Evening Standard Magazine, Sept 1991

Controversial research suggests that the vaccinations British doctors are encouraged to recommend may be dangerous and pointless assaults on children’s bodies. ANDREW TYLER reports

Many parents feel unsettled when the time comes to present their children —from the age of two months — for a series of vaccinations against the seven childhood afflictions officially proscribed by the authorities: diptheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella.

The idea of allowing live virus and other disease products to be injected directly into the bloodstreams of their babies understandably causes shivers of doubt. They are told, however, to set aside their fears. For, by receiving the innoculations, their children also receive lifelong immunity against the diseases in question. The procedure, they are told, is almost wholly safe, with side-effects being rare and invariably minor.

This is the line imparted by doctors. It is enunciated in a scandalously complacent document offered to parents by the Health Education Authority called Birth to Five. In more detailed official publications, such as the Department of Health’s Green Book, the data are simply more elaborately skewed so as to make the immunisation programme look safer and more effective than it really is. This Green Book, for example, contains charts indicating a dramatic decline in the incidence of most of the seven afflictions that coincides with the introduction of immunisation. Yet the historical reality is that most of these diseases were on a sharp downturn, both in terms of their incidence and their virulence, ever since the great public health reform measures of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was clean water, decent sanitation, proper housing, improved nutrition that dealt the decisive blows to these and other ailments. And, while immunisation has sometimes speeded that decline, on other occasions it has caused the disease it was set against to flourish or to mutate into a more dangerous form.

Not content with distorting the data, the authorities are now indulging in financial manipulation in their efforts to increase the vaccination levels.

Under the new OP contracts, effective from 1 April, doctors who achieve a 90 per cent take-up rate among parents qualify for an 1,800 bonus payment. Those managing just 70 per cent get 600. Anything under that percentage and the doctors get nothing. It is a nakedly coercive strategy, and already reports are reaching Rosemary Fox, founder of the Association of Parents of Vaccine Damaged Children, of OPs striking parents off their lists for refusing to allow their children to have the jabs.

‘Most parents are unable to resist the pressure and have allowed their children to be vaccinated,’ she says, ‘but they remain very unhappy about it.’ It is the pertussis or whooping cough vaccine that causes most concern. The limited debate that has taken place in the UK has centred on this jab and on the well-publicised instances of brain damage clearly associated with it. But a significant and, probably, growing minority of parents are questioning the whole vaccination premise. Inspired by alternative health philosophies that call for the immune system to be nourished rather than assaulted with toxic materials, and by new American research indicating links between some of the vaccines and phenomena such as cot deaths, leukaemia, neurological damage, arthritis and cancers, these doubters have turned into fully fledged refuscniks.

I talked to several these past few weeks — a musician, a female firefighter, an actor, a housewife, a play-group assistant, two authors — and heard them describe what was, in the main, a careful journey from scepticism to rejection. Several of these parents had faced opposition from their GPs, schools and families, who all accused them of irresponsibility. Adult friends complained that their own children were being put at risk — despite them having submitted these same children to the supposedly dependable vaccination regime.

But, often, their anti-vaccination stand served to illuminate the doubt lurking in others. Rose Peel works in a WI 0 drop-in centre for under fives. She refused vaccinations for her own sons, now healthy ten and 15-year-olds, and is often drawn into discussion by young mothers whose babies have reacted unfavourably to the jabs.

‘They look so vulnerable, these young women, when they come in with their babies who have been vomiting and who knows what since the injection. And I tell them "you don’t have to do it, you know. It’s not compulsory". The Government says it’s safe to stick a needle into a brand new baby and jab this stuff in. But how do they know what kind of allergic reaction there might be, quite apart from the possible long-term effects?’

‘To me,’ says Peggy Brusseaux, co-author with her husband of the soon-to-be-published Superliving, and mother of 19-month-old Louis, ‘it’s a perverse social baptism by blood, pus and sputum. You put these horrible substances into the body of a beautiful new person and you are supposed to be convinced that it’s going to protect them from some disease. I find it both barbaric and an unnatural way of receiving the infection and, therefore, of building immunity.’

Says her husband Peter Cox: ‘We are sufficiently worried by a number of these studies involving cot deaths and, indeed, AIDS and leukemia, to know there are at least two sides to the question, and the other side, the risk side, seems to be persistently suppressed — even something as well established as brain damage from whooping cough vaccine. Another in-stance relates to the polio vaccine, whose negative effects have been consistently under-reported or hushed up —in particular, an incident in the 60s when a batch was contaminated with Simian Virus 40, one of the earliest viruses known to cause cancer. This came about because the vaccine was being cultured in monkey kidneys. Hundreds of thousands of people received this contaminated vaccine and I’m quite sure that if there had been a proper follow-up, with full publication of the results, there would have been a huge public outcry against vaccination.’

As it is, the most acute dissenting voices on the vaccination question are being raised in the US — where all 50 states have compulsory vaccination laws; though often modified with exemptions on philosophical or religious grounds — and it is the homeopathic medical community that has made the running there, by gathering far-flung data and assembling case histories from their own practices.

The classic tract was penned in 1983 by Massachusetts-based homeopathic OP. Richard Moskowitz; he is due in Manchester next week to lecture at the Society of Homeopaths’ annual conference. Moskowitz says he is ‘deeply troubled by the atmosphere of fanaticism with which vaccines are imposed upon the public’, and scornful of ‘the smugness and self-righteousness of a profession and a society that worships its own ability to manipulate and control the processes of nature itself’.

At the core of his argument is the proposition that there are few greater ‘insults’ one can offer the immature immune system of a young child than to introduce, directly into his/her bloodstream, the foreign proteins or live viruses that compose modem vaccines.

The usual port of entry for, say, the measles virus, is not the bloodstream but the respiratory tract: the bug is inhaled in droplets. This ‘slow’ entry allows the body time to mount an effective immune response. And it is known that the virus is finally eliminated by sneezing and coughing — the very same route by which it entered. Moskowitz argues that such ‘outpourings’ are a perfectly normal and healthy physical phenomenon and signal the maturation of the child’s immune system. In other words, these outbreaks of childhood diseases are rarely serious and can have long-term beneficial results.

But when the vaccine is introduced directly into the circulation, by contrast, it is given free and immediate access to the major immune organs and tissues without any obvious way of getting rid of it. Having gained access, elements of the vaccine can stay for prolonged periods, perhaps permanently, by incorporating themselves within the genetic material of the cells. This constant presence and the body’s repeated but hopeless attempts to expunge the foreign or, by now, quasi-foreign presence, can lead to a systematic weakening of the immune system as a whole and, thus, a greater susceptibility to all manner of ailments.

And so, far from providing protection against acute disease, vaccination can be said to drive the disease itself deeper into the body’s interior and cause that body to harbour the disease chronically.

Among the chronic maladies associated with latent, persisting viruses, says Moskowitz, are warts, shingles, herpes, Creuzfeldt-Jacob disease, AIDS and benign and malignant tumours. He also suggests a link between whooping cough vaccine and leukaemia — an association he supports with case histories from his own practice and with other clinical data. All this is apart from evidence of short-term, less serious side-effects.

A more serious phenomenon is the tendency for vaccines to offer short-lived protection to some children during their pre-puberty years, only to make them vulnerable during adolescence when they are less able to deal with certain infections. Mumps and measles are two such instances. Both are fast becoming a disease of adolescence and of young adults, according to American studies. The chief complication in this age group is what is known as acute epididymo-orchitis, which occurs in 30 to 40 per cent of the affected males and usually results in atrophy of the testicle on the affected side. It also attacks the ovary and pancreas.

American medical historian Harris Coulter has caused an even bigger stink with his vaccine investigation. In his new volume, Vaccination, Social Violence and Criminality, he claims:

‘A large proportion of the millions of US children and adults suffering from autism, seizures, mental retardation, hyperactivity, dyslexia and other shoots and branches of the hydra-headed entity called "developmental disabilities" owe their disorders to one or another of the vaccines against childhood diseases.’

The problem can be traced, he says, to the vaccines’ damaging effect on the myelination process of the child’s developing nervous system — myelin being the greasy substance that forms an insulating sheath around nerve fibres. This damage causes an allergic encephalitis (inflammation or infection of the brain) leading to the widespread consequences he has identified.

With vaccine proponents denying immediate, palpable side effects, says Coulter, it is little wonder that wholehearted disinterest is shown in the possibility of long-term damage.

Rosemary Fox, of the Association of Parents of Vaccine Damaged Children, believes that new vaccines enter the public domain not for health reasons but primarily because of the drug companies’ ability to dream up profitable new products. That the companies will tenaciously protect their products’ reputation she discovered first-hand during the 1989 damages case, brought by the Loveday family after their child suffered brain injury following vaccination for whooping cough.

‘Wellcome,’ she says, ‘were quite willing to spend at least 1 million helping the judge, as they put it, decide the issue, when they weren’t enjoined in the argument at all. Nobody was suing them but they were so anxious to protect the name of the vaccine that they brought together dozens of experts to say the vaccine couldn’t possibly cause brain damage. The judge ruled that he wasn’t satisfied in that particular case that the vaccine caused the damage, but said it is possible that it does. It’s that last part of the judgement that is usually left out by vaccine proponents.’

Her association is not an anti-vaccine group, although Mrs Fox herself didn’t risk immunising her third child after her second one, Helen, was seriously brain damaged by a polio jab. The association’s job is to campaign for a proper level of compensation, as well as to act as an information exchange for parents whose children have been damaged or who fear they might be.

Her main worry now relates to the MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) triple vaccine, introduced in 1988. Reports are coming in of it provoking meningitis, distorted vision, partial deafness and, more seriously, a paralysing new version of measles that leads to fatal muscle and limb paralysis.

‘In response to these worries,’ she says, ‘there is always the bland comment that in the hundreds of thousands of vaccinations that have been done we haven’t come across this illness. But they don’t find it because they don’t properly monitor. They just want to do the vaccination, go away and count up their acceptances.’

Ultimately, as Richard Moskowitz points out, it is not for the ‘experts’ to determine whether or not parents should have their children vaccinated. The choice must be the parents’, based on a reading of the arguments for and against. Too often the down-side is suppressed and they, therefore, lack the information to make an informed choice. If parents do say ‘no’, then he urges they take corresponding health-building measures, by way of diet and exercise, in order to boost their children’s natural immunity. For the impact of a bug depends on the vitality of the body it invades, as well as the virulence of the germ itself.

That parents should become their own experts is more important than ever as we stand ready to enter the new vaccine era. A jab for hepatitis B will be introduced in the US this autumn: how soon here? And vaccines for cancer, diabetes and AIDS are being worked on.

‘The issue,’ says Moskowitz, ‘is a simple one of who calls the shots.’