Tag Archives: Swine Flu

Swine flu vaccine does save lives, researchers confirm

WDDTY are, to quote Ben Goldacre, “viciously, viciously anti-vaccine”. So when a news story popped up with the headline “Swine flu vaccine does cause narcolepsy, researchers confirm”, we thought it was worth checking out.

Swine flu vaccine does cause narcolepsy, researchers confirm

The swine flu (H1N1) vaccine definitely causes narcolepsy, the sleeping sickness, researchers have confirmed this week. Young adults up to the age of 30 are especially susceptible.

The vaccine, Pandemrix, was widely used from 2009, when the threat of a swine flu global pandemic was at its peak. Millions of people were vaccinated, but within months there were reports of cases of narcolepsy. WDDTY featured one victim, Lucas Carlton, 9, who sleeps 20 hours a day after he was given the Pandemrix vaccine in January, 2011.

Now researchers at the Karolinksa Institute in Stockholm have confirmed that Lucas’s case was not an isolated one. They have found a link between the vaccine and narcolepsy after that analysed vaccine records that covered 61 per cent of the Swedish population.

Adolescents under the age of 20 and young adults up to the age of 30 were more susceptible, the researchers said. They couldn’t find any other neurological or immune-system problems with the vaccine.

(Source: Journal of Internal Medicine, 2014; 275: 172-90)

Vaccines are an important public health measure so the study has full text available online: Risks of neurological and immune-related diseases, including narcolepsy, after vaccination with Pandemrix: a population- and registry-based cohort study with over 2 years of follow-up.

A few things leap out from this.

  1. There is indeed an increased risk of narcolepsy: about 4 additional cases per 100,000 person years.
  2. The duration of adverse effects appears to be around 6 weeks, after which there is no detectable difference from the unvaccinated population.
  3. Numerous claimed adverse reactions promoted by the anti-vax community are not supported, including Crohn’s.
  4. When stratified by age, the mortality rate was more than 30% lower amongst young vaccinated individuals (10–29 years) and reduced by 10–15% in older age groups.

It’s also notable (and highlighted n the study) that the people most likely to have full data are those who were in hospital already when the vaccine was administered, i.e. the very high risk population that gets the earliest immunisation. This population may skew the results towards greater prevalence of adverse reactions.

So which would you rather have, a small temporary increase in risk of narcolepsy, or flu and potentially death?

Academics paid by drug companies to whip-up media health scares

Front entrance of the London School of Hygiene...
Front entrance of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps the awareness campaign exposing the dangerous lies and disinformation in a magazine that is being sold in newsagents and supermarkets under the false flag of “health” is starting to hurt. The WDDTY team have been making numerous attacks on their critics over the past couple of months, and it all smells very defensive indeed. It smells, in fact, of a threatened revenue stream. It stinks of a well-rotted golden goose slaughtered by its owners as they choose the perceived glory of retail outlets over the more discreet and less risky (for them, not their readers) subscription-only method.

You see, when you put yourself in the public eye, you must not be surprised when the public eye looks back. Nor should you whine when your errors and – in this case, as I hope to show – blatant lies are laid bare for all to see and mock. This was published under “News” on the WDDTY website on 18 November 2013. Full text first…

Academics paid by drug companies to whip-up media health scares

Health scares in the media are often fuelled by academics with links to drug companies that would benefit from the panic, an independent report has found. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) was found guilty of the practice after it warned of a swine flu ‘pandemic’ in 2010 that never happened.
Although academics are trusted sources, those with pharmaceutical links were eight times more likely to advocate the use of an anti-viral drug to treat the H1N1 virus responsible for swine flu, say researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The panic that was whipped up clearly worked: the UK government alone spent £1bn on pharmaceuticals, including antivirals, to counter swine flu, and the pharmaceutical industry earned up to £6.5 bn from the sale of H1N1 vaccines alone.
The researchers analysed 425 articles published in the newspapers about swine flu. Academics were the second most quoted sources after government officials, 30 per cent of whom had drug industry links. More than half the claims they made were exaggerated and went beyond the official view.
However, even the ‘official view’ was tainted; one in three of the experts on the WHO’s emergency committee had drug company links.
(Source: Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 2013; doi: 10.1136/jech-2013-203128)

Now let’s examine that. What actually happened was that researchers from the London School of  Hygiene and Tropical Medicine investigated fears that pharmaceutical companies had unduly profited from sales of H1N1 antivirals during the 2009-2010 pandemic, as a result of academics with competing interests. This is the report in question: Academics and competing interests in H1N1 influenza media reporting. Do you see a difference in meaning and scope between the WDDTY headline and that of the report? It’s just the beginning.

Health scares in the media are often fuelled by academics with links to drug companies that would benefit from the panic, an independent report has found.

No, it hasn’t. Nowhere in the text does it even remotely come close. The conclusion was that academics who had some form of CoI (Conflict of Interest: a very broad term, by the way) were more likely to state risk assessments “higher than official sources”. It was also observed that academics are the second most-quoted source in the media after Ministers of Health.

Even the World Health Organization (WHO) was found guilty of the practice after it warned of a swine flu ‘pandemic’ in 2010 that never happened.

This is doubly untrue: the pandemic did happen – people died, by the way – and the WHO was not “found guilty” by anyone of anything. The WHO is an Official Source, not an individual person.

Although academics are trusted sources, those with pharmaceutical links were eight times more likely to advocate the use of an anti-viral drug to treat the H1N1 virus responsible for swine flu, say researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Uh-huh.  The actual conclusion was “Academics promoting the use of antiviral medication were more likely to have a competing interest than those not commenting on its use“. Of course, reputable researchers don’t extrapolate from a small study to the entire population, which is what the WDDTY hack here is desperately trying to do, if only by implication.

The panic that was whipped up clearly worked: the UK government alone spent £1bn on pharmaceuticals, including antivirals, to counter swine flu, and the pharmaceutical industry earned up to £6.5 bn from the sale of H1N1 vaccines alone.

There was 100% consensus over the vaccines, whether or not the academic had any competing interests. The consensus was: get vaccinated. Get vaccinated, because this one is a killer.

The researchers analysed 425 articles published in the newspapers about swine flu.

Twelve newspapers were studied in all. No, funnily enough WDDTY wasn’t one of them. These were the criteria used: The database was searched using the following terms (an exclamation mark is used as a truncator in this database): H1N1, Influenza A, Swine !flu!, Pandemic !flu!, Pig !flu!. Only articles that contained at least three mentions of the search terms were eligible for inclusion in order to select articles where H1N1 influenza was the main theme…between 20 April and 5 July 2009, the period in which the major decisions on pharmaceuticals as part of the pandemic response were taken by the UK government.

Academics were the second most quoted sources after government officials, 30 per cent of whom had drug industry links.

30% of government officials had drug industry links? Presumably the unnamed hack means the academics, but clearly their writing skills are as poor as their reading skills.

More than half the claims they made were exaggerated and went beyond the official view.

I cannot find the word “exaggerated” anywhere in that report, no more than the word “claim”. This suggests that the WDDTY hack is making exaggerated claims as to the dishonesty of some people, which I find ironic. It is not necessarily true that an estimate which is higher (or, indeed, lower) than official figures is exaggerated. That statement is therefore a distortion of the findings.

However, even the ‘official view’ was tainted; one in three of the experts on the WHO’s emergency committee had drug company links.

Which were declared. The CoI that’s declared can be taken into account. Undeclared CoI – which is the focus in the report – is more potentially dangerous. The report does not condemn the WHO or its assessment in any way, and the hack here carefully skates around the issue that the WHO itself expected the pandemic to be less severe than previous ones.

Perhaps it is significant that WDDTY totally fails to mention this last point, also raised in the report:

Finally, journalists themselves may have undisclosed CoI that would impede truly impartial reporting

When, in fact, did McTaggart & co ever mention a conflict of interest in any of their pro-quackery puff pieces?

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