THE UNNECESSARY VACCINATION CONTROVERSY – THE WAKEFIELD SCANDAL AND MIS-INFORMATION

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SYNOPSIS: The vaccination controversy has existed for over a decade – however, such controversies are fuelled by medical mis-information and fraudulent studies that were found to hold no basis in authenticity with subsequent studies failing to provide replication of the results. Additionally, such controversy provides another demonstration that anecdotal reports and personal bias are in favour of actual scientific data, which negates the effects ”established” by the vaccine controversy.

VACCINE HISTORY AND METHOD OF FUNCTION

The smallpox vaccine was the first successful vaccine to be developed. It was developed by Edward Jenner in 1796, who acted upon the observation that milkmaids who contracted the cowpox virus did not display symptoms of smallpox. Mortality rates from the smallpox virus were as high as 35% before vaccines were administered to the public.

Vaccines function by introducing an antigen to B cells in the effort to trigger a humoral immune response – a response that results in the production of antibodies – otherwise known as immunoglobulins (Ig) – proteins that are highly specialized in terms of structure. These proteins possess antigen-binding sites, nucleophillic sites which respond to the protein signatures of antigens, such as the influenzae virus. Vaccination simulates the natural response to a pathogen without resulting in symptoms associated with that pathogen – the essential functional proteins belonging to the virus are denatured using chemical agents, commonly formaldehyde. This is why an annual injected influenza vaccine does not result in a viral infection.

THE AUTISM SCARE – ANDREW WAKEFIELD’S LANCET REPORT

In 1998, a report published in the Lancet implied a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and a series of bowel disorders and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. Authored by Andrew Wakefield and 12 colleagues, the study had a control variable of only 12 patients. Other scientists failed to replicate Wakefield’s findings, nor could they verify a link between the vaccine and autistic spectrum disorders. In 2010, the Lancet retracted the paper and the editors noted that it was ”utterly clear, without any ambiguity at all, that the statements in the paper were utterly false”. Later that year, Wakefield’s medical license was revoked by the General Medical Council – citing ethical concerns regarding how he recruited the patients in his study as well as his failure to disclose that he was a paid consultant to numerous attorneys representing parents whom believed their children had been harmed by vaccination. A year later, another medical journal concluded that the paper was also fraudulent, after evidence that some of the timelines of the patient’s symptoms were misrepresented.

In a 2008 case-control study as conducted by professor Gillian Baird and colleagues from Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, several Universities in the UK and Australia, the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control and the Health Protection Agency in the UK, it was concluded that vaccination did not result in an increased incidence of neurodevelopmental disorders. It was one of the largest studies regarding the subject at that date in the U.K, which evaluated three groups of children, one with autistic spectrum disorders, one with special educational needs but without autism and another whom were developing normally. When blood samples from 250 children were analysed and compared throughout the groups, there was no difference in any long-lasting signs of the measles virus or increased levels of antibodies to the measles virus between the groups. They also found that enterocolitis, an intestinal disorder, was not commonly associated with autism.

This study added to the pool of evidence that suggests that there is no causal link between the MMR vaccine and autism, as it was followed by numerous other studies which failed to establish a link between developmental disorders such as autism and vaccination – a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics Friday led by Dr. Frank DeStafano, director of the Immunization Safety Office found no association between autism and the quantity of vaccines a child is administered within 24 hours or during the initial two years of the current vaccine schedule.

THIMEROSAL

Another object of controversy regarding vaccines is the preservative thimerosal. Vaccines with 1:10,000 or 0.01 percent thimerosal contain approximately 50 mg/L mercury and contain 49.6% ethyl mercury (EtHg) by weight. Unlike methylmercury, a substance known for its high toxicity, ethylmercury has not been found to bio-accumulate – however, there exists confusion between the two different compounds – methyl implies a CH3 group whilst ethyl implies a CH2-CH3 group, or two carbon chains branched off the parent compound as opposed to a single carbon chain branched off of the parent compound. This results in entirely different properties to a substance, regardless of a similar name.

Due to the prescence of the element hg, or mercury, in thimerosal, it inevitably became the subject of controversy and mis-understanding. The mercury atom in thimerosal is bonded to a sulfur atom branching off of the benzine ring, possessing a high bonding affinity for sulfur. Mercury does not exist in its ionic state, so it does not possess the chemical properties commonly associated with mercury atoms. Thimerosal metabolises at the bond between the mercury and sulfur atoms. This is evident by the resultant products of metabolism – ethylmercury and thiosalicylate – the ethylmercury molecule being excreted within a couple of days.

Thimerosal in itself has not been found to be associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. In July 1999, the preservative was removed or reduced from vaccines, however autism rates continued to rise.

VAERS

The Vaccine Adverse Effect Reporting System is a database which documents adverse effects following vaccination. The website notes that the effects listed do not imply causation, excluding the status of a reliable database in the effort of seeking information on adverse effects that are proven to be the result of vaccination.  The adverse effects listed include ”screaming”, ”crying” to ”autism”. James Laidler once tested the system by submitting a report that the influenza virus had transformed him into The Incredible Hulk – his report was accepted into the database; demonstrating that any individual may submit an adverse effect report. Adverse effects affiliated with vaccines are listed on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website.

CONCLUSION

The scares associated with vaccination rely on a medically unfounded basis and anecdotal data. There is no established link between neurodevelopmental disorders and vaccination. The controversy in itself could have negative consequences, as the rate of vaccine refusal continues to rise. Vaccines as a whole are very safe, and adverse effects are often the topic of exaggeration by the media. The resulting adverse effects, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, are the result of autoimmune attack, rather than the vaccine itself – the incidence of Guillain-Barré syndrome to an MMR vaccine would be similar to the incidence of Guillain-Barré syndrome experienced by measles, mumps of rubella patients, however the effects seen in such patients are much more detrimental. 

Bibliography

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/thimerosal/
  2. http://www.quirkyscience.com/thimerosal-in-vaccines/
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17582588
  4. http://www.nhs.uk/news/2007/January08/Pages/MMRvaccinedoesnotcauseautism.aspx
  5. http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c7452
  6. http://www.fda.gov/biologicsbloodvaccines/vaccines/questionsaboutvaccines/ucm070430.htm

 

Article written by Miles B. Please credit both the author’s and the domain’s name in references. 

 

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