Paul Offit’s notorious article in which he claimed it would be “theoretically” safe to give 10,000 vaccines to an infant in one go remains the dogma underpinning the United Kingdom’s ever expanding vaccine schedule (EEVS), for which the latest edition is the Meningitis B vaccine, Bexsero. In a recent interview Prof Elizabeth Miller of Public Health England cites the 2002 article when referring to "strong scientific arguments against the immune overload hypothesis": Offit’s article is listed in the footnotes. The language is notable: Miller can scarcely cite strong evidence so she cites “arguments” instead. It should be clear that the supposed safety of the expanding schedule is based on a mixture of conjecture and whimsy. For the industry to market new products for your baby they have to have a dogma that there can never be too many and Offit created the dogma.
I first tried to highlight the yawning scientific gap in BMJ Rapid Responses in June 2004 quoting the words of the then Chief Medical Officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson in an National Health Service pamphlet in answer to the question: “Does MMR overload young bodies?” To which Sir Liam responds:
"Again, all the evidence refutes this. In fact, a child's immune system is designed to cope with many different viruses at the same time, so a combined vaccine is a natural choice."
I asked mmrthefacts NHS website:
"Is the CMO entitled to present this as a medically established fact rather than a theoretical proposition? What is the experimental evidence that all children are equally able to sustain multiple exposure? What does the CMO mean by "designed?"
To which I had a reply after some pause:
"The CMO is entitled to present his statement about the immune system as a medically established fact rather than theoretical proposition. From the moment of birth a child's immune system is able to cope with the constant barrage of pathogens. As the CMO stated, this is what the..."immune system is designed cope tih (sic)..."As for example, the digestive system is "designed" to digest food and liver is "designed" to detoxify the blood. Part of the licensing process of any combination vaccine, such as MMR, has to show that the combination is safe and effective when administered to the age group for which it is intended.
There is recent research from the US which supports this statement as it has specifically looked at the ability of children's immune systems, estimating that a child's immune system could cope with 10,000 vaccines any one time. Please see Offit PA et al (2002) Addressing parents' concerns: Do multiple vaccines overwhelm or weaken infant's immune system?Pediatics, 109 (1): 124-9
Apart from anything else it is a deceit to call it research, since it is simply a projection based on certain assumptions.
Some week later the head of the UK vaccine programme, Prof David Salisbury, announced on BBC television that a baby’s immune system could “tolerate one thousand vaccines”. When I queried this in correspondence Salisbury wrote to me in clarification:
"Turning to my comments on Newsnight - I suggest you read Paul Offit's paper - as I have done. On page 126, he states: "Current data suggest that the theoretical capacity determined by diversity of antibody variable gene regions would allow for as many as 109 (1,000,000,000) to 1011(100,000,000,000) different antibody specificities". And "... then each infant would have the theoretical capacity to respond to about 10,000 vaccines at any one time" - not antigens. I was speaking very specifically about the infant immune system's ability to respond, in the context of the ridiculous suggestion that the new vaccine combination, containing far fewer antigens than the one it will replace, would overload the immune system. My words were "The immune system of a baby has got huge spare capacity to deal with challenge. If we didn't, the human race wouldn't survive. But let's look specifically at vaccine. This has been studied carefully. A baby's immune system could actually tolerate perfectly well 1,000 vaccines". At no point did I suggest that 1,000 vaccines would not increase the probability of adverse reactions - a quite different matter." (Email August 26, 2004 10.03 am)
One might have thought that if every infant’s immune system was that resourceful we would not have any need to fear diseases at all, let alone vaccinate against them – meanwhile Salisbury confesses that multiple vaccines heighten the risks.
In 2004 a two month old British baby received 5 vaccines – we were about to shift from DPT with thimerosal to DTaP + HiB and OPV. Now we are up - with the recent addition of Bexsero - to eight, and no doubt, on the Offit doctrine, rising. There is no doubt that Meningitis B is a horrible disease but Bexsero is a horrible vaccine to administer to millions of infants who will never get it. The US package insert records the routine adverse reactions to the vaccine (but this is only for 10-25 year olds):
The most common solicited adverse reactions observed in clinical trials were pain at the injection site (≥83%), myalgia (≥48%),erythema (≥45%), fatigue (≥35%), headache (≥33%),induration (≥28%), nausea (≥18%), and arthralgia (≥13%)...
Regarding serious effects (but again just 10-25 year-olds):
Serious Adverse Events Overall, in clinical studies, among 3,058 participants 10 through 25 years of age who received at least 1 dose of BEXSERO 66 (2.1%) participants reported serious adverse events at any time during the study. In the 3 controlled studies.. (BEXSERO N=2716, Control N=2078), serious adverse events within 30 days after any dose were reported in 23 (0.8%) BEXSERO recipients and 10(0.5%) control recipients.
A two month old infant not only has to ride this: it gets it in conjunction with a five in one vaccine (DTaP+HiB+IPV), a pneumococcal vaccine and oral rotavirus. Not only that, they will have to receive it twice more – each time with several other vaccines.
5-in-1 (DTaP/IPV/Hib) vaccine – this single jab contains vaccines to protect against five separate diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (known as Hib – a bacterial infection that can cause severe pneumonia or meningitis in young children) , Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine, Rotavirus vaccine,Men B vaccine
5-in-1 (DTaP/IPV/Hib) vaccine, Men C vaccine, Rotavirus vaccine
5-in-1 (DTaP/IPV/Hib) vaccine, Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine, Men B vaccine second dose
Hib/Men C booster, given as a single jab containing meningitis C, and Hib, MMR, Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine, Men B vaccine
This is what your baby was designed to receive according to Sir Liam, Prof Salisbury and Prof Miller.
John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.