Tag Archives: MMR

WDDTY repeats hysterical anti-abortionist propaganda. Again.

WDDTY appear to be losing their marbles – perhaps they should nip down to the homeopath for some 30C Batshittium?

Back in October 2014 they ran “Autism ‘caused by MMR using human fetal cell lines’“, an entirely credulous repetition of a paper written and funded by a rabid anti-abortionist group, “showing” that foetal cell lines in MMR caused autism. Never mind that studies totalling over twenty million subjects fail to show any correlation, let alone cause, and please, oh please, don’t “follow the money” to the ideology-driven funding.

January 2015 contains the same story. It uses the same hyperbolic description – “major new study”, even though it’s no longer new and never was major. I tried to find out how often it had been cited, but drew a blank because the paper is not indexed on PubMed, and it’s not indexed on Google Scholar either, other than sowing up on “Liberation Chiropractic”.

Why is this “major new study” not showing up in the indexes?

The answer is right there in plain sight on the journal’s About page:

Manuscript Handling Fee
The manuscript handling fee for JPHE is $650 (USD).

Yup. JPHE is a predatory open access journal. The ideology-driven authors paid to have their ideology-driven conclusion-first research published. That’s why Orac found it so easy to shoot it full of holes.

The explosion in cases of autism has been caused by the introduction of human foetal cell lines in the manufacture of MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccines, a major new study has concluded. Before 1987, when the vaccines were produced using animal cell lines, autism cases were relatively low. Today, it’s been estimated that one in 50 children has autism.

That would be significant if it were true. But the authors are Catholic fundamentalist anti-abortionists who run a group whose stated aim is to oppose the use of foetal cell lines, and it’s in a journal where you pay to get published, which is not indexed in PubMed. It is a junk study with massive and disqualifying conflicts of interest in a junk journal, and WDDTY have trotted it out not once but twice. Why?

Oh wait: Deisher has also spoken at Autism One, the anti-vax love-in where Wakefield is the saint du jour for every jour.

Stem cell researcher Theresa Deisher and others say that the correlation between the sudden explosion in autism cases and the introduction of the new MMR vaccines is too strong to ignore – although, as the old maxim goes, correlation doesn’t prove causation.

The “others” are all associated with the same fundamentalist group. There is literally no evidence at all of any independent support for this conjecture.

Meanwhile, even Catholics have a problem with this ideologically motivated tripe.

The “change point” – when the numbers of autism cases rose sharply – happened in the UK in 1987, just when the new MMR vaccine, using human foetal cells, was introduced. A similar correlation was seen at around the same time in Denmark, while the autism change point in the US was in 1980-1981, after the introduction of the new Meruvax and M-M-R II vaccines in 1979 – both of which used human foetal cells for the first time.

Has autism prevalence changed? Not in two decades it hasn’t. So what has changed?

In December 2014, Andrew Wakefield’s vexatious lawsuit against Fiona Godlee, the BMJ and Brian Deer ran out of time, after Wakefield failed to provide evidence for its continuation.

SO it’s likely that dear Lynne, bless her black antivaccinationist heart, is keeping the flame alive by promoting the only thing on her desk that had anything close to credulibility.

A happy new year to all our readers. May it be WDDTY’s last.

h/t @LennyLaw for the tipoff. Thanks!

Autism ‘caused by MMR using human fetal cell lines’

Another month, another paper flogging the zombie meme of MMR-Autism. This time in a superficially decent journal, albeit one where the subject is likely to be outside the specialist knowledge of peer reviewers (public health specialists are not normally going to be geneticists).

Impact of environmental factors on the prevalence of autistic disorder after 1979, Journal of Public health and Epidemiology, 2014; 6: 271-86

The first question is: who wrote the paper? All the authors list their affiliation as “Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute“, a religious fundamentalist group with an agenda against use of foetal cell lines, because abortion. You can probably stop there, actually. That really does tell you everything you need to know about this “study”: it’s an exercise in hunting for a predestined conclusion. Such exercises rarely fail.

The explosion in autism has been caused by the introduction of human fetal cell lines in the manufacture of MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccines, a major new study has concluded.

“Major”? By what definition? How does it compare with all the other reviews of the purported correlation between MMR and autism, covering over 20,000,000 individuals, and finding no correlation whatsoever?

Oh, wait: this is WDDTY. Major means “we like the result”. Like the “major” study proving that we live after death (that wasn’t and didn’t).

Before 1987, when the vaccines were produced with animal cell lines, autism cases were relatively low. Today, it’s been estimated that 1 in 50 children has autism.

No, autism cases were not low, autism diagnoses were. In fact the biggest driver of increasing autism diagnosis rates is probably that a far greater proportion of cases are diagnosed. The diagnostic criteria have also changed.

Stem cell researcher Theresa Deisher and others say that the correlation between the sudden explosion in autism cases and the introduction of the new MMR vaccines is too strong to ignore—although, as the old maxim goes, correlation doesn’t prove causation.

Stem cell researcher? Hmmm. This is someone who does write research on stem cells, but she is also listed as the driving force behind Sound Choice, so it is very likely that what she is actually doing is closer to pathological scienceW, where ideology drives the results and confirmation bias is king.

But there’s another question here. The SEC filings of Sound Choice indicate a non-trivial sum of money, but I can find no information about where the money comes from. Is it really all small private donations? It seems unlikely.

Why is this relevant? Well, we’ve seen before that groups producing “science” to support fundamentalist Christian and other conservative agendas, often turn out to be funded by wealthy activists. Remember the claim that abortion increases breast cancer risk? There were bills on the floor of several State houses seeking to mandate that this “information” be forcibly presented to women seeking termination, and it took some time for these to die even after the purported link was refuted.

According to the published paper, “The author(s) have not declared any conflict of interests” though it was supported by the Murdock Charitable Trust, a body that has funded pro-life and libertarian groups, provided funding to the Discovery Institute and so on – in other words, a religious conservative foundation. There has even been an editorial in Nature discussing the lead author’s role in a lawsuit aimed at forcing the US Government to stop funding stem cell research.

In what way is a history as plaintiff in a faith-motivated lawsuit related to stem cell research, and funding from a religious conservative foundation, not a conflict of interest?

How many red flags do you need, exactly?

The ‘change point’—when the numbers of autism cases rose sharply—happened in the UK in 1987, just when the new MMR vaccine, using human fetal cells, was introduced. A similar correlation was seen around the same time in Denmark, while the autism change point in the US was 1980 to 1981 after the introduction of the new MeruvaxII and MMRII vaccines in 1979. Both vaccines used human fetal cells for the first time.

How convenient for those who, like the authors, have an ideological opposition to human foetal cell lines.

There are a few inconvenient facts omitted from WDDTY’s coverage, then.

  1. The research was conducted by a body that cites opposition to use of foetal-derived cell lines as a primary purpose.
  2. Research by groups not committed to finding adverse effects from foetal cell lines, find no association, causal or otherwise, between MMR and autism.
  3. Withdrawal of MMR in Japan following the fraudulent work by Wakefield had no effect on  autism diagnosis rates.
  4. Diagnostic criteria have changed since 1989.
  5. No plausible mechanism is referenced by which this purported effect might work. DNA does not recombine in this way. It does not enter the cell nucleus.
  6. We already have good evidence that autism is usually genetic, and there is emerging evidence that it can be traced to foetal development (unsurprisingly, if it is a genetically caused mutation in the brain). There is no evidence whatsoever linking these genetic markers to vaccinations.

Even if you want to believe the result, ask yourself this: if a new study showed that eating whale meat causes autism, and all the work was done by Greenpeace, would you believe it?

As usual the “viciously, viciously anti-vaccine” editors at WDDTY have seized on a result they like, ignored massive red flags for conflict of interest, and portrayed it as validating their anti-vaccine agenda even though it conflicts with many of the previous studies they claim support them (e.g. Wakefield’s “enterocolitis”and thiomersal, both of which turds have been polished to shining brilliance in the pages of WDDTY).

Once again, WDDTY prove that in anything related to vaccines, they simply cannot be trusted.

Chronic Lying Disease part 2

ByjnKcqCcAABtXL[1]In Treatment wars: Chronic Lying Disease we noted a regrettable tendency of quacks to promote the fictional “chronic Lyme disease”.

Note that there is nothing fictional about the symptoms, but as you’ll see in a moment they are generally either (a) hopelessly generic – “symptoms of life” if you will or (b) caused by something else.

Nor is there anything fictional about Lyme disease. It is real, a tick-borne infection caused by the borrelia burgdorferiW bacterium (in the US) or a close relative (in th Europe). The symptoms are characteristic – erythema migrans, a bull’s-eye rash – and the infection can be confirmed pathologically by blood test.

And indeed there is a real thing called post-Lyme syndrome, or post-borrelia syndrome, or “Lyme arthritis”, which is characterised by fatigue and muscular pains, especially, in patients who have had Lyme disease.

No, the fictional disease is chronic Lyme disease, which is a disease diagnosed by quacks and treated using quack treatments, especially long-term antibiotics (ironically WDDTY also fulminates against antibiotics, but promoting mutually contradictory ideas in the same story has never been a problem for the editors).

Continue reading Chronic Lying Disease part 2

Wakefield was right! Or not

Autism-bacteriaAndrew Wakefield is a figure who polarises opinion.

To quacks, cranks, and especially antivaccinationists, he is a Brave Maverick Doctor who blew the whistle on the vaccine industry and found the One True Cause of autism.

To the reality-based community he is an unethical quack, struck off for dishonesty and conducting invasive experiments on vulnerable children without proper consent or ethical oversight, reviled for publishing fraudulent research without declaring massive conflicts of interest, and demonised as a significant cause of a resurgence in measles leading to permanent harm and even death.

You might be able to guess which camp we fall into.

Antivaccinationists desperately want Wakefield to be right, even though he wasn’t. So any study showing any kind of link between intestinal disorders and autism is portrayed as vindication, regardless of the actual facts.

In this short piece WDDTY seek to vindicate Wakefield by reference to a study, Reduced Incidence of Prevotella and Other Fermenters in Intestinal Microflora of Autistic Children, Kang et. al., PLoS ONE, 2013; 8: e68322.

“We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described” – Wakefield et. al, 1998

The first thing to note is that the PLoS ONE article does not cite Wakefield’s work. Some will think this is because Wakefield is a pariah, others will know that his work has been retracted so won’t be cited, but the real reason is that the finding has absolutely nothing to do with Wakefield’s hypothesis.

Say it quietly, but the first part of maligned doctor Andrew Wakefield’s theory about the MMR (measles–mumps–rubella) vaccine and autism has been proved right: autistic children do have low levels of three critical bacteria in their gut.

No! Not even close. Wakefield’s claim was that autism is caused by “autistic enterocolitis” triggered by the MMR vaccine. You don’t have to take my word for it, the full text is available on The Lancet website (free registration required). No part of Wakefield’s paper is in any way supported by the new work!

Doctors know that autistic children usually have a range of gut problems, so researchers at Arizona State University decided to find out if it was more than a coincidence. They analyzed the gut flora of 20 autistic children aged between three and 16 years and compared them with samples from 20 typical non-autistic children. The autistic children had fewer types of gut bacteria in general and were also low in three critical varieties: Prevotella, Coprococcus and members of the Veillonellaceae family. Of these, Prevotella species are the most important as they play a vital role in gut interaction.

This is entirely unrelated to Wakefield’s claims, which in any case were admitted in the paper (though not by implication in his grossly irresponsible press statement) not to be provably causal:

“We identified associated gastrointestinal disease and developmental regression in a group of previously normal children, which was generally associated in time with possible environmental triggers.”

The triggers were identified as MMR in eight cases and measles infection in one. And the claims were quite specific:

Onset of behavioural symptoms was associated, by the parents, with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination in eight of the 12 children, with measles infection in one child, and otitis media in another. All 12 children had intestinal abnormalities, ranging from lymphoid nodular hyperplasia to aphthoid ulceration. Histology showed patchy chronic inflammation in the colon in 11 children and reactive ileal lymphoid hyperplasia in seven, but no granulomas. Behavioural disorders included autism (nine), disintegrative psychosis (one), and possible postviral or vaccinal encephalitis (two). There were no focal neurological abnormalities and MRI and EEG tests were normal. Abnormal laboratory results were significantly raised urinary methylmalonic acid compared with agematched controls (p=0·003), low haemoglobin in four children, and a low serum IgA in four children.

The research was funded by a payment of £55,000 to the Royal Free Hospital by a firm of lawyers engaged in preparing a suit against the manufacturers of the MMR vaccine. It subsequently emerged that a further £400,000 had been paid to Wakefield himself. The lawyers also recruited some of the children in the study. None of this was declared in the published output.

It has also subsequently emerged that the PCR tests that Wakefield claimed identified measles virus in the gut of autistic children, was the result of contamination.

So Wakefield’s thesis was:

  • Autism is caused by enterocolitis
  • This enterocolitis is triggered by the measles virus

Both of these claims are wrong. And the PLoS ONE study does not in any way challenge that. In fact even Wakefield’s own original paper does not support it, it contains the following statement:

“We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described”

The PLoS ONE paper does not find evidence of measles virus in the gut, or of a form of enterocolitis. It doesn’t use the term enterocolitis. the signature features claimed by Wakefield et. al include lymphoid nodular hyperplasia and aphthoid ulceration. Neither of these is mentioned in the PLoS ONE paper. The PLoS ONE paper mentions PrevotellaCoprococcus, and unclassified Veillonellaceae. Wakefield et. al. make no mention of these, its only mention of bacteria is screening for evidence of campylobacter, salmonella, shigella and yersinia – in other words specifically ruling out bacteria as a cause of the purported enterocolitis. No mention is made of the level or makeup of gut flora.

It does not claim to find a causal relationship, in fact it states that:

[T]he direction of causality among interconnected pathophysiological factors (e.g., autistic symptoms, diet patterns, GI symptoms, and gut microbiome profile) is still unclear

It does not identify a distinct “autistic enterocolitis”, but a “relatively low level” of gut flora, specifically a reduction in diversity.

It concludes:

In summary, we demonstrated that autism is closely associated with a distinct gut microflora that can be characterized by reduced richness and diversity as well as by altered composition and structure of microbial community. Most notably, we also discovered that the genera PrevotellaCoprococcus, and unclassified Veillonellaceae were significantly reduced in autistic children. Unexpectedly, these microbial changes were more closely linked to the presence of autistic symptoms rather than to the severity of GI symptoms and specific diet/supplement regimens. Despite limited information on the direction of causality among autism, diet, GI problems, and microbiome profiles, the findings from this study are stepping-stones for better understanding of the crosstalk between gut microbiota and autism, which may provide potential targets for diagnosis or treatment of neurological as well as GI symptoms in autistic children.

To infer from this that Wakefield is in any way vindicated, is to engage in wishful thinking of the most fanciful kind. The two are related only in as much as they both involve the gut – and given the drivers for Wakefield’s work this is almost certainly pure coincidence.

What Doctors Don't Tell You
Why don’t doctors tell you that new research vindicates Andrew Wakefield?

Because it doesn’t.

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MMR doesn’t protect 4 per cent of children

Not in the least bit anti-vaccine, pictures of babies used as pincushions for needles are a staple of every vaccine promotion programme.
Not in the least bit anti-vaccine, pictures of babies used as pincushions for needles are a staple of every vaccine promotion programme.

MMR doesn’t protect 4 per cent of children is a short piece in the November 2013 edition of WDDTY.

WDDTY is not in the least bit anti-vaccine, so there is no problem using a picture of a glum-looking baby with half a dozen syringes sticking in it.

Do the sources support what WDDTY say?

The rubella (German measles) component of the measles–mumps–rubella (MMR) vaccine doesn’t work in a sizeable minority of children, leading researchers have discovered. It offers no protection in up to 4 per cent of children whose genetic profile nullifies the vaccine’s effectiveness.

So one part of the MMR only works in 96% of children, and there’s no evidence presented that the other two components are affected.

The headline that “MMR doesn’t work in 4% of children” is misleading: it works, but only the measles and mumps components.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic have identified 27 genes that determine whether the vaccine will work. Children with the relevant genetic differences respond poorly to the vaccine as they interfere with antigen interactions and inflammatory and genetic pathways.

The fact that not everybody responds to vaccines is, of course, already well-known – this is not news, just a discussion of the factors underlying one part of non-response. The lack of complete response is one reason why herd immunity is important.

The Mayo researchers identified 25 children in a group of 738 vaccinated individuals who had a ‘low vaccine response’. If this is a typical subset, then around 4 per cent of all children may not be protected by the vaccine.

This is misleading. They are still protected, just not against rubella.

Source: PLoS One, 2013; 8: e62149, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062149, Genome-Wide Characterization of Transcriptional Patterns in High and Low Antibody Responders to Rubella Vaccination, Iana H. Haralambieva, Ann L. Oberg, Inna G. Ovsyannikova, Richard B. Kennedy, Diane E. Grill, Sumit Middha, Brian M. Bot, Vivian W. Wang, David I. Smith, Robert M. Jacobson, Gregory A. Poland

And the concluding paragraph of the Discussion:

In summary, our analysis is the first global mRNA-Seq gene expression profiling after rubella vaccination that presents evidence for unique quantitative transcriptional differences between high and low antibody responders to rubella vaccination. These transcriptional differences and the underlying mechanisms are crucial to understanding the basis of vaccine immune responses, and for development of novel and improved vaccines.

So: the researchers have found a factor that mitigates against vaccine response, and this can potentially be used to develop an improved vaccine with greater response.

The research is presented in a tone and context that undermines vaccination, and the headline is not supported by the source cited.

What Doctors Don't Tell You
Why don’t doctors tell you that MMR doesn’t protect a sizeable minority of children?

They do. But they don’t pretend that non-response to one component means your child is not protected, because that would be misleading.

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Andrew Wakefield was right, autism is linked to gut problems

The Wakefieldites, with WDDTY of course in the vanguard (though of course they are not in the least bit anti-vaccinationist), are crowing like mad things, thanks to a paper that appears to link autism to gastro-intestinal problems.

Wakefield was right, autism is linked to gut problems, is the crowing headline in WDDTY.

Does it stand up to scrutiny?

As the discredited Andrew Wakefield observed years ago, children with autism are far more likely to suffer gastro-intestinal (GI) problems such as constipation, diarrhea and food sensitivities. In fact, autistic children are eight times more likely to suffer from a gut upset, researchers report this week.

No, he didn’t observe this, he set out to find a link between measles and autism; I believe he used the term “measles enterocolitis”, also “autism enterocolitis”, a medically unrecognised term then as now.

Although Wakefield mooted that the MMR vaccine could be triggering GI problems—and was struck off for his troubles—researchers from the University of California are more non-committal, and say they don’t know the cause.

No, he was struck off for three dozen violations including four counts of dishonesty and 12 counts involving the abuse of developmentally challenged children.

The GMC panel ruled that Wakefield had “failed in his duties as a responsible consultant”, acted both against the interests of his patients, and “dishonestly and irresponsibly” in his published research.

Nonetheless, the association is there, as the researchers found when they examined a thousand autistic children. The children were six to eight times more likely than a non-autistic child to have a GI problem, which is linked to autistic behaviour such as social withdrawal, irritability and repetitive behaviour.
(Source: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2013; doi: 10.1007/s10803-013-1973-x)

Source: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders November 2013 Gastrointestinal Problems in Children with Autism, Developmental Delays or Typical Development Virginia Chaidez, Robin L. Hansen, Irva Hertz-Picciotto

Wakefield claimed to have found measles “DNA” in the gut of the children whose samples he took (without proper consent), but measles is an RNA virus and his claimed link was stated in court by the appropriate experts to be evidence of contamination.

Was Wakefield right? No. If there is a link, this paper does not show it to be the one he proposed, and the offences for which he was struck off were ethical, not related to the validity of his research anyway.

It remains the case that an enormous statistic exercise has consistently failed to show any link between MMR and autism. Autism diagnosis rates vary independently of MMR vaccination rates.

As usual, the anti-vaccinationists are adapting facts to fit their pre-existing hypothesis. As usual, science will adapt its consensus view to the new information. This early finding does give some grounds for thinking that autism and persistent GI problems may share a common cause, possibly an autoimmune syndrome, but that is speculation at this stage.

What Doctors Don't Tell You
Why don’t doctors tell you that new research vindicates Andrew Wakefield?

Because not only does it not vindicate his claims, it cannot vindicate his unethical and fraudulent behaviour.

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Jayne Donegan on the MMR (measles–mumps–rubella) jab

2013-11_8Jayne Donegan on the MMR (measles–mumps–rubella) jab:

Measles: This is a benign childhood illness in the child with a strong immune system. In the Steiner alternative school community, during a measles outbreak not one severe case was reported. There is plenty of evidence about adverse reactions to the vaccine that should convince parents not to have it. Don’t give in to the fear about measles generated by doctors and governments.

Mumps: This is generally a mild illness. I do not recommend mumps vaccination, as any benefit is minimal and any side effects unacceptable.

Rubella (German measles): The effects of rubella are minor and the vaccination cannot be recommended. And the vaccine doesn’t seem to work very well, as it often fails to protect the unborn child of women who are not immune.

From WDDTY November 2013

The facts:

Just fancy that!
In evidence Dr Donegan accepted that measles was at the serious end of children’s diseases. The consequences can be grave, even fatal.
The Hon. Mr Justice Sumner.

MeaslesW: A highly contagious disease whose complications include pneumonia, encephalitis and blindness. Steiner schools are considered at risk as unvaccinated communities. A Cochrane review found little difference in side effects between MMR and placebo.

MumpsW: A viral disease whose complications include spontaneous abortion, male and female infertility. Serious adverse effects are most likely in adolescents, herd immunity is important to protect this community and pregnant women.

RubellaW: A viral disease that is occasionally fatal and can cause spontaneous abortion, but whose most serious effect is birth defects. The prognosis for children born with congenital rubella syndromeW is poor. Herd immunity is important to protect pregnant women.

The MMR vaccineW is safe and effective in preventing a dangerous disease.

For responsible information on the MMR vaccine, see NHS Choices.

The WDDTY wars: why they don’t want you to read all about it

tweetLong experience indicates that the reaction of cranks to criticism is very often to reframe it in terms that reduce cognitive dissonanceW, for example by dismissing scientific evidence as coming from “pharma shills”.

On October 3, WDDTY tweeted the following commentary to its followers. Continue reading The WDDTY wars: why they don’t want you to read all about it

Hygiene, not vaccine

Hygiene, not vaccine
Hygiene, not vaccine, published in the November 2013 edition of WDDTY, is based on the author’s own online self-published source. The author is GP and homeopath Dr. Jayne Donegan, whose evidence to a court was described as “junk science” by judges.

This article repeats the standard anti-vaccination trope of comparing measles fatalities with the official figures on reported cases and vaccine uptake, a tactic deliberately designed to make the official figures look as if they have been massaged, when in fact they have not.

The article claims that there have been no measles deaths in the UK since 1992, except for one immunocompromised individual. This is contradicted by the official published figures and ignores a high-profile measles death in April 2013.

This is an inaccurate article written by a known anti-vaccinationist that gives obviously false figures and repeats a well-debunked fallacious argument.

Hygiene not vaccineHygiene, not vaccine

Jayne Donegan

Vaccinations are given a lot of credit for eliminating childhood diseases. But good hygiene, sanitation and nutrition have much more to do with it.

False. For example, in the first three-quarters of the 20th Century, over a quarter of a billion people died of smallpox worldwide. The combination of an effective vaccine and a determined effort by the medical community eliminated the disease in the wild. There has been no reported case of smallpox in the wild since 1977.

Nobody has died of smallpox due to a natural infection in over thirty years.

The American satirist Mark Twain famously said there were three kinds of untruths: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Abuse of statistics is indeed a plague. Let’s see if we can spot any abuse of statistics in this story.

As if to prove his point, the UK’s Department of Health regularly produces its immunization handbook—more popularly known as the ‘Green Book’—which is sent out to doctors and healthcare workers. The Green Book provides all the latest information about the effectiveness and safety of the major vaccinations.

Naughty. This is characterising the green book as lies. As we will see in a moment, that is a precise reversal of the truth.

Reading it, you’d have to agree that vaccinations are a good thing as they’ve eradicated most of the major diseases that afflict us, especially when we’re young.

Take, for instance, measles.

Protection is offered by the MMR (measles–mumps–rubella) shot, which has certainly attracted more than its fair share of controversy over the years, but the Green Book confirms its positive effect on our health.

As does every reputable scientific study.For example, the first two decades of MMR vaccination in the US prevented an estimated 52 million cases of the disease, 17,400 cases of mental retardation, and 5,200 deaths (source). In five years from 1999-2004 initiatives by UNICEFW and the World Health OrganizationW improved measles immunisation coverage and averted an estimated 1.4 million deaths. A Cochrane review in 2012 confirmed that the evidence still supports mass MMR immunisation.

To make the point, the book’s compilers have produced a handy graph that clearly shows the vaccine has saved lives.

Measles cases vs. immunisation
Measles CASES vs. immunisation

Bait and switchW alert!

The graph begins in 1950, 18 years before the first measles vaccine was introduced and 38 years before the MMR jab was introduced. For the first 16 years up to 1966, the number of cases of measles varied between 160,000 and 800,000 each year before suddenly dropping to around 100,000 cases annually. Today there are just a few thousand cases a year.


The disease claimed around a hundred lives every year from 1950 to 1968 before falling to 13 deaths a year—until 1988,
when the MMR vaccine was introduced. After that, measles claimed its last life in 1992 in the UK, except for one case in 2006 of a 13-year-old boy with a failing immune system.

Measles DEATHS by year
Measles DEATHS by year

…and switch!

But wait: “measles claimed its last life in 1992 in the UK, except for one case in 2006 of a 13-year-old boy with a failing immune system”.

This is 2013. The current statistics show:

  • 2 deaths in 1992
  • 4 deaths in 1993
  • 1 death in 1995
  • 3 deaths in 1997
  • 3 deaths in 1998
  • 3 deaths in 1999
  • 1 death in 2000
  • 1 death in 2001
  • 1 death in 2004
  • 1 death in 2006
  • 1 death in 2007
  • 2 deaths in 2008

And what about poor Gareth Colfer-Williams? He died of pneumonia, a common and historically deadly complication of measles.

So it looks as if the claim that  “measles claimed its last life in 1992 in the UK, except for one case in 2006 of a 13-year-old boy with a failing immune system” is A BIG FAT LIE

But push the start date of the graph way back—to 1850 in fact—and a different picture emerges. From 1850 to 1910, measles was responsible for around 1,200 deaths every year.

Did you spot it? The relevant words are highlighted in the captions to the two graphs.

Yes, this is the classic antivax trope of comparing measles deaths with vaccination uptake.  It’s usually combined with the have-your-cake-and-eat-it claim that measles isn’t that dangerous anyway.

Death is not the only adverse effect of measles. There’s also measles encephalitis and blindness, diarrhoea and pneumonia – and herd immunity is vital because it’s extremely contagious (90% of unimmunised people who share  living space with an infected person will be infected in turn) and immunocompromised individuals are at particular risk.

Then, year on year the death rate plummeted. By 1920, it was down to 650 deaths a year; by the start of the 1930s, deaths had fallen to 250 and down they continued to go until 1950—the year the Green Book takes up the story—when around a hundred deaths were recorded.2

Reference 2: Donegan JLM. Vaccinatable Diseases and Their Vaccines. Self-published online, 2004

Why don’t doctors tell you to check this source? Because it’s a worthless piece of anti-vaccination garbage by a doctor who was described by judges as using “junk science” and admitted to the GMC that she had selectively used only those sources that support her beliefs, described by the GMC as “deeply held”

The decline in death rates is well understood and is largely down to improvements in the management of pneumonia (up to 30% of measles pneumonia patients died in the 1920s, before antibiotics).

And all of this happened long before vaccines were introduced.

For reasons which are well understood and do not undermine the reasons for continuing to immunise against measles, because, as the Green Book graph shows, however much you try to hide the fact, measles cases plummeted after the MMR was introduced.

The idea that measles is a relatively benign disease and only deaths should concern us, is a poisonous bit of anti-vaccination propaganda.

What had happened were better sanitation and public hygiene, better living conditions and improved nutrition.

So it could be argued that mass MMR vaccination reduced the death rate from 13 to zero—but good sanitation had already reduced it from 1,200 to 13 deaths.

And antibiotics, curing the pneumonia that was the largest cause of death, but not the largest cause of permanent harm.

Perhaps vaccination shouldn’t take all the credit after all.

And perhaps they should. The one person whose judgement cannot be trusted on that, is an anti-vaccinationist.

Why don’t doctors tell you that hygiene protects against infectious disease and vaccines don’t?

Because it’s a big fat lie.

The WDDTY Vaccination Handbook

What Doctors Don’t Tell You - The WDDTY Vaccination Handbook
Lynne McTaggart claims not to be anti-vaccination, although every story we can find on vaccines in WDDTY is overwhelmingly negative in tone, and many common anti-vax tropes are present.

The WDDTY Vaccination Handbook is written by Lynne McTaggart with input from regular contributor Clive Coudwell.

We’ve been sent the text of the WDDTY Vaccination Handbook. How well does this support the assertion that Lynne McTaggart’s WDDTY is not anti-vaccination?

Continue reading The WDDTY Vaccination Handbook