With the passing of Harold Ramis, I was surprised to learn of the medical condition that led to his death. I remember him as Private Russell Ziskey in Stripes, an unemployed parapsychology professor in Ghostbusters, and as a co-writer in Animal House. Press releases state that the actor, director and screenwriter succumbed to complications from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis (vass-ku-lite-us). According to medical journals, autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis is an acquired disease that causes inflammation of the blood vessels. In Mr. Ramis’s case, it was reported that he had extreme difficulty walking and using his legs and arms.
So how did this horrible disease afflict Mr. Ramis? Dr. Waseem Mir, a rheumatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York told CBS news that only 1% of the US population has this disease, making it extremely rare. However, Dr. Peter Merkel, a rheumatologist and director of Penn Vasculitis Center at the University of Penn medical school told CNN that “Mr. Ramis had one of 15 identified variants of vasculitis. None of these conditions individually affects more than 200,000 people in the US. But if you add them all up together, it’s not rare, and the chances are everybody knows somebody, directly or indirectly, that is affected.”
Now does that last sentence sound familiar? Maybe in discussions about vaccine injury? If two leading rheumatologists cannot agree whether or not this medical condition is rare, why not examine some previous medical cases of vasculitis?
In a paper presented by Tomljenovic and Shaw in 2012 regarding the death of two individuals who were administered the HPV vaccine, tissue samples of the brain led the authors to interpret the results as demonstrating an autoimmune cerebral vasculitis. Now, we can confidently assume that Mr. Ramis did not receive a Gardasil vaccine, but it does bring vaccinations into the question. Another study, published in 2009 by Birck, Kaelsch, et al, titled “ANCA-associated vasculitis following influenza vaccination: causal association or mere coincidence?” did not prove a causal association between influenza vaccine and vasculitis, but it did assert that in rare cases vaccination might induce vasculitic disease. Now we have the possibility that influenza vaccine might, under “rare” conditions, induce vasculitis.
On its website “Living with Vasculitis”, Vasculitis UK posts the following warnings about the influenza and pneumonia vaccines: “Flu and Pneumonia vaccines are not recommended for vasculitis patients.” The website continues with a warning to those with autoimmune disorders not to receive the shingles vaccine. Now how many of you drive by a retail pharmacy such as CVS, Rite-Aid, or Walgreens and see their electronic outdoor signs blasting the message, “Don’t forget about your shingles vaccine”? By the way, the shingles vaccine is not covered in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, so if you do have an adverse reaction to the shingles vaccine, which results in a serious injury, you are SOL.
So that got me thinking about the 15,000+ petitions filed in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program seeking compensation for vaccine injury. There are many petitions filed claiming vasculitis as an injury from several different vaccines. Conducting a very quick search, I found over 20 petitions, most of them compensated and with medical expert testimony stating that the following vaccines contributed to vasculitis:
- Meningitis vaccine causing Retinal Vasculitis (Retinal vasculitis is an inflammatory disease of the blood vessels of the retina that may be associated with primary ocular conditions or with inflammatory or infectious diseases in other parts of the body). The most common systemic diseases associated with retinal vasculitis are Behçet's disease, sarcoidosis, and multiple sclerosis and Bell’s Palsey;
- DTaP and Hep B causing Leukocytoclastic Vasculitis (Leukocytoclastic vasculitis (LCV), also known as hypersensitivity vasculitis and hypersensitivity vasculitis, is a histopathologic term commonly used to denote a small-vessel vasculitis);
- Influenza, HepB, Meningitis, and MMR causing Urticarial Vasculitis (form of vasculitis that affects the skin, causing wheals or hives and/or red patches due to swelling of the small blood vessels); and
- HPV causing Central Nervous System Vasculitis (Central nervous system – CNS vasculitis is inflammation of blood vessel walls in the brain or spine).
Reviewing several vasculitis organization websites, a common message appears. That most causes of vasculitis are unknown, that more research is needed, and according to the Vasculitis Foundation, “vasculitis can cause a weakening and narrowing of the walls of the blood vessels, leading to blockage. Then, affected organs and tissues don’t get the blood they need to function, causing them to die.”
In the following few weeks as Harold Ramis’s death will remind many, many more individuals about the dangers of vasculitis, several questions need to be asked by researchers and scientists.
1. Actually how many people in the US and around the world have some form of vasculitis? Are they aware of this condition? This would be very important since there are risks taking certain medications while treating vasculitis.
2. Will there be any honest and independent discussion from scientists and researchers about the possibility that vaccines can contribute to the causation of vasculitis?
Harold Ramis said in an interview several years ago about his career, “My characters aren't losers. They're rebels. They win by their refusal to play by everyone else's rules.”
My hope is that many more people will follow his advice.
Wayne Rohde, Author of upcoming book, The Vaccine Court: The Dark Truth of America’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program – SkyHorse Publishing
Father to Nick Rohde, 16, diagnosed with moderate-severe autism