Sunday, April 21, 2013

Measles- caught in the spotty light of the media

Here in Swansea, we are besieged by news that measles is running rampant across the city- over 800 cases since November.  But cutting through the hype to find the truth is very difficult as the media have created a wall which has obliterated nearly all rational debate. The mantra being repeated is 'get the MMR jab.' But what about the other options? Why is nothing else being aired?

I think many people who have had, or will get their kids vaccinated have done little or no research into whether they actually work or not. A lot of scare mongering is produced by the pharmaceutical companies and taken as truth by the NHS so trying to wade through the hype is difficult.

The BBC for instance is following the line that MMR jab is the only option. The fact that children get the MMR jab and still end up getting measles is generally ignored. The medical response is that people should line up for more MMR jabs. That doesn't inspire confidence in me.

Many blame a Doctor Wakefield for causing the current skepticism about the MMR, missing the actual fact that it was the media itself. Journalists with little or no scientific background were making headlines with spurious claims. Pro-MMR writer Ben Goldacre published how the media had more impact than Wakefield in his book Bad Science. 
I can recall my own experience with Measles as it was a common childhood disease when I was growing up in the 1970's. It has now been reshaped into a dangerous threat and I understand that doctors want/need to believe that the MMR is a vital tool in their kit to save the nation. After all it is drummed into them from day 1 at medical school, and reinforced daily by the Pharma industry. It is surely easier for any trainee doctor to believe than to take the trouble to step outside the box and look at it objectively. Any doctor who gives an alternative view of the effectiveness of MMR will be (and has been) quickly shut down or deemed to be a quack. I generally find that looking at any financial incentive is always interesting to explore motives. While most GPs back the Government line, I do wonder how much this has to do with the bonus of £860 if they achieve a 70 per cent take-up of the jab? Or the £2,580 they get if they reach 90 per cent?

The medical system works very well for broken bones etc, but not so well for viruses. This area of care has been largely taken over by the Pharma industry involving millions of pounds. Generating fear is a tried and tested road to vast wealth. Remember all those swine flu vaccines that the tax payer bought a few years ago? According the media and Big Pharma, we were going to be wiped out. Big Pharma has the last laugh as £75m of those public taxfunded Tamiflu vaccines have been flushed away unused. The government meanwhile also spent £424m stockpiling 40m units of Tamiflu between 2006-07 and 2012-13, despite question marks over the effectiveness of the drug, a National Audit Office memo stated. You can trace similar stories with bird flu, and just about every other kind of flu they demanded we should be jabbed against.

Links between the MMR and Autism have been largely dismissed but in 2010 New Scientist published the case of the $1.5m payout because vaccines were linked to a child's severe Autism.

Newspapers use hype to sell their papers- they did it with linking autism to MMR in the '90s and the result has been public confusion for the last 13 years. Today the media are now all backing MMR as the only thing that can save us. A complete U-turn so it is no wonder that people are confused.

The media is now in a constant campaign to create tension and fear over measles. ITN contacted me recently asking me if I knew anyone who could give an alternative side of the MMR issue. I couldn't find a single person who wanted to go in front of their cameras. The reasons aren't difficult to understand. For weeks we have had blanket media coverage that the MMR is the only thing that will stop measles and anyone not willing to have their kids injected are bad parents.A day later The Guardian published this from blogger Sarah Ditum -

'I had a brief chat with a researcher who was trying to track down anti-MMR talking heads for a TV report. In an area where at one time, one in five families had eschewed the vaccine, no one was available to explain this collapse in confidence. It was as if they were embarrassed. And this was a problem, explained the researcher, because these opponents were necessary for "balance". ' The Guardian

It wasn't embarrassment that stopped people talking.Expecting any parent to be able to give an alternative view following weeks of a MMR supporting barrage is just ridiculous. They were concerned that their kids would end up being ostracized in public.

So the mainstream media give the airwaves to people such as Dr Paul Offit, a 'US-based measles expert' who told the BBC a few days ago that the Government should 'Make MMR jab mandatory'

This is the same 'expert' who was exposed in a CBS News investigation in 2008 with very strong Pharma industry links. He may honestly believe he is saving the world from measles, but can we accept that the millions he is earning from his vaccine patents are not clouding his judgement? Of course none of his patent wealth is mentioned in the news reports so the viewer isn't able to put his views into context.
 
I have met a number of parents in Swansea over the last week who had kids with measles- some had the MMR, some didn't. All survived after a week or more in bed and are now healthy again with lifetime immunity.

Should we all line up to be jabbed? Is medical intervention a help or a hindrance in our childrens health? One father whose child caught measles recently told me that he was shocked at the lack of support from doctors who offered him no information on how to treat his child or how to stop other children being infected

He said;
'This simple information is not given out- I notified the doctors and have heard nothing since, nor have I come across any 'how to take responsibility' pull-out sections in the Evening Post.....I firmly believe that the outbreak wouldn't be as extensive, that there wouldn't be so many hospitalisations and so many complications if people were given honest information'

One thing which is oft repeated is that Measles kills the weak and is cited as one of the key reasons we should vaccinate as it will give 'Herd immunity-- ie; the 95% who are vaccinated will protect the remaining 5% who are not vaccinated. However, the original definition (before a measles vaccine was invented) of herd immunity applied to the protective effect that occurred when a population contracted and recovered naturally from infection. 

According to one article I read;
'The herd immunity theory was originally coined in 1933 by a researcher called Hedrich. He had been studying measles patterns in the US between 1900-1931 (years before any vaccine was ever invented for measles) and he observed that epidemics of the illness only occurred when less than 68% of children had developed a natural immunity to it. This was based upon the principle that children build their own immunity after suffering with or being exposed to the disease. So the herd immunity theory was, in fact, about natural disease processes and nothing to do with vaccination. If 68% of the population were allowed to build their own natural defences, there would be no raging epidemic.
Later on, vaccinologists adopted the phrase and increased the figure from 68% to 95% with no scientific justification as to why, and then stated that there had to be 95% vaccine coverage to achieve immunity. Essentially, they took Hedrich’s study and manipulated it to promote their vaccination programmes.'


Natural immunity lasts a lifetime whereas vaccine induced immunity does not which is why the call for booster jabs is being heard. Some people are blaming unvaccinated kids for spreading measles. They are missing the fact that many adults who were given MMR in their childhood are now just as likely to contract the disease because their vaccine ceased working years ago. If this is the case,why aren't simple blood tests being made available to test if we are immune rather than just giving us even more MMR?

'Measles kills' is the headline grabber but I am frustrated by media reports which do not paint the wider picture. The first death linked to the Swansea outbreak occurred last week. The young man already had health problems and tests are being done to determine what role the measles played in his death. Looking back at how the media reported other deaths, much emphasis was given to the Dublin measles outbreak in 1999/2000, which also resulted tragically in two deaths. However none of the media reports I read at the time offered any reasons on why they actually died. One of the victims was a 12-month-old baby girl from a very poor family living in grim conditions on a large Dublin housing estate and was malnourished. The other was also exceptional and seriously ill before he contracted measles. He was a two-year-old with a severe malformation of the throat which linked his windpipe with his oesophagus and who had to be fed by a tube let into his stomach.None of the media reported this at the time, preferring to hype it up as a simple death by measles and ignoring the wider facts and using it to scare people into getting the MMR. One investigative reporter found that the Irish epidemic revealed 'that at least ten per cent of those who developed measles had been given the MMR jab.' One in ten is a pretty high failure rate for any treatment. I wonder what the failure rate is in Swansea?

Measles is an unpleasant disease, but not as unpleasant as the hype and divisive role being played out by the media and big Pharma. One supporter of vaccines told me that while he supported the vaccines, he would;

'like to see all vaccines produced generically out of patent, ideally by not-for-profit businesses answerable solely to regulators or something like that, and i also believe strongly that the results of every single medical trial should be published so we can finally start to make fully informed decisions'
To that end it is worth checking out http://www.alltrials.net

So to conclude- less hype and more useful information is needed. On that basis, here is a pamphlet produced by a Swansea mother:

Practical ways to support someone with measles


“Severe measles is more likely among poorly nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A, or whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases. Severe complications from measles can be avoided though supportive care that ensures good nutrition, adequate fluid intake and treatment of dehydration with WHO-recommended oral rehydration solution. This solution replaces fluids and other essential elements that are lost through diarrhoea or vomiting. Antibiotics should be prescribed to treat eye and ear infections, and pneumonia. All children in developing countries diagnosed with measles should receive two doses of vitamin A supplements, given 24 hours apart. This treatment restores low vitamin A levels during measles that occur even in well-nourished children and can help prevent eye damage and blindness. Vitamin A supplements have been shown to reduce the number of deaths from measles by 50%.” – World Health Organisation.

“Vitamin A is found abundantly in dairy products; eggs from free range hens; liver; fish, shellfish, cod liver oil. The best plant sources of beta-carotene are yellow/orange vegetables & fruits like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, apricots, nectarines, peaches, mangoes, plums; and dark green leafy vegetables: spinach, broccoli, kale, watercress, beet leaves, turnips, asparagus and peas. In order to be absorbed, vegetable sources requires fat, so serve them with butter, coconut or olive oil. Chopping and puréeing also enhance their bioavailability” -
Dr Jayne Donegan.
(Try fresh raw juices e.g. carrot, or if child is fussy, try drops e.g. Vitasorb A by BioCare.)

“Fever represents a universal, ancient, and usually beneficial response to infection, and its suppression under most circumstances has few, if any demonstrable benefits. On the other hand, some harmful effects have been shown to occur as a result of suppressing fever. It is clear, therefore, that the widespread use of antipyretics should not be encouraged either in developing countries or in industrial society.” Heinz Eichenwald, Professor of Paediatrics, writing for WHO 2003 This means: Do not suppress a fever. It is a sign that your body is fighting infection properly, helping to detox and strengthen your immune system.

"Vitamin A supplements have been shown in some studies to help prevent some
of the serious complications arising from a measles infection" – NHS

Ensure your child is in a well ventilated, dimly lit room. Get them to drink lots of water, and keep food intake to a minimum. Supplements like Vit C, D and Zinc, garlic and echinacea will all support the immune system. Elderberry and rosehip tea could also be useful. For helping with a rash, baths with 3 tbsp of baking soda or porridge oats will help to soothe it. Chamomile, Calendula and Aloe Vera also help. (These also help Chicken Pox)

To help eyes, Euphrasia (Eyebright) baths or internally (homeopathic remedy) can help. Breastfeeding boosts babies’ natural immunities.Take a week off work! We can forget that love, hugs, care and attention make all the difference to a child’s recovery. Enjoy the time with them, they will remember it.

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions. http://www.undercurrents.org

12 comments:

Eris Kaoss said...

thanks for the sensible opinion!

Bev said...

Brilliant. Wish I'd written it.

Anonymous said...

I think this does the total opposite by making people feel its ok to avoid the MMR and allowing people who have not had their kids done some justification to not doing it. I would rather have made the utmost to my ability to safeguard my kids rather than have regrets at a later date. I'm sure plenty of people in the Swansea area regret now not doing it when their kids were young. It's not pleasant watching your child suffer at the best of times, let alone if its your own selfish decision.

mummy of 4 said...

I wouldn't say it is a selfish decision to not vaccinate, it comes with dedication for your child's health, ensuring their immune system is strong and free from dangerous toxins.

It is actually a very selfless act to not vaccinate and instead educate yourself on childhood diseases and treatments, rather than just agreeing to have your child injected with neurotoxins which cause brain damage (fact).

This is a brilliant article, thank you for sharing it with parents who care about their children enough to question what is "safe" for them.

Irma said...

Thank you, we need more educators like yourself. The old knowledge is getting buried under pharmaceutical scaremongering. Indeed, how many people who caught measles were vaccinated in the first place!
It is good having viruses when young, as the immune system will start to kick in. An immune system that has never worked will produce more severe diseases. Usually after a good fever children have a growth spurt or some advancement at school.

Chris said...

Well written, informative comment. Exactly what we are missing in mainstream media. Thanks.

Sarah Ditum said...

Hi, I've tried to pull out the main points where your argument seems unclear or unsupported in the hope that you can answer my questions and help me understand what your position is. It's quite long, but I would really appreciate point-by-point responses and I think it would be very much to your credit if you could provide them.

1. "Here in Swansea, we are besieged by news that measles is running rampant across the city- over 800 cases since November." This implies that the news reports are the problem, rather than the measles outbreak itself. Do you consider 800 to be so negligible a number of measles cases that the media is remiss to cover them?

2. "The fact is that children get the MMR jab and still end up getting measles- the medical response to this fact is that people should now be given 2x MMR jabs and even a third when they are teenagers. That doesn't inspire confidence in me." The MMR booster has been standard for as long as I'm aware (my son, born in 2002, had two doses of MMR to provide full coverage). By using the word "now", you imply that this is a novel development when it clearly isn't. Moreover, many medical interventions require multiple applications to take full effect: if I take one dose ibuprofen to treat swelling and the swelling returns eight hours later, it isn't because the medication has failed – it's because I haven't used the medication effectively. The same is true of vaccinations.

3. "Many blame a Doctor Wakefield for causing the current skepticism about the MMR, missing the actual fact that it was the media itself. Journalists with little or no scientific background were making headlines with spurious claims." It is true that had the media not publicised Wakefield's claims, the MMR scare could never have happened. That means that the media is as culpable as Wakefield. Also, Wakefield is no longer a doctor: he was struck off for unethical conduct in his MMR research.

4. "I can recall my own experience with Measles as it was a common childhood disease when I was growing up in the 1970's. It has now been reshaped into a dangerous threat…" I am glad you suffered no long-term ill effects of measles. However, later you acknowledge that measles is lethal, so it seems disingenuous to use your own good fortune to downplay the risk of measles generally.

5. "Remember all those swine flu vaccines that the tax payer bought a few years ago? According the media and the medical world, we were going to be wiped out. But now millions of those unused Tamiflu vaccines have already been flushed away. Same with bird flu, and every other kind of flu they demanded we should be jabbed against." Again, you are correct that there was a media overreaction to the risk of bird and swine flu pandemics. However, stocking up on vaccine is a sensible public health precaution.

6. "Newspapers use hype to sell their papers- they did it with the MMR and the result is public confusion for the last 10 years." Does this mean you agree that the media's promotion of fears over MMR was "hype"? Why then do you appear to promote such fears yourself?

7. "Expecting any parent to be able to give an alternative view following weeks of a MMR supporting barrage is just ridiculous. They were concerned that their kids would end up being ostracized in public." During an outbreak of a disease, quarantine is a tried and tested means of preventing transmission. Do you not think it sensible for people to avoid unvaccinated individuals who may be carrying the disease? (Cont)

Sarah Ditum said...

8. "I have met a number of parents in Swansea over the last week who had kids with measles- some had the MMR, some didn't. All survived after a week or more in bed and are now healthy again with lifetime immunity." However, one man has died while suffering from measles. It is peculiar that you don't mention this – you must be aware of it, as I mention it in my piece which you have clearly read.

9. "Should we all line up to be jabbed? Is it a help or a hindrance? One father whose child caught measles recently told me that he was shocked at the lack of support from doctors who offered him no information on how to treat his child or how to stop other children being infected." The concern of this father is about care while infected: it does not answer the question you ask about the efficacy of the MMR. It seems that you are simply raising doubt without seeking to address it.

10. "One thing which is oft repeated is that Measles kills the weak and is cited as one of the key reasons we should vaccinate as it will give 'Herd immunity-- ie; the 95% who are vaccinated will protect the remaining 5% who are not vaccinated. Is this really viable with a world population which is growing rapidly?" Yes, herd immunity is thoroughly viable in the UK. A rising world population does not have any impact on the efficacy of vaccination in individual regions. The population of Swansea is not rising faster than the production of vaccine.

11. "That measles kills is in no doubt but I am frustrated by media reports which do not paint the wider picture." Here you point to two cases where you consider mortality to be the result of measles in combination with other factors. Clearly, you are reluctant to ascribe these deaths to measles. However, had these individuals not contracted measles, they would probably not have died from their underlying problems: are you therefore saying that those whose immune system is suppressed through malnutrition or illness do not deserve to be protected from a potentially deadly disease?

12. "The Irish epidemic revealed that at least ten per cent of those who developed measles had been given the MMR jab." I cannot find a source for this claim. If you have one, please link to it. The MMR is considered to be 99% effective – this is why herd immunity is the most important part in preventing outbreaks.

13. "Measles is an unpleasant disease, but not as unpleasant as the hype and divisive role being played out by the media and big Pharma." You refer frequently to the role of "big pharma". Is your objection to MMR that it is commercially produced? If so, that is a very different issue to whether measles is dangerous or vaccination works.

In summary: you ask a number of questions intended to downplay both the effectiveness of and the necessity for the MMR vaccination, without providing any evidence. I find this surprising given that the Swansea outbreak is in itself evidence of both: vaccination levels fell below 90% in the Swansea area, and the consequence is a resurgence of measles, which as you acknowledge is a deadly disease. (You don't mention that it is also potentially disabling.) Despite this, you imply that parents are justified in resisting MMR and advise thoroughly unproven homoeopathy and nutritional interventions instead.

You may not feel embarrassed, but you should. You – a part of the media yourself – have produced a work of feeble scaremongering, obscuring facts and raising doubts about MMR on no basis whatsoever. I am deeply sad that people will read this and take it as a reason not to vaccinate. Their children will then be more likely to catch the disease, and more people will be injured by measles as a direct result of your sophistry.

Kind regards,

Sarah Ditum

Anonymous said...

Sarah Ditum, you are wilfully misinterpreting the article, choosing to pull it to pieces. Most of your points are simply semantics, or perhaps you don't understand what the writer has written?

Andrew Wakefield is alive and well and doing some marvellous research in the US that clearly shows that children after the second dose of MMR, as well as the first, are becoming very sick, so there can be no claims of coincidence or one-offs. MMR is a dangerous vaccine, poorly researched, which makes a lot of money for a very wealthy industry. Have you considered the side-effects? (See BNF.org)

Injection of a vaccine may be followed by local reactions such as pain, inflammation, redness, and lymphangitis. An induration or sterile abscess may develop at the injection site. Gastro-intestinal disturbances, fever, headache, irritability, loss of appetite, fatigue, myalgia, and malaise are among the most commonly reported side-effects. Other side-effects include influenza-like symptoms, dizziness, paraesthesia, asthenia, drowsiness, arthralgia, rash, and lymphadenopathy. Hypersensitivity reactions, such as bronchospasm, angioedema, urticaria, and anaphylaxis, are very rare but can be fatal (see section 3.4.3 for management of allergic emergencies).

and See section 14.1; also malaise, fever, or a rash can occur after the first dose of MMR vaccine, most commonly about a week after vaccination and lasting about 2 to 3 days. Leaflets are available for parents on advice for reducing fever (including the use of paracetamol). Febrile seizures occur rarely 6 to 11 days after MMR vaccination; the incidence of febrile seizures is lower than that following measles infection. Parotid swelling occurs occasionally, usually in the third week, and rarely, arthropathy 2 to 3 weeks after immunisation. Adverse reactions are considerably less frequent after the second dose of MMR vaccine than after the first dose.

Hypersensitivity to egg—there is increasing evidence that MMR vaccine can be given safely even when the child has had an anaphylactic reaction to food containing egg (dislike of egg or refusal to eat eggs is not a contra-indication). For children with a confirmed anaphylactic reaction to egg-containing food, MMR vaccine should be administered in a hospital setting.

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura has occurred rarely following MMR vaccination, usually within 6 weeks of the first dose. The risk of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura after MMR vaccine is much less than the risk after infection with wild measles or rubella virus. Children who develop idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura within 6 weeks of the first dose of MMR should undergo serological testing before the second dose is due; if the results suggest incomplete immunity against measles, mumps or rubella then a second dose of MMR is recommended. The Specialist and Reference Microbiology Division, Health Protection Agency offers free serological testing for children who develop idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura within 6 weeks of the first dose of MMR.

You sound very much like you've swallowed the whole vaccine propaganda and are at pains to inculcate others to it. You don't seem to question the fact that many people with measles have already been vaccinated, or that the vaccine does not seem to work very well.

You vaccinate yourself and your children and take the consequences, I'll stick with good health and strong immunity for mine.

Sarah Ditum said...

Andrew Wakefield has been struck off. His research was faulty and unethical, and served his own investment in the production of the single vaccine.

If you want to make claims like "many people with measles have already been vaccinated, or that the vaccine does not seem to work very well" you should provide some figures and show some understanding of herd immunity. You also need to find some explanation for the Swansea outbreak beyond the obvious: it happened because people didn't vaccinate enough.

By the way, when you say you'll "stick with good health and strong immunity" for your children, I see you misunderstand the fact that MMR provides immunity. It has the same effect as a measles infection (paradoxically, praised in the post above for providing immunity from measles) – but without the same risk of death and injury that comes from infection.

Asking for evidence for specific claims is not semantics. Asking for clarification of an unclear and misleading article is indeed semantics, and a very worthy form of them.

Paul O' Connor said...

Sarah- thanks for taking the time to dissect my article.

Yes I don't have all the answers but unlike other media, I am trying to give space for other voices to be heard. The mainstream media is too busy charging down one avenue (get the MMR) without airing other useful viewpoints (such as how to care for measles, how to boost your child's immune system, or even how to allay peoples fears about MMR)

You wrote in your Guardian article that Swansea parents were too embarrassed to talk to ITN. But this is untrue. People are more concerned of being misrepresented and being manipulated by the media.
You are lucky that you believe that you have all the right answers. Many of us are not in that same situation so we are exploring.

Sarah Ditum said...

I wrote that it was "as if they were embarrassed", not that they definitively were: I can't speak for people's inner lives, I can only give my best guess as to why a population that once had several people willing to speak with absolute confidence about MMR's alleged (unsubstantiated) dangers should now have none. It's an interesting situation, and one I thought worth exporing in my column.

For you to say "I don't have all the answers" is simply not good enough when you're asking questions which are definitively capable of being answered – and implying answers that are contrary to the evidence. Does the MMR work? Yes it does – try looking at the data published by the HPA. Can herd immunity be maintained in a growing population? Yes it can – look at the success of polio vaccination. I am painfully conscious of my own ignorance, but in writing about this issue I've taken the time to explore and assess the available information, and the conclusion is obvious: not vaccinating is vastly more dangerous than vaccinating.

While you "explore" (or rather, fail to explore the available information – because it exists, it's free, and as a journalist you clearly should have the nous to seek it out), children are catching a disease that kills and debilitates. Every doubt you encourage is a foothold for a deadly virus. I pulled out 13 points of obvious self-contradiction, unevidenced assertion or doubtful logic in your piece. It didn't take much time. I just copied and pasted, same as I would with any edit. And your only answer to these specific questions was that you are "exploring". I can only assume that you don't think 800 cases (actually nearly 900 now) is enough.