Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vaccine Safety

I have had numerous moms write in to this website with concerns over vaccines. The American Academy of Pediatrics has strongly stated vaccines are generally safe for kids. Here's an email I just got:

"I saw this and it was interesting and raises some concerns. I am not one of those mother's that is dead set against vaccines and do vaccinate my kids ... but I was ill informed about the financial aspect of it. I thought you may find it interesting as well."

Here's the story on CBS:

They're some of the most trusted voices in the defense of vaccine safety: the American Academy of Pediatrics, Every Child By Two, and pediatrician Dr. Paul Offit. But CBS News has found these three have something more in common - strong financial ties to the industry whose products they promote and defend.

The vaccine industry gives millions to the Academy of Pediatrics for conferences, grants, medical education classes and even helped build their headquarters. The totals are kept secret, but public documents reveal bits and pieces. A $342,000 payment from Wyeth, maker of the pneumococcal vaccine - which makes $2 billion a year in sales.

A $433,000 contribution from Merck, the same year the academy endorsed Merck's HPV vaccine - which made $1.5 billion a year in sales. Another top donor: Sanofi Aventis, maker of 17 vaccines and a new five-in-one combo shot just added to the childhood vaccine schedule last month. Every Child By Two, a group that promotes early immunization for all children, admits the group takes money from the vaccine industry, too - but wouldn't tell us how much.

A spokesman told CBS News: "There are simply no conflicts to be unearthed." But guess who's listed as the group's treasurers? Officials from Wyeth and a paid advisor to big pharmaceutical clients. Then there's Paul Offit, perhaps the most widely-quoted defender of vaccine safety. He's gone so far as to say babies can tolerate "10,000 vaccines at once." This is how Offit described himself in a previous interview: "I'm the chief of infectious disease at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a professor of pediatrics at Penn's medical school," he said.

Offit was not willing to be interviewed on this subject but like others in this CBS News investigation, he has strong industry ties. In fact, he's a vaccine industry insider. Offit holds in a $1.5 million dollar research chair at Children's Hospital, funded by Merck. He holds the patent on an anti-diarrhea vaccine he developed with Merck, Rotateq, which has prevented thousands of hospitalizations. And future royalties for the vaccine were just sold for $182 million cash. Dr. Offit's share of vaccine profits? Unknown.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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SallyN said...

I'm one of those parents that think vaccines have their benefits, and their risks.

What I just can't comprehend, is the big push to pump our infants and young toddlers with all this "stuff" at such young ages.

That's why we do a selective/delayed vacc "schedule". For example, yes, DD will get the polio vaccine. But considering her risk of exposure is so beyond minimal, we are holding off until her immune system itself is more mature.

Shannon said...

When will CBS (or anyone) investigate the tie between formula (i.e. drug) companies and the AAP and other groups?

Just sayin'....

I'm not bashing formula. I believe that like vaccines, it has a relevant use in our society today. But I do think it's important for parents to have all the facts when they are making these critical healthcare choices for their children and they should know the role $$ plays.

Knight in Dragonland said...

Your risk of exposure to polio is beyond minimal ... until a million more parents decide to do the same thing you're doing. We physicians "pump" infants with this "stuff" because they're the ones most likely to DIE if exposed to these illnesses that we're trying to prevent. Excuse me for wanting to prevent the DEATH of infants under six months old. I'm such the evil tool of the man, my soul bought and sold for a few pens.

The ONLY reason that parents who under-vaccinate, delay vaccination or refuse vaccination altogether get away with it is due to the fact that the majority of parents still vaccinate their children according to recommendations. They're taking advantage of that herd immunity at the same time they're whittling away at it, endangering their own children and, even worse, those children who were vaccinated properly but happen to the be in the few percent of kids who don't respond with adequate immunity.

That's ... not ... fair. How DARE you endanger other children - potentially, MY CHILDREN - with your selfishness??? What gives you the right to avoid the risks of vaccination (exceedingly small risks that they are) while, like a parasite, you take advantage of those who do take on those risks?

SallyN said...

Gee KID... defensive much?

Seriously though... please feel free to explain the actual statistical differences in risk b/w all children getting the polio vaccine at age 2 compared to 2 months.

Anonymous said...

What gives parents the right to delay or refuse vaccines?

1. Seeing their children regress mentally and physically hours or days after vaccination.

2. Reading about mitochondrial dysfunction, and the Hannah Poling case in the NVICP... and finding out she's not the only one. Her dad is a Johns Hopkins neurologist; her mother is an ICU nurse and attorney. DHHS has conceded similar vaccine injury cases over the years.

3. Learning that the "mito cocktail" is a common medical treatment for so-called "autistic" children who have low carnitine, high ammonia, etc.

4. Knowing the parents of a healthy child who developed mitochondrial dysfunction immediately following shots, and eventually died during a seizure.

5. Knowing the parents of a child whose lab results show vaccine-strain measles in lesions lining his gastrointestinal mucosa. Also reading about similar affect in the son of NAA's Katie Wright, daughter of former GM/NBC head Bob Wright.

6. Learning that all the ACIP committee members have conflict-of-interest waivers.

7. Learning that in the "Danish studies," autism rates increased because an outpatient cohort was added mid-study.

8. Learning that CDC head Julie Gerberding claims the VSD statistics are not reliable, after independent researchers under Congressional mandate found damning autism/vaccine correlations.

9. Realizing that the CDC and trade organizations like the AAP are most interested in self-protection and market promotion.

10. Realizing that "benefits outweigh risks" is an excuse for everyone in the vaccine chain to avoid studying injury prevention, and simply write off vaccine-injured children as collateral damage in the war on disease.

I wish that vaccines were one-size-fits-all... but biodiversity proves otherwise.

When medical professionals and government and industry, all fail to protect our children from vaccine injury, parents must do what they can to protect their children.

Michele said...

There are many concerns that parents have and maybe we would feel better if we didn't feel like we were being lied to or at least misled.

Rixblix said...

I'm worried about this article:


in our local newspaper today indicating that there has been increase in the number of measles cases. I used to teach deaf and hard of hearing kids and remember the cases of deafness attributed to the "rubella bulge".

I have to agree with KiD.

Liz Ditz said...

The CBS story you quoted was written by Sharyl Attkisson. Is she a trusted news source, an unbiased investigative reporter....or herself a shill for those well-funded organizations who are attacking America's vaccination programs?

A number of bloggers have questioned Attkisson's ethics and objectivity.

For example:

On July 25, 2008, CBS aired Attkisson's latest: "How Independent Are Vaccine Defenders?", which included innuendos that Paul Offit (a co-inventor of the RotaTeq oral vaccine) has profited hugely from the patent, and therefore (a) he has an undisclosed conflict of interest (COI) and (b) Offit's objectivity on the subject of vaccination in general is suspect.

Much of what Attkisson reported about Offit had been previously published--some on the Age of Autism site. A simple Google search on the AoA site revealed many posts directly attacking Offit's integrity and objectivity, using data similar to Attkisson's.

Attkisson made much of Offit holding an "endowed chair" funded (in part) by a drug company. She was inaccurate about the amount of the endowment (alleging $1.5 million, instead of the actual $2 million endowment).

As another academic explains, it is completely false to allege that Merck gave $1.5 million to Offit. That isn't what "endowing a chair" means.

An endowed chair gives a researcher a constant supply of funding without he need to write grant proposals. It allows the researcher to work on very self-directed projects and do more exploratory work.

The chair endowment is held by the institution (CHOP and Penn in this case) not the professor. So, Dr. Offit doesn't have $1.5M (or, $2M as those interested in accuracy have noted) to work with. He has the proceeds of this endowment. Think of it as a trust fund for the researcher---she/he can't touch the principal. Also, the institution controls the endowment and who gets the chair after the professor (Dr. Offit in this case) steps down or retires. They have to follow the restrictions of the endowment--which likely stipulate that a vaccine researcher gets the money--but Merck is likely not involved directly in deciding future chair holders.

Also note that the endowed chair was created in 2005--after Dr. Offit's vaccine was patented and put to use. So, it couldn't have influenced his actions to create the vaccine. Also, since the endowment is already in place, it doesn't affect Dr. Offit's decision to speak out in favor of vaccine safety. He could say vaccines are evil and Merck wouldn't be able to do anything about the chair.

Is it any shock to anyone that a man who spent 25 years developing a vaccine would think that vaccines are safe?

Attkisson ended her attack on Offit's integrity with the following innuendo:

And future royalties for the vaccine were just sold for $182 million cash. Dr. Offit's share of vaccine profits? Unknown.

I was curious about Attkisson's allegations about Offit's share in future profits from Rotateq, so I went to the United States Patent Database, and found that Dr. Offit does not, in fact, control the patent or its revenues. (Note: I'd never used the database before, and it took me a whopping 90 seconds to the relevant record. I am guessing that Attkisson didn't even try).

Inventors: Clark; H Fred (Philadelphia, PA), Offit; Paul (Philadelphia, PA), Plotkin; Stanley A. (Doylestown, PA)

Assignee: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia "CHOP" (Philadelphia, PA); The Winstar Institute of Anatomy and Biology "WIAB" (Philadelphia, PA)

Maybe I know more about patents, because I live in Silicon Valley and know folks who hold one or more, but it was obvious to me after the search that Offit may not see any of the futures revenue. People who develop a patentable idea (in this case, the Rotateq vaccine) are typically an employee of an enterprise. The terms of the employee's employment contract typically assigns any patentable discoveries to the enterprise (in this case, CHOP and WIAB). Depending upon the wording of the employment contract, there may or may not be a sharing of income from licensing that is done by the patent assignees.

Others critical of Attkisson's scurrilous attack on Offit's integrity:

Autism News Beat:

CBS News unearths evidence that people are paid for work


What exactly did the CBS Evening News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson uncover in her Friday report? Though the title of the three minute hit piece was How Independent Are Vaccine Defenders?, it could have been called How Dependent is CBS News on Innuendo and Baseless Accusations?

The report fails to present a single piece of evidence that undue influence by pharmaceutical companies has endangered public health or the vaccine program. It’s Law and Order without a body, much less a crime.

Respectful Insolence (written by a physician who is a cancer researcher)

Age of Autism and Sharyl Attkisson of CBS: In bed together to bring antivaccination propaganda to the masses?


Remember how on Monday I posted a dissection of some truly execrable reporting on vaccines and potential conflicts of interest (COIs) by Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News that aired one week ago today? As you may recall, my main point was that Attkisson's reporting was lazy, describing nothing that couldn't be found from public sources, and biased in that it intentionally used inflammatory language in order to bias the reader/audience against Dr. Paul Offit and the American Academy of Pediatrics right off the bat before even describing the supposed COI. I further made the point that it's rather convenient how Attkisson harps on disclosed COIs of Dr. Offit while totally ignoring the many undisclosed COIs of "investigators" on the "vaccines cause autism" (or, as I now like to call them, the antivaccine brigade), sarcastically wondering if Ms. Attkisson was planning a second part of her story to look at some old "friends" such as Mark and David Geier, Andrew Wakefield, and others who have profited enormously from vaccine fearmongering and even generated what we in the biz call "litigation-driven" research in order to promote the belief that somehow, some way, autism's got to be all about the vaccines.

Autism Vox


As has been pointed out, the big story that CBS News is unearthing here is that (says Autism News Beat): evidence that people are paid for work.

(Certainly good news to me, in the midst of what’s been very much a working summer.)

The mystery is nothing mysterious, but an ordinary common place. (Left Brain/Right Brain and Orac, and I Speak of Dreams, and Orac again, have more to say on other “conflicts of interests.”) In other words, the vaccine part of this blog post should end here and I should be getting back to what my students had to say about The Curious Incident, what I said last Monday in a lecture I gave on “Myth, Ancient and Modern, and Autism.”

But no. The plot thickens:

Concerned about the misinformation cast by Attkisson’s report, Voices for Vaccines, which is “administratively housed within the Task Force for Child Survival and Development, an Atlanta-based 501(c)(3) organization” and which was “formed to speak for those who value the vital protection provided by vaccines and want accurate communication of their safety profile,” sent a letter to the senior producer at CBS News responsible for the aforementioned report. You can read the letter here. Mike Stanton at Action for Autism writes that this letter was published on the Age of Autism website on July 31st after “someone at CBS leaked a fax from Voices for Vaccines”; Age of Autism then published the letter under the misleading byline “Vaccine Industry Group Calls on Couric and Attkisson for CBS Retraction.”

In other words, a letter meant for the senior produce at CBS News was “leaked” and then somehow ended up appearing on a website that believes that there is a link between vaccines and autism, and that, from time to time, posts correspondence, documents, et alia, from those who it sees as promoting views contrary to its own, and with robust declaration of the Freedom of Information Act.

There is more criticism of Attkisson. CBS has not responded to any of the communications.

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