The Wage of Spin: The Death of Leading UK Cancer Expert Martin Gore, 67, From a Yellow Fever Vaccination Provides the Press With Yet Another Opportunity to Misreport Vaccine Risks
As reported by the BBC and other news agencies worldwide, Professor Martin Gore, 67, one of the UK’s leading cancer scientists, died within hours of receiving a yellow fever vaccination. Many within Gore’s professional field paid tribute to their colleague and issued an outpouring of support and condolences.
The BBC report distinguished itself from other media reports by including a list of contraindications to the vaccine such as egg allergy. But like every other news source, BBC coverage was quick to authoritatively spin-doctor risks from the vaccine:
Prof Peter Openshaw, past president of the British Society for Immunology, said the overall risk of serious side-effects from the vaccination remains very low, at about one in every 100,000 of vaccine recipients.
However, he added: "It seems that people aged over 60 have a three to four-fold increased risk of experiencing these serious effects compared with younger people. However, this estimate is based on very few reported adverse events.
"This risk has to be balanced against the risk of contracting yellow fever if you are travelling to an infected area - a nasty disease with a high mortality rate."
He said the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was the UK body charged with looking into adverse side-effects reported from vaccines.
"They will undoubtedly conduct a proper analysis of this case to ensure it was caused by the vaccine rather than an incidental unconnected cause, such as sepsis."
The Lancet has reported a few more deaths from the yellow fever vaccine around the world, though curiously all among children and none in the over-60 category:
Two deaths were recorded by a team from a specialist World Health Organization centre in Brazil.
In the first case, a five-year-old girl suffered fever, headache and vomiting three days after being given the vaccine. She died after a five day illness.
The second patient – a 22-year-old woman – developed a sore throat and fever, accompanied by headache, muscle pain, nausea, and vomiting four days after vaccination.
She then developed symptoms including jaundice and renal failure, and died after six days of illness.
The cases were similar to a third fatality reported by the South Western Area Pathology Service in Sydney, Australia.
The Royal Marsden NHS foundation trust publicly announced that Dr. Gore’s death resulted definitively from the vaccination though the precise nature of the adverse event has not been made clear. Dr. Gore reportedly died of total organ failure which could suggest that the live vaccine-strain yellow fever virus reverted to fully infectious, hemorrhagic form—a rare effect known as vaccine-associated viscerotropic disease.
Was Gore fully assessed of risk/benefit ratio before he took the shot? It’s unlikely since no one understands precisely why an estimated .05% of people who receive the yellow fever vaccine develop viscerotropic disease. What’s more, statistics for disease incidence are impossible to gather since the vast majority of wild yellow fever infections are mild and go unreported. Furthermore, as award-winning BBC journalist Malcolm Brabant discovered in 2011, risks are played down in the extreme.
In 2013, Malcolm Brabant went public with his experience following a yellow fever vaccination which he received two years prior. The vaccine and certificate proving Brabant had received it were required for him travel to Cote D’Ivoire on assignment. Brabant reports that after receiving the dose, he was plunged into a suicidal psychosis consistent with symptoms of vaccine-associated neurotropic disease which is roughly 26 times more common than the more deadly viscerotropic disease.
According to Brabant, Sanofi-Pasteur, the maker of the Stamaril yellow fever vaccine, took years to respond to Brabant’s attempts to get answers. In contradiction to all of Brabant’s physicians who insisted the vaccine caused his harrowing descent into madness, Sanofi finally issued a carefully worded statement claiming Brabant went mad on his own, concluding essentially the “correlation does not equal causation.”
The corporation was so uninterested in Brabant’s adverse reaction that even Dr. Heidi Larson—lead researcher for the Gates Foundation’s Vaccine Confidence Project—called the company’s response “inadequate” and suggested that the vaccine formulation—which has not changed since the 1960’s—is not only outdated but being given in too large a dose. Interestingly, Larson holds up Sanofi-Pasteur’s conduct in this case as an example of the damage corporations do to public confidence in vaccination. Typically the news media only publish Larson’s statements that “antivaccine advocates” damage confidence.
Brabant published a book in 2013 and later made a documentary film titled Malcolm is a Little Unwell about his ordeal and the devastating effects his illness had on his family. The film is available on Amazon.
On the surface Brabant’s claims don’t contradict the current party line since Brabant fits the profile of an individual over 60— the only subgroup reported in recent coverage of the death of Martin Gore to be at risk to adverse events from the yellow fever vaccine. But as with most vaccine-related deaths and injuries, only about 1% to 10% of reactions are ever officially recognized. To make matters more complicated, the media—though forced in high profile cases such as Gore’s and Brabant’s to report adverse events—does no service to the public by further spinning risks that have already been spun to death on behalf an industry that is, as Brabant states at the end of his documentary regarding Sanofi, “content” to accept collateral damage from its profitable products because most people who receive them—and therefore most of the collateral— are the “poorest on the planet.”
What the Media Should be Asking and Reporting Regarding the Yellow Fever Vaccine
Brabant suggests that vast numbers of people are being injured by the yellow fever vaccine who are never officially recognized. Whether this is because victims lack access to modern healthcare or because they live in undemocratic regions which mandate vaccines and have no free press is also unknown. Meanwhile, the western world generally boasts a free press but if reports on the death of Martin Gore are any measure, that hypothetical freedom is not being used. The following is an attempt to fill in the information gaps regarding the vaccine for yellow fever.
Yellow fever is the more serious among diseases within the flavivirus class which includes dengue, West Nile and zika, all three of which are arboviruses (mosquito-borne). Risks in regions traditionally unaffected by yellow fever may be increasing due to climate change and globalization.
Most cases of yellow fever are reportedly mild although a small percentage can enter a secondary stage which, according to historical studies, is nearly 7 times as fatal to Caucasians compared to yellow fever mortality rates among non-Caucasians. According to researchers, the discrepancy may be due to differences in ethnic immune-related polymorphisms that could provide resistance among regional ethnic populations with multigenerational exposure to the disease in endemic areas. Further studies determined that those with antibodies to dengue fever—which is often endemic in the same regions as yellow fever— generally show increased resistance to yellow fever.
Abstract: A protective immunity against yellow fever, from cross-reactive dengue antibodies, has been hypothesized as an explanation for the absence of yellow fever in Southern Asia where dengue immunity is almost universal. This study evaluates the association between protective immunity from cross-reactive dengue antibodies with yellow fever infection and severity of the disease. The study population consisted of military personnel of a jungle garrison and its detachments located in the Ecuadorian Amazonian rainforest. The cross-sectional study employed interviews as well as seroepidemiological methods. Humoral immune response to yellow fever, Mayaro, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Oropouche, and dengue 2 infections was assessed by evaluating IgM and IgG specific antibodies. Log-linear regression analysis was used to evaluate age and presence of antibodies, against dengue type 2 virus, as predictors of yellow fever infection or severe disease. During the seroepidemiological survey, presence of dengue antibodies among yellow fever cases were observed in 77.3% cases from the coastal region, where dengue is endemic, 14.3% cases from the Amazon and 16.7 % cases from the Andean region. Dengue cross-reactive antibodies were not significantly associated with yellow fever infection but significantly associated with severity of the disease. The findings of this study suggest that previous exposure to dengue infection may have induced an anamnestic immune response that did not prevent yellow fever infection but greatly reduced the severity of the disease.
In other words, yellow fever is most dangerous to white travelers in tropical and subtropical regions. Human-to-human transmission of the disease is extremely rare since blood-to-blood contact is required. But since yellow fever can be transmitted not only from mosquito to human but also from human to mosquito, several countries have issued yellow fever vaccine mandates in order to travel to and/or from regions where the disease is endemic.
Natural immunity to dengue is not foolproof since there are rare instances of individuals having a more severe response to second and third infections with strains of dengue that differ from primary infections. But this flaw in natural immunity has proved to be worse in terms of response to the dengue vaccine.
A dengue virus vaccine was recently developed not only to prevent first infections, but to avoid severe disease that may occur upon second and third infections. This consequence, called antibody dependent enhancement (ADE), now appears to be caused by the vaccine itself.
After 14 Philippine children died from dengue hemorrhagic fever following vaccination with Sanofi-Pasteur’s Dengvaxia, the country suspended the dengue vaccination program.
MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines is investigating if the deaths of 14 children had any link to a dengue vaccine whose use the government has suspended due to health concerns, officials said on Friday (Jan 5).
The country stopped the sale and distribution of Dengvaxia last month after Sanofi, the French manufacturer, warned it could worsen symptoms for people who had not previously been infected with the virus.
Sanofi has maintained the vaccine does not kill people, but did not comment on the health department's new announcement.
The government has assigned an independent panel of experts to review the cases and expects their findings in one or two weeks, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.
"We asked them the question, number one: what they think is the cause of death, and then second, do they think it is related to the vaccination," Assistant Health Secretary Enrique Domingo told reporters.
More than 800,000 schoolchildren received the vaccine last year in the world's first public dengue immunisation programme.
Though the Philippines halted the Dengvaxia campaign, Brazil—which has a mandated vaccine schedule for children and a new, proudly undemocratic presidential administration that has made media repression a priority— has continued to vaccinate children for dengue which may have unexpected—though unlikely to be widely reported— long term consequences.
For instance, researchers have found that there may be “heterologous immunity” between zika and dengue—meaning that antibodies to one flavivirus may provide at least partial protection against other viruses in the same class. This suggests that far more investigation is needed to see whether a vaccine for any one of these diseases in the flavivirus class could have unforeseen cross-reactive immune consequences for others. In short, more people could start dying from flavivirus infections in the future.
This brings to mind the relatively recent and largely fictionalized zika virus scare stemming from a rise in the number of infants born with microcephaly in regions of Brazil, cases which were later strongly linked to pesticide exposure. Aside from the fraud and poor science used to pre-market a potentially blockbuster zika vaccine, the case highlights another failure in vaccine development: that industry and public health authorities don’t consider long-term potential chain reactions from wide vaccination exposure, such as the disruption of formerly natural antibody protection as well as congenital protection of children born to flavivirus-seropositive women.
The same type of disruption is evident in the case of congenitally-derived measles resistance: infants of women in the generations vaccinated for measles no longer benefit from maternal antibody protection in the critical first year of life as did infants of previous generations whose mothers had formed antibodies from exposure to wild measles. The typical antibody response to vaccination wanes and doesn’t confer this type of protection.
Spinning the Case for Mandates?
The recent addition of adult mandates to the already mandated childhood vaccine schedule in Argentina—which has long mandated the yellow fever vaccine for travelers to areas where the disease is endemic— has brought a renewed focus to the reasoning behind obligatory vaccination, which is generally based on arguments that vaccines are necessary to create “herd immunity” or “protect others.”
But what happens to the argument when this isn’t the case?
The logic of mandates is frequently inconsistent. For example, live viral strains in yellow fever vaccines have been known to revert to infectious form which carries an also low but equivalent risk of blood-to-blood or human-to-mosquito transmission of fully-virulent yellow fever. Both facts erode the typical justification for mandates.
Another issue is that viruses don’t die on skin contact with people who have antibodies to them or who have been vaccinated against the diseases so the vaccinated and those with natural immunity are not “dead end hosts” as is frequently claimed. Those vaccinated against yellow fever are known to be “viremic” (having detectable levels of virus in the blood) for an average of 36 days following injection with the elderly showing a longer duration of “viremia.” In other words, the vaccine sheds. Also as mentioned above, yellow fever is most common in areas where a larger percentage of native populations are resistant to the disease to varying degrees. This further points to the fact that resistance is not a shield against transmission. Those who are naturally resistant or those who have been successfully vaccinated may initially have lower viremia than someone symptomatically infected but may still contract and carry the disease—albeit asymptomatically— increasing the possibility that mosquitoes may “catch” the virus from humans which has been observed in the case of the very similarly transmissible dengue virus:
Abstract: Three-quarters of the estimated 390 million dengue virus (DENV) infections each year are clinically inapparent. People with inapparent dengue virus infections are generally considered dead-end hosts for transmission because they do not reach sufficiently high viremia levels to infect mosquitoes. Here, we show that, despite their lower average level of viremia, asymptomatic people can be infectious to mosquitoes. Moreover, at a given level of viremia, DENV-infected people with no detectable symptoms or before the onset of symptoms are significantly more infectious to mosquitoes than people with symptomatic infections. Because DENV viremic people without clinical symptoms may be exposed to more mosquitoes through their undisrupted daily routines than sick people and represent the bulk of DENV infections, our data indicate that they have the potential to contribute significantly more to virus transmission to mosquitoes than previously recognized.
The same concerns have been raised regarding zika transmission since the native populations within regions where the disease is endemic are mostly resistant, yet the transmission cycle between humans and mosquitoes continues at high rates.
As with most vaccine-preventable diseases, reported mortality statistics for wild yellow fever are muddled and obtuse with frequent broad claims that yellow fever kills more than 50% of those who contract it. But the latter figure only refers to the aforementioned “small percentage”—as the World Health Organization and US CDC vaguely word it— of those entering the toxic stage of the disease. That “small percentage” of cases is variously reported to between 5% and 15% of all cases, an estimated half of which may be fatal. This is not to argue that yellow fever is a benign illness. But actual infection and mortality statistics are difficult to generate since milder cases of yellow fever— which, if anything, mostly manifest as flu-like symptoms— might never be reported in the first place.
To the degree that mortality rates are used to justify vaccine mandates, the official muddling of rates only raises more questions about the relative safety of the yellow fever vaccine. Risks of serious adverse events from the yellow fever vaccine include anaphylaxis (from the egg protein, chicken protein and gelatin in all YF vaccine preparations and the lactose in Stamaril); vaccine associated neurotropic disease (encephalitis); and vaccine-associated viscerotropic disease (when the vaccine strain of yellow fever reverts to infectious form). The latter condition, though relatively rare, is almost always fatal.
Though most news reports on Professor Gore’s death included mention that individuals over 60 are at higher risk from the yellow fever vaccine, a research review of adverse events from the yellow fever vaccine reports elevated risks among several groups:
Seligman evaluated risk factors for YEL-AVD [vaccine associated viscerotropic disease], and found that there was statistical support for considering risk groups elderly males, women between the ages of 19 and 34, people with a variety of autoimmune diseases, and individuals who have been thymectomized because of thymoma.30
Also as reported in a 2015 review in the scientific journal Vaccines and Immunotherapy, the highest risk of developing vaccine-induced viscerotropic disease was found for children ages 1 to 4.
There have been also been case reports of autoimmune narcolepsy following yellow fever vaccination:
Narcolepsy with cataplexy is a rare, but important differential diagnosis for daytime sleepiness and atonic paroxysms in an adolescent. A recent increase in incidence in the pediatric age group probably linked to the use of the Pandemrix influenza vaccine in 2009, has increased awareness that different environmental factors can "trigger" narcolepsy with cataplexy in a genetically susceptible population. Here, we describe the case of a 13-year-old boy with narcolepsy following yellow fever vaccination. He carries the HLA DQB1*0602 haplotype strongly associated with narcolepsy and cataplexy. Polysomnography showed rapid sleep onset with rapid eye movement (REM) latency of 47 min, significant sleep fragmentation and a mean sleep latency of 1.6 min with sleep onset REM in four out of four nap periods. Together with the clinical history, these findings are diagnostic of narcolepsy type 1. The envelope protein E of the yellow fever vaccine strain 17D has significant amino acid sequence overlap with both hypocretin and the hypocretin receptor 2 receptors in protein regions that are predicted to act as epitopes for antibody production. These findings raise the question whether the yellow fever vaccine strain may, through a potential molecular mimicry mechanism, be another infectious trigger for this neuro-immunological disorder.
It’s worth repeating that the risk of developing the debilitating though less often fatal vaccine-associated neurotropic disease is many times higher than the risk of vaccine associated viscerotropic disease as the study from Vaccines and Immunotherapy also reports:
The overall rate of neurotropic disease per 100,000 doses in RS was 1.03, higher than expected. In RS [Rio Grande do Sul State, Brazil] the highest risk was for the age group from 5 to 9 years, but again confidence intervals for RRR [reporting risk ratio] were wide. Although prognosis of these cases is generally good, there is reason for concern. It should be noted that with the French vaccine, no longer in use, the rate of postvaccinal encephalitis was 3–4% in children, with few cases in adults,22 and with a neurotropic lot of 17D vaccine, used at the beginning of production of 17D vaccine, the rate was also higher in children from 5 to 14 years than in older adolescents and adults.5 Two well documented cases of neurotropic disease in newborns acquired through breast-feeding on lactating mothers vaccinated against yellow fever were reported in RS.23,24
As Malcolm Brabant found out the hard way, an over 1% rate of vaccine induced encephalitis is a statistically significant risk by all accounts.
The study published in Vaccines and Immunotherapy concludes that, though the yellow fever vaccine remains the best strategy for avoiding yellow fever, individuals should receive the vaccine only after a careful risk/benefit analysis which researchers admit is nearly impossible to undertake because, other than those with known egg allergies, no one understands why some individuals are more prone to vaccine adverse events.
Again, the evidence argues that vaccination—even for a potentially serious disease like yellow fever—should be left to individual choice since the individual carries all the risk, the vaccine cannot be proven to protect the “herd” and may even contribute to continuing the cycle of host to host infection.
It also seems clear that, if the public understood the risks, they might rally for updated, safer alternative that Heidi Larson alludes to. It would be hard to say whether science was up to the task of developing a safer vaccine for yellow fever, particularly because, as Ginger Taylor recently argued, the “liability-free vaccines” produced and distributed in the US and elsewhere carry no incentive to improve safety.
Adriana Gamondes is Contributing Editor to Age of Autism and one of the publication’s social media administrators.