, say, the year 2000, we would see a steep rise in AFP cases in only 2001, and may be 2002. The continuous steep rise in AFP cases from 1998 till today belies this ‘explanation’…… It is possible that massive use of Oral Polio Vaccine (which contains attenuated but live polio virus) has mutated into a new virus which doesn’t have identical morphological properties of the polio virus, but which causes paralysis. A rational and humane response to this rise in paralysed children should have been to suspend the additional dosages of the Oral Polio Vaccine and to investigate the matter. If any other scientific explanation is found, this programme can be exonerated. But till then, to continue with these additional dosages of Oral Polio Vaccine are unethical”. It is clear from the foregoing that government’s health policies, informed as they are by international PPP initiatives, display dumb faith in vaccinations to ride over many infectious diseases and show no sense of proportion as regards relative harms caused by different pathogens. There are others who argue that “infectious challenges are necessary for the development of a healthy immune system and in order to prevent autoimmune conditions from emerging as a result of TH2 dominance. In other words, take away these natural infectious challenges, and the immune system can and will turn upon itself….”. Autism Research Institute (ARI) & Defeat Autism Now (DAN), both of which have many frontline allopathic doctors among their alliance, strongly see the unmistakable linkages between explosion in ADS (Autism Spectrum Disorders) cases and multiple vaccinations programs- CDC’s vaccination schedule prescribes some 60 vaccines by the age of 4 years. Some others have started private surveys to build comparative databases of vaccinated and non-vaccinated children, such as VaccineInjury.Info. There are still other extreme critiques that see sinister conspiracies behind mass vaccination drive both in terms of coverage of population and disease causing pathogens.
Jury is still out on whether to abandon vaccination all together or to have it with stern moderation; but there is enough evidence on hand to suggest that wholesale vaccination is definitely not the way to health. Big money backs vaccination. Entry of big money skews the discourse. Genuine enquiry and research is compromised, even in science.