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Dachel Media Update: Robert Kennedy on Dr. Oz

Online newsBy Anne Dachel OurKids ad 2013

Read Anne's commentary and view the links after the jump.  The Dachel Media Update is sponsored by Lee Silsby Compounding Pharmacy and their OurKidsASD brand. 

Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Dr. Mark Hyman, collaborators on the book, Thimerosal, Let the Science Speak, were on the Dr. Oz Show on Sept 11, 2014 in a seven and a half minute segment discussing the use of mercury in the annual flu shot. 

Dr. Oz: "In the medical spotlight today, what's sure to be a controversial new book about your flu shot.  Today's guests are asking a highly charged and controversial question; Why does the U.S. government allow a toxin to be added to one of your most common medicines?  The toxin is mercury.  It's found in thimeorsal.  The medicine: your flu shot.  Two world class leaders have come together to write a book that will change the way you think about your annual flu shot.  Robert Kennedy, Jr and Dr. Mark Hyman are joining me."

Kennedy made it clear right away that both he and Dr. Hyman are "fiercely pro-vaccine."  Both men announced that their children were all vaccinated.  Nothing about the segment could be called anti-vaccine. 

Video footage was shown that covered the history of thimerosal, a vaccine additive that's been around since the 1930s.  "A powerful preservative, it was originally added to make vaccines safer, preventing the growth of dangerous fungus and bacteria.  But in the 1990s, thimerosal came under fire, implicated as a possible cause in the skyrocketing rates of autism and other neurological disorders.  The reason?  Thimerosal contains a form of mercury--a potent neurotoxin.  The link between thimerosal and autism was ultimately discredited, but better safe than sorry, in 1999, the government and medical community agreed that thimerosal should reduced or cut from our vaccine supplies.  Since 2001, thimerosal has been eliminated from all vaccines in this country with the glaring exception of some flu shots. The EPA considers medical products containing thimerosal to be hazardous waste. So what is it still doing in your flu shot?"

Hyman: "It's a potent neurotoxin.  It's been linked to all sorts of neuro-developmental issues....  Any form of mercury is toxic.  There's no reason we should be putting it in our medical products. ...Our goal is to take it out of vaccines globally."

Oz then cited the statistic that "sixty-five percent of you have little trust in vaccines."  He said that this segment was about "restoring trust in vaccines." 

Oz had contacted the CDC to ask about "their role in taking thimerosal out of the multi-dose flu vaccines," ...and he gave their response: "The conclusion of the scientific community is clear that thimerosal-containing vaccines are safe and effective and do not represent a public health risk."

Kennedy however was adamant.  The CDC's response was not based on the science.  He had found 500 peer-reviewed studies and "virtually every one of them said that thimerosal is a potent neurotoxin that should not be in vaccines.

"We couldn't find a single, valid, plausible, scientific study that said that thimeorsal was safe.  So what we've said to CDC is, 'Show us the study.'   And they have not been able to show us the study."

Dr. Oz ended the show by advising his audience, "Pregnant women and babies and people over 65, you're at risk and you should ask for thimerosal-free vaccines, like the kind you find in a single dose."  For other people, he recommended the live virus nasal spray.

This was unprecedented.  A doctor on a popular TV show was contradicting CDC officials.  Another doctor, Mark Hyman, and Robert Kennedy, Jr. were warning the public that a medical ingredient the government said was safe, probably wasn't.

Imagine what members of the audience were thinking:  Is my doctor wrong?  Did I get mercury in my flu shots in the past?  Do people at the CDC know what they're doing?

This show was really EXPERTS VS OFFICIALS.  This wasn't autism parents with no science on their side saying mercury in vaccines damaged their children.  What if people started doing what Dr. Oz advised?  What if they went in for their annual flu shot and the doctor didn't have any mercury free ones?  What about all those flu shot clinics at Wal-Mart, CVS, and Walgreens?  Would they be able to provide vaccines without mercury? 

I can't imagine that the folks at the CDC were happy with this broadcast, especially since they're already dealing with the news that one of their own scientists recently revealed that they've been hiding data linking vaccines and autism for the last 10 years. 

I'm also sure many independent experts and informed parents in the autism community know this was also a disingenuous presentation of the fact about thimerosal.

Sure, thimerosal has been around since the 1930s, but nothing was said about the fact that it's never been tested or approved by the FDA.  Imagine how the audience have responded if Oz, Hyman or Kennedy had said that the drug company Eli Lilly developed thimerosal eighty-five years ago and they tested it on 22 patients who all died of meningitis by the end of the study--and that the U.S. government took the drug company's word for it when they said thimerosal was safe to inject into human beings.  These facts were never brought up.  Instead it sounded like both Kennedy and the CDC think they have valid science on their side. 

And the statement that a link between thimerosal and "autism and other neurological disorders" was "ultimately discredited," makes it sound like legitimate science has exonerated thimerosal, yet Dr. Hyman told viewers, "It's been linked to all sorts of neuro-developmental issues."   

There were a lot of mixed messages here.  Robert Kennedy, Jr, Dr. Oz and Dr. Hyman are up against potentially all of mainstream medicine and the pharma-backed officials at the CDC.  Either Kennedy's book is right and thimerosal really is bad for us or those in denial at the CDC are.  Is time for the CDC to be held accountable.

The Dachel Media Update is sponsored by Lee Silsby Compounding Pharmacy and their OurKidsASD brand.  Lee Silsby Compounding Pharmacy is one of the largest and most respected compounding pharmacies in the country. They use only the finest quality chemicals and equipment to prepare our patients’ compounded medications and nutritional supplements. Customizing medication and nutritional supplements for our customers allows them to achieve their unique health goals.

Anne Dachel Book CoverAnne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism and author of  The Big Autism Cover-Up: How and Why the Media Is Lying to the American Public, which goes on sale this Fall from Skyhorse Publishing.



I'm surprised they never mentioned that the thimerosal free vaccines still have it.
Why aren't the other neurotixins like aluminum not mentioned?
It is apparent from their statement that they are fiercely pro-vaccine, is to reduce the amount of snark and ridicule from the industry Stepford wives.

John Stone

I think it is quite troubling to see anyone endorse the entire vaccine program as fulsomely as these gentlemen (barring thimerosal). Even if you were by and large in favour you would say "Read up about it, read the data sheets, inform yourself". "Trust us, just do it!" is an ethically problematic line and it shows great disrespect for people (and for the testimony of ordinary citizens). What does Kennedy know about the history of this matter which supports trust and complacency?


In other words, DEMAND THE COMPLETE, UNADULTERATED, TRUTH. Nothing less will do when talking about public health programs mandating medicating the population including pregnant women and new born infants. NOTHING LESS WILL DO. NOTHING LESS SHOULD BE ACCEPTED.


cia parker

I agree with Linda. The mercury in the MMR gaffe was too important not to publicly acknowledge and correct. A lot of people would otherwise think that if laws are passed saying that no vaccine can contain any mercury, then the problem of vaccines causing autism and other kinds of damage has been solved. Unfortunately, that seems to be what Kennedy himself thinks.
I disagree that we need to cajole the public into the truth by tiny steps, encouraging them to trust Kennedy on this one, that taking the mercury out will solve the problem. Surely, with the huge number of vaccine-damaged children all around everyone now, most of the public is grown up enough to handle the truth, since doing so will enable an undamaged generation of children to grow up.


Puzzle piecies is perfect for that ribbbon -- the NIH and the CDC and Merck has had the whole picture or should have (I think they did) cut it up and has let us parents put it back together.

So I guess this kind of talk is a slow push in the direction that will all have to swing to. After all the kids of the 70 and 80s have taken to drugs from mental illness way before the tons of other vaccines began in the 90s and continues into the this new century.

So far what have we pieced together?

There is mercury and it is causing tics and tourettes.

There is doctors who are also parents that I have seen in big government meetings that mentions an aborted fetus of a woman that had that little girl aborted because she was mentally ill -- and the simple explaination is that woman had a virus - her fetus had a virus and the MMR, the chicken pox and Hep A has it.

THe FDA says only one nanometer of human DNA the fetus should be in vaccines -- but I see there is a study that they found a whole lot more than that in the vaccines.

They have made these vaccines with out any fear of making a product that will harm -- no punishment and now we have mercury 2 parts per million when the EPA says drinking water shoulc not be but 1 part per billion.

We have the FDA saying just under 1 nanogram or something tiny and they put in 15,0000 ngs.

---- and in a presentation at the NIH on microbiome the grad student - not the big doctor says to the group -- the vaccines are acting as a sledge hammer to the gut microbiome -- so they are not so precise to make the immune system just attack the mumps or tetanus or what ever the vaccine is for

Maybe this is not as hard of a puzzle as I thought to put together.


With all the misinformation, half truths and flat out lies in our culture regarding vaccination, I do think that Dr. Oz should be asked (by everyone who knows) to issue a correction of the statement on the screen: "In 1999, thimerosol began to be removed from childhood vaccines like measles, mumps and rubella".

This issue is far too important to allow such blatant errors that serve to rob people of informed consent and understanding of what has happened in the past to their children when they were given these vaccines.

Hold Journalists Liable for every child brain injured by vaccines

You have to lead the indoctrinated from where they are, by being relatable and seemingly sharing their world view, to where you need them to be ...questioning some small premise until they can begins to see fallacies in the entirety.
Rfk jr would get no where and get no coverage at all if he said he thought all vaccines were a crock. I know that most of us are totally done with vaccines, but he is an environmentalist. Mercury was his issue. I applaud his having the enormous courage to use his political and name capital to support us. God knows virtually no one else in politics or the nonautism world has cared enough about our plight to speak up for us risk extreme ridicule and validate at least this one significant part of the autism story. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. A huge paradigm shift is happening. And many of the leaders of that shift are still in the process themselves. Don't accuse someone of lying or stupidity who simply doesn't agree 100% with you. That alienates and to overcome this we need all the friends we can get. They don't all understand yet. It took me 7 years to get from get the toxins out to omg these things don't even work and cause harm no matter what.


It is interesting that when Dr. Oz asks Dr. Hyman what's wrong with having mercury in the flu shot, that Dr. Hyman responds by saying that it is neurotoxic, but unfortunately they didn't explain to the audience what neurotoxic means or what symptoms of neurotoxicity looks like in a person (e.g., tics). Many people don't know that "neuro" refers to the nervous system. Dr. Oz is famous for thorough explanations and for simplifying difficult concepts on his show, but I believe he was deliberately careful not to decode the medicalese which would have led the audience to understand the harm that mercury in flu and other vaccines has done.


If Hyman gave out some bad info, that MMR had thimerosol at some point, who cares? All the better. Maybe someone heard him say that and inadvertantly thinks the MMR has mercury in it and decides not to give their healthy child an MMR shot. Maybe someone does a google search to find out what other vaccines have mercury in them. Maybe they say "geez! What the hell else is in these things?!" I better do some serious research! Gee, what a pity! Informed people already know and pass over it without believing it. Uninformed people pay more attention to the proclaimed safety of MMR and alter their vaccine choices. Oops, how horrible! Also, it gives him a chance to come back on Oz, correct himself, and have a whole other conversation about the questionable history of the MMR. What if that conversation ended up mentioning the recent revelation that the CDC covered up some important info? He also put the thimerosal safety issue on his own website - a page with 200,000 "likes." And he is now going to
be part of Cleveland Clinic's functional medicine program. I'd rather have someone at least knowledgeable about mercury in a big institution like that than someone promoting thimerosal as being safe and okay to use in vaccines or other medicines. We are talking about saving lives and improving health and quality of life here, in any way possible. If even one child is saved from neurological damage or is born without a predisposition for mito disease or an mthfr mutation that will screw up their glutathione pathway due to the mother having a mercury shot when pregnant, I'd say that's a good day's work. If anyone else here can say they've warned 3.1 million people about the potential danger of mercury in vaccines at the same time as revealing the scientific shortcomings of the CDC, step on up . . .

cia parker

Joe Sulaco,
Thanks, that's interesting information. My strongly pro-vaccine (former) brother has gotten the flu vaccine every year for decaades (now has peripheral neuropathy etc., but that's another story). At the time of the H1N1 epidemic, he told me how awful it was, that a lot of his colleagues had had it and were deathly ill, a man at his church got it and died of it. A neighbor's child died of it. I'm pretty sure the lot of them had gotten a lot of flu vaccines, just from their cultural milieu.

While about a third of my college students got it in October and November '09, and were out a few days, and then back in class none the worse for wear. My daughter and I got it kind of late, in late January. She was very sick for a day and then got well. I got it and missed teaching one day, but had a horrible sore throat for three weeks and a horrible painful cough for over a month. Then got well, never feared I was going to die. But I've said for years that ít's crazy to ever take the flu vaccine: getting whatever flu is going around keeps your immune system up to date and its skills honed. Getting a vaccine may paralyze you or kill you, or screw up your immune system in the ways you described.

cia parker

Great witticism, Laura! Why in the world would he say "fiercely pro-vaccine"? Does he honestly think that the problems with vaccines begin and end with mercury? I have a feeling that of the three he's fiercely afraid of being railroaded into obscurity if he doesn't recite the expected catechism.

cia parker

John O'Neill,
Someone said this morning that maybe the original killed virus measles vaccine from the '60s (which was withdrawn because it was disastrous and caused dangerous atypical measles) had thimerosal in it. Did it? Does anyone know? It still couldn't account for that ridiculous statement since that was nearly fifty years ago. Live virus vaccines can't have preservatives or adjuvants in them or the live viruses would be killed. You're right, SURELY these vaccine pundits know that. SURELY they realize they aren't going to be able to say that the live virus vaccine used for so many decades ever had mercury in it! ANY vaccine can cause encephalitis when the immune system reacts to it, independent of any particular ingredients. You'd have to be in a really dire situation, maybe the bubonic plague is on your block killing 80% of your neighbors (and even then check it out and look on the Internet to see if there's a homeopathic remedy for it), to take any vaccine.

cia parker

I agree. It's time for these guys to cut loose from dogma and just be honest. That goes for Dr. G and S as well. I agree with Benedetta too. You'd have to be crazy at this point, knowing what we know about vaccines, to get any of them. It's like these guys want to make a name for themselves selling one point about the dangers of vaccines, but not alienate the industry and the conventional public by breaking away entirely. Way less than admirable of them.

cia parker

They took most of it out of the Tdap, all but still very significant "trace" amounts. If they're telling the truth (a big caveat), the flu vaccine is the only one that has the old amount of mercury still in it. And yet the autism rate is still going up! Maybe they haven't taken any mercury out of anything, and that's the reason. Or maybe people have a limit to how many vaccines they can get before they react with encephalitis to any vaccine.


Good points Jenny.

We do need this - but there is so much wrong with the vaccines - that just taking out the mercury is not enough, but the public may think so and be easily fooled.

Hit the reset button on all of this and another new battle for another 30 or 40 years to get each of the many dangerous things out of vaccines; all the while they are adding more and more vaccines (with out mercury so all better) and we are still well on our way to living under cliffs making baskets.

It is a beginning - you are right-- it cannot be the the total. What do we do to keep it from doing just that?


I agree with you, I think it was very courageous of these men to tackle this issue at all. The conversation with Shiela Ealey, where she reveals that her son's medical papers were stolen from her home just before she was to appear in court, shows the level of malice we are dealing with here.

Someone recently mentioned that all the newspapers, magazines and channels are owned by about 6 to 12 corporations. It is truly chilling the silence around this CDC whistleblower issue and people's growing awareness of these things will likely bring about nothing short of a revolution.


Wow! Thank-you Dr. Oz!
One ongoing problem w/creating awareness of vaccine dangers is getting to a mainstream audience, instead of just "preaching to the choir" which is what pharmaceutical companies would like to have happen. They want the message to remain isolated among the few who already know or for the idea to remain irrelevant to the masses until an injury actually occurs, and for those people to feel isolated.
Can you imagine how many viewers may just decide to stop and listen the next time someone brings up the topic of alternate vaccine schedules or not vaccinating at all? Or if they go in and insist on the thimerosol free flu shot instead of the multidose shot? How many feet have been directed to a safer path as a result of this? How many womens' and babies' lives may go from being potentially ruined to potentially fine? One site says he has on average 2.9 MILLION viewers!

Yes, perfection would be nice, but while we are all sitting around waiting for it, we should be embracing improvements to the system, too. It's not going to be all or nothing at this point in history. Every step in the right direction is meaningful and will provide support for the endgame.

My key takeaways that this probably formerly uninformed audience heard are these:
1. They repeatedly used the descriptors "toxin" and "neurotoxic." That's way better than just "preservative."
2. Young parents who heard the phrase "implicated in autism" in the embedded video would have been introduced to the connection of autism to vaccines, whereas they might not have been before, even though the embedded video said the idea was discredited. The rest of the interview itself creates enough doubt that those words will probably lead to a lot of future googling.
3. Hyman discusses that with flu shots having mercury, there is an "equivalent dose" to what the CDC took out of other vaccines over a preponderance of caution. More red flags to any sensible newbie - and it's not hard to comprehend the comparison. The sound bytes were totally in layman's terms.
4. That the CDC would not respond to requests to provide the science showing thimerosol is safe to inject and in fact was so dangerous they have required taking it out of skin care products. No logical answer was provided by the CDC as to why it is still being injected. That silence is deafening and combined with their pat "public response" actually creates additional doubt.
5. They reiterated that it is a neurotoxin in ANY form.
6. They showed that 65% of the viewers DON'T trust the vaccine system. Right out, people who were doubters of vaccines but felt like they are were in the minority now have the peace of mind that they are in the MAJORITY, that there just might be valid reason for that doubt if so many are in the same frame of mind, and there are 2 wellknown and educated doctors sitting there telling them the same thing and clarifying their doubts - essentially telling them they are NOT dumb or crazy.
7. They told everyone about the 3 years of searching and 500 peer reviewed studies supporting their opinion to avoid thimerosol and mercury - where as the CDC could not provide even ONE valid study showing safety. That's huge.
8. Their final message was to ask for the mercury free flu vaccine.

If you ask me, the benefits of educating people to the dangers of mercury and how well that message came across definately overshadowed the brief introduction when both Hyman and Kennedy said they vaccinate. The message was that the system can do better, but that the patient will have to be informed and take steps for themselves to decrease their personal risk when it comes to vaccines. It shows the viewers that they have not been given the information they might want in order to make a safe decision.

People who are already completely against vaccinating (with good reasons) will certainly not go out and get a flu vaccine based on this interview. And the previously uninformed who would have been inclined to walk in and just get a shot with no knowledge of the dangers might either ask for the safer option, or bypass the shot altogether.

I thank them all!

autism mom

It will never happen I know but I wish Oz would do a show on documented cases of severe adverse reacton to vaccine or at least open the debate. Be nice to have reps like MAry Holland from EBCALA speak and maybe parents like Rolf Hazlehurst.

I like RFK and appreciate his efforts to remove Thimerosal from vaccines but I dont think he needed to open by defending or putting vaccines on a pedestal where they don't belong. People need to stop worshipping this false idol vaccines. He could have said I vax my kids but I feel more needs to be done to make them safe. period.

Truth is hard to come by

This Dr. Oz show was nothing more than Pharma's new strategy to try to recover their lost credibility. Too little, WAY too late. Just enough of the truth is getting out that a lot of people (65%??) are now asking questions and not trusting the answers they are getting.

Pharma is starting to realize that the whole vaccine business is about to go down the tubes if they don't somehow restore trust. Blame it on government incompetence -- CDC, in particular, looks like the tact they have decided to take. I am guessing that CDC heads are going to roll.

Now would be a good time to independently get a lot of supposedly thimerosal-free vaccines tested to see just how "thimerosol-free" they all are. (And I agree with Bendetta--check the aluminum content while you are at it.)

And just how is it that all non-thimerosal containing vaccines are safe and effective while the falsified study linked MMR to a higher risk of autism?

John O'Neil reported that a screen grab from the show suggested MMR used to have thimerosal--pretty clear why Pharma might now want everyone to think that. It is part of their "solution" to their really big PR problem--there was a problem, but now it's all fixed.

"Yeah, that's the ticket."

(As John Belushi used to say in his SNL character, Tommy Flanagan, the pathological liar.)


Does anyone know if the adult tetanus - AKA -- DTaP -- did they take the mercury out of that - or is that still have it in it?


Oh, what a love feastival.

Any good butcher will tell you that the main thing you do for the animal is to not scare it - keep everything low key - keep it calm.

It sounds like that to me.


By the way; as they reduced the mercury - have they increased the aluminum?


Thanks Jim Thompson for explaining this - I have been wondering. So trace - is 2 parts per million and the EPA says mercury in drinking water through the stomach is 2 parts per billion.

At this point in time - seeing the lies, corrupt science -- and if I had known all that I know back 30 years ago -- A person would have to be a FOOL - which I am close to being -- to receive a vaccine of any kind today. There is not reason at all for the drug manufacturers to worry about making a safe vaccine -- just as long as you don't obviously get the dieseae they are vaccinating against -- anything else they do to you is Okay.

Jim Thompson

Robert F. Kennedy is a warrior for families. Look at how he takes a hit from mainstream media. See .

Keep in mind his approach in this recent video with Dr. Oz is in defense against those attacking his book and calling him anti-vaccine. But he shouldn’t ignore the vaccine harm in that he previously acknowledged. See .

Jim Thompson

Vaccines other than flu shots still contain mercury.

These are vaccines with “trace” of amounts of Thimerosal. “…trace amounts (1 microgram or less mercury per dose)…” See .

But one microgram of mercury in a half milliliter vaccine dose (2 parts per million), still exceeds the USEPA mercury hazardous waste threshold of 0.2 parts per million by a factor of 10. See .

This mercury should be removed as well. All mercury should be removed from vaccines.

The USEPA has established a threshold level of inorganic mercury allowed for drinking water of 2 parts per billion. The mercury by weight in a “trace” Thimerosal preserved flu shot is 1,000 times higher. See . If you shouldn’t drink it then you shouldn’t inject it into children or pregnant women.

Please contact your elected US Senators and Representative. See . Ask them to stop the use of Thimerosal (heavy metal mercury) in all vaccines.

John Stone


Yes, it has a very weird flavour.


The 3 mens' near hysterical testimony of allegiance to the vaccine god despite the fact that they are also supposedly pointing out that there is poison in the vaccines and that the god has refused to remove it and that there is a whole body of science that legitimately questions the safety and value of these same vaccines even without the one poison, is chilling. Do they think that their fearful scripted pronouncements that they are religious vaccinators will convince the 65%? Watching this segment makes me wonder how they were threatened because it sure was effective to dismantle their message, and they now just come across as bizarre.

John Stone


To paraphrase Bill Clinton: "It's the culture, stupid!"



I am completely in agreement with you for taking Kennedy to task for his 'pro-vaxx' claim, while also criticizing other areas of vaccination. In fact, many of our allies have proceeded along this path of claiming that -- 'I am not anti-vaxx but....'. I am sorry but if you have serious concerns about vaccines then you just do, and it is extreme twisted logic (if not sheer hypocrosy) to say that you are still pro-vaxx. Until all your skepticisms about the program are resolved there is no room to be pro-vaxx.

Adam Mortenson

Amen Laura!
Then they keep asking how do we get the public's trust back. How about getting informed and then stop being part of the lie now matter how humbling that is.


Thank you Laura Hayes for your comment. You are exactly correct.

John Stone

John O'Neill

It is certainly very sloppy though the issue in this instance is that there was a move in 1999 to remove thimerosal from the vaccines which had them such as DTP.

I don't really get the Kennedy line that you trust the people who do this about every other single matter and give all their products to our children - no mention of Thompson, complete complacency about the ever expanding schedule. The nasal flu vaccine Flumist/Fluenz which is being wheeled this autumn for all British school children is a piece of mind-numbing stupidity even if it doesn't have mercury in it:

John O'Neill

The screengrab from the video says "In 1999, Thimerosal began to be removed from childhood vaccines like Measles, Mumps and Rubella".

Are Dr Oz, Kennedy and Dr Hyman ALL unaware that MMR has never contained thimerosal? Dr Oz at least would have known that caption was coming up, even if Kennedy and Hyman didn't. So either he's extremely ignorant, or he's deliberately spreading untruths.

Joe Sulaco

Whoa. Let's be careful here. There is SO much more that's bad about the flu shot than just mercury.

How about immune reactivity bias? Yes. The flu shot predisposes your immune system to recognize preferentially the strains contained within, thereby rendering you MORE vulnerable to other strains.

That's why Canadian researchers found in 2009 that those patients who had received the annual flu shot were MORE likely to contract H1N1.

Yep. Check the article from mainstream CBC in 2012:


Flu shot linked to higher incidence of flu in pandemic year

Vaccine-related phenomenon during pandemic once deemed a 'Canadian problem'

The Canadian Press Posted: Sep 10, 2012 8:11 AM ET| Last Updated: Sep 10, 2012 12:55 PM ET

New Canadian research backs suggestions that only people given a flu shot for the 2008-2009 season seemed to be more likely to get infected with the pandemic virus.
New Canadian research backs suggestions that only people given a flu shot for the 2008-2009 season seemed to be more likely to get infected with the pandemic virus. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

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■Fighting the flu

A strange vaccine-related phenomenon spotted at the start of the 2009 flu pandemic may well have been real, a new study suggests.

Canadian researchers noticed in the early weeks of the pandemic that people who got a flu shot for the 2008-2009 winter seemed to be more likely to get infected with the pandemic virus than people who hadn't received a flu shot.

Five studies done in several provinces showed the same puzzling and unsettling results. But initially, research outside Canada did not, and the effect was dismissed as "the Canadian problem."

News of the unexpected findings broke at a time when countries in North America and parts of Europe were getting ready to start vaccinating their populations against the pandemic virus.

Some jurisdictions were also trying to figure out whether to offer the seasonal flu vaccine they had purchased — similar to the 2008-2009 shot — along with the pandemic vaccine, in case the seasonal flu viruses continued to circulate. Quebec opted not to offer the seasonal vaccine because of the concerns raised by the studies.

New Canadian research

Many people in the flu research and public health communities found the whole event unhelpful, and many rejected the findings. Some suggested if there was a problem, it might have been with the flu vaccine used in Canada, because the problem wasn't seen elsewhere.

But a new study suggests the findings may indeed have been real.

A group of Canadian researchers recreated the event in ferrets, the best animal model for predicting how influenza will act in humans. They worked with animals because it would have been unethical to subject people to the health risks the work entailed.

The findings of the ferret study were presented Sunday at ICAAC, a major international infectious diseases conference taking place this year in San Francisco. (ICAAC stands for the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.)

Lead author Dr. Danuta Skowronski outlined the work at a webcast press conference. Skowronski, an influenza expert at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control in Vancouver, also led the first study that spotted the apparent interaction between 2008 flu shots and pandemic flu infection.
■B.C. to require flu protection for health workers

She and her colleagues worked with 32 ferrets, giving half the 2008 seasonal flu shot and the remainder a placebo injection. The work was blinded, meaning the researchers didn't know which ferrets received which shot. Later, all the ferrets were infected with the pandemic H1N1 virus.

The ferrets in the vaccine group became significantly sicker than the other animals, though all recovered.

"The findings that we show are consistent with the increased risk that we saw in the human studies," Skowronski said.

She said that in the time since the pandemic, researchers in other countries have reported a similar interaction.

The reason for the effect is unclear, and Skowronski urged other research groups to take up the question. She said it is important to get to the root of what happened, before the next pandemic.

But in the meantime, Skowronski insisted the findings should not deter people from getting seasonal flu shots.

"I do think it's important to clarify that our findings are unique to the pandemic," she insisted.

"Pandemics are infrequent occurrences, but seasonal influenza recurs on an annual basis. It's a substantial cause of morbidity and mortality," — science's term for illness and death — "and the seasonal vaccine substantially protects against that severe outcome due to seasonal influenza."

Competing theories

Two theories exist about what might have been behind the effect, said Skowronski, who favours the first.

That theory relates to the fact that the 2008 vaccine protected against an H1N1 virus that was related to — but not similar enough to — the pandemic virus to generate antibodies that would neutralize it. The thinking is that might actually have facilitated infection with the pandemic virus.
■Universal vaccine could eliminate annual flu shots

Skowronski likened the mechanism to what happens with dengue viruses. People who have been infected with one subtype of dengue don't develop immunity to the other three. In fact, they are more at risk of developing a life-threatening form of dengue if they are infected with one of the other strains.

Skowronski called the second theory the infection block hypothesis. Having a bout of the flu gives the infected person antibodies that may be able, for a time, to fend off other strains; flu shots only protect against the strains they contain. So under this theory, people who didn't have flu in 2008 because they got a flu shot may have been less well armed against the pandemic virus.

If the first theory is right, the strange effect seen in 2009 might only occur in a pandemic in which the new virus was related to a circulating human flu virus, Skowronski admitted.

If that's correct — and she stressed it's only a theory — a virus with a hemagglutinin protein that humans haven't been exposed to before might not trigger this type of phenomenon. (The hemagglutinin is the protein on the exterior of a flu virus that gives it the H number in its name.)

"My own opinion, my own feeling would be that if you have a completely different hemagglutinin like H5 or H7 ... you may not see that," Skowronski said.

"But who knows, frankly? The wise man knows he knows nothing when it comes to influenza, so you always have to be cautious in speculating."

Laura Hayes

Anyone "fiercely pro-vaccine" in this day and age of vaccine-induced lifelong disability, chronic illness, and premature death is either "fiercely uninformed," "fiercely afraid of going public with what they know," or "fiercely corrupt while fiercely profiting."


Great discussion Anne, thank you for the Dr. Oz clip too. I enjoyed reading Kennedy's book and right there on page 78 he mentions William Thompson's studies. I wonder if this could have caused some of Dr. Thompson's second thoughts about coming out with the truth? I could even say I liked vaccines too if they would take the toxic Thimerosal out of not only the flu shots but all those shots they send out on a global basis to those precious third world children. I pray this opens some prospective parent's eyes and hoping they will read the book and do their research. I wish I had paid more attention but no one believes it until it happens to them. We have lost a generation of children to neurological injury, when will the madness stop!

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