Managing Editor's Note: We'll continue to inform you about the H1N1 vaccination program so that you can make an informed choice for your family. The comments following the article John references (in the UK's Mail Online) (HERE) are interesting.
By John Stone
Concern is finally being raised in the UK media that government agencies are failing to be straight with the public over the safety of the proposed swine flu vaccine now scheduled for release in October.
Leaked documents show that there is concern – as with the previous US swine flu scare in 1976 – that the vaccine might give rise to Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause paralysis or death. A letter was sent to 600 neurologists from Professor Elizabeth Miller of the Health Protection Agency acknowledging concern on 29 July, two days after a letter circulated amongst the Association of British Neurologists by Dr Rustam Al-Shahi Salman, chair of its surveillance unit, and Professor Patrick Chinnery chair of its clinical research committee. The leak highlights the fact that Prof Miller is prepared to disclose the concern secretly to professionals but not the public. Her letter, quoted in the Mail on Sunday (HERE), states:
"The vaccines used to combat an expected swine influenza pandemic in 1976 were shown to be associated with GBS and were withdrawn from use.
"GBS has been identified as a condition needing enhanced surveillance when the swine flu vaccines are rolled out.
"Reporting every case of GBS irrespective of vaccination or disease history is essential for conducting robust epidemiological analyses capable of identifying whether there is an increased risk of GBS in defined time periods after vaccination, or after influenza itself, compared with the background risk."
Prof Miller is exceptionally well connected. A recent biographical note states:
‘Professor Elizabeth Miller is the Head of the Immunisation Department at the Health Protection Agency, Centre for Infections in Colindale North West London. She joined the Epidemiological Research Laboratory in 1978 to work on the large post-licensure safety and efficacy studies of pertussis vaccines that were being conducted following the collapse of the UK whooping cough immunisation programme in the mid 1970s. This experience prompted her continuing interest in the risks and benefits of vaccination programmes and organising trials of new vaccines. She has been involved with trials of acellular pertussis, MMR, Hib, meningococcal C vaccines and more recently the new pneumococcal vaccines. Her other interests include seroepidemiology and mathematical modelling, vaccine safety studies and viral infections in pregnancy. Professor Miller also has wide experience of committee membership, covering bodies such as the UK and European licensing authorities, the WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety, various Data Safety Monitoring Boards, The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) subgroups and scientific organisations such as the Medical Research Council. She has also led or acted as an external expert on various European projects combined with her work for the European Medicines Evaluation Agency.’HERE
Another report in the Daily Telegraph reveals that the GSK version of the swine flu vaccine will contain mercury:
‘Prof David Salisbury, head of immunisation at the Department of Health, said the vaccines will arrive in vials containing about ten doses as it is not feasible to produce or store single-dose preloaded syringes on the scale needed to vaccine the 11m people who will be offered the vaccine between October and December.
‘He said, if only one or two doses in a vial are used on one day the GSK vaccine can be stored overnight in the fridge and the remaining doses used the next day. However the Baxter vaccine, which does not contain thiomersal, would have to be thrown away if the whole vial's contents were not used within three hours, he added.‘ (Telegraph.)
Initially, the vaccines are to be targeted children and adults with underlying health problems, and pregnant women, not groups on whom it is likely to have been trialed in the first place.
John Stone is the UK Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.