Children and the Flu Vaccine

Yesterday a CDC federal advisory panel voted to recommend annual flu vaccines for all children from age 6 months to 18 years. If followed, it would bring about the largest expansion of flu vaccine coverage in history, necessitating about 30 million children being vaccinated every single year.

All of this despite the fact that the flu vaccine has not been shown to be effective for all children. Up to age two it is no more effective than a placebo at preventing flu. And for older children the problems with the flu vaccine remain the same as for any other group.

The conclusions of the Chocrane Study is as follows (bolding mine):

Influenza vaccines are efficacious in children older than two years, but little evidence is available for children younger than two years. There was a marked difference between vaccine efficacy and effectiveness. That no safety comparisons could be carried out emphasizes the need for standardization of methods and presentation of vaccine safety data in future studies. It was surprising to find only one study of inactivated vaccine in children younger than two years given recent recommendations to vaccinate healthy children from six months of age in the United States and Canada. If immunization in children is to be recommended as public health policy, large-scale studies assessing important outcomes and directly comparing vaccine types are urgently required. 

Because the flu virus changes so rapidly a new vaccine is required every year, and in some years (this one, for example), is barely effective because they guessed wrong, and didn’t put the “right” strains of the flue virus in the vaccine.

In children, the flu is only rarely deadly, though it does cause school absenteeism. Support for extending flu vaccination to children was provided by a 2-year study which found a high rate of seroconversion, though there was only a small decrease in the rate of flu in the first year and no difference in the second year. In school-age children, it may help to prevent children missing school.

Despite all of this though, the CDC is now recommending that all children from 6 months to 18 years receive flu vaccines. Despite the fact that it is no more effective than a placebo up till 2 years old, and after that prevents little more than children missing school and parents missing work. But I suppose that is enough to soon make it mandatory. The mandate for the chickenpox vaccine used the same logic, and as we all now know is a scary, horrible, sometimes fatal disease.

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Vaccines in Court

The past few days have been rather exciting. There are two big stories here, neither of which has gotten much (if any) press in the US: vaccine manufacturer’s being taken to court in France over hepatitus b vaccines, and the US Department of Health & Human Services concedeing a case on a vaccine-autism link.

The first case comes to us from France, where vaccine manufacturer’s are being sued for manslaughter for failing to fully disclose side effects to hepatitis-B vaccines. Judge Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy has opened two separate investigations one against GlaxoSmithKline & Sanofi Pasteur and another against Sanofi Pasteur MSD a joint venture between Sanofi Aventis and Merck.

Between 1994 and 1998 about two thirds of the population (including almost all newborns during the time period) was vaccinated against hepatitis B, before the campaign was suspended because of concerns regarding side effects. Among the 30 plaintiffs are 5 families of people who died after being given the vaccine.

The second case takes place right here in the US. David Kirby in the Huffington Post reports that on November 9, 2007 US Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler quietly conceded that vaccines aggravated an existing mitochondrial disorder and thereby caused the manifestation of Autism Spectrum Disorder in one child. Mr Keisler and the other Justice Department officials were working on behalf of the Department of Health & Human Services.

This is huge because while mitochondrial disorders are extremely rare in the general population (0.2% or 1 in 10,000), they are far more common among people with ASD. An incredible 10-20% (estimated in some journal articles) of all autism cases may be linked to them, making them the most common disease associated with ASD. And in the Journal of Child Neurology Dr Zimmerman (the doctor who diagnosed the child in this case), co-authored an article which “showed that 38% of Kennedy Krieger Institute autism patients studied had one marker for impaired oxidative phosphorylation, and 47% had a second marker.”

All of this begs the question “What next?”. What will the US government do now. They have been claiming for the past several years that autism is in no way shape or form connected to vaccines or thimerosol. And yet, now they have conceded one case, which may be just the first of hundreds or thousands to come. With 4900 cases pending in vaccine court, how many can the government realistically afford to settle?