Letter by Hilary Butler to Johann Hari, re: This deadly resistance to vaccination


Dear Johann,

 I’ve added to my yesterday’s e-mail, corrected some typos, expanded some points, and probably made some more mistakes.  But at throughout are some other thoughts you could well follow up, in order to give you a focus for some real journalism should you consider that a worthy aim.

 To recap, then add to:

 I’ve followed your knee-jerk writing for many years now, and have felt up until now, that only one other thing you have written, has deserved a reader’s response. Even then, I got no response from you, so I suspect that I won’t this time either.  The fact that you don’t respond, shapes what I do with this e-mail.

 I’ve attached two word documents for you to flick into the ether waste paper basket no doubt. 

 But as a guaranteed “receipt” that I did indeed send these to you, I’ve BCC’d in, the wider universe.

 Not that it will make any difference I suspect.

 BTW, did you bother to ask Maria Abawede what she did with the three children who died of measles?  A doctor just recently informed me (after being run out of Zimbabwe by Mugabe, ) about some of that base-line problems you don’t take account of, which are operating in Africa. 

The first is that many of the children he sees with measles ARE vaccinated. 

Secondly, the traditional and ongoing “method” of African mothers to treat fever of any origin is to put their babies naked, out in the night air.  Have you ever sat naked out in the African night air, Mr Hari.  It’s freezing. 

 Given that most of the children who get measles often don’t see a square meal, why would you put a malnourished child out in the night air?  Supposedly, to reduce the fever?    Unfortunately the use of the measles vaccine hasn’t got rid of this “stupid” factor, which of course, explains why children still die in Africa, because their mothers still put them out in the cold air at night, when they have a temperature from any cause.  Maybe they would die anyway, but don’t you think it would help if parents understood why fever shouldn’t be treated this way? And please don’t suggest free Calpol!  That in itself is a recipe for disaster!  If you wish to know why, I’ll be delighted to send you the medical literature written by experts, and the WHO, which is currently IGNORED by every single scientist in the medical world, because it suits them to.

 Are you shocked?  Do you find that unbelievable?  Then be a journalist, and investigate one of the secrets that these scientists you revere blatantly and criminally ignore every year.  I will restate it.  Paracetamol taken to reduce fever from infectious diseases border on criminal neglect and is definitely medical malpractice.  And I can provide you will all the evidence to support that statement.

 The other interesting fact that my doctor friend in Zimbabwe told me was… that the most common cause of death in the hospital he worked in, was not measles, or indeed AIDS.  It was TB in fully vaccinated people and… infected injuries caused by sticks and other objects impaling bare feet.  He told me that if there was a way to get every African mother, father and child “shod” with shoes, his job as a doctor would be far far easier.

 It is amazing, that in today’s world of supposedly educated journalism, that you don’t write about the real daily world of Africa, which some of us who support medical personnel directly, do know about.  …. But then, that would be harder to do and take more time than rabble rousing.

 Wouldn’t doing something to really help Africans have been more likely to net you the equivalent of a journalist’s Nobel prize, than taking a cheap shot at democratic right of choice anywhere?  Does it not strike you as odd that Africans deserve the right to live with meaningful jobs, lives, education, sanitation, water, food which is denied them by tribal despots, corrupt governments and a western world whose only answer is spot aid, and vaccines?

 You know (I presume) that the European and UK history from Industrial Revolution days was a long and painful process.  Yet that is the process that was required to give you the life you now “enjoy” in UK.  You have paved roads, clean water, sewage disposal systems (Africa would need quite a different system to the one UK has…) That is your day to day life.  Yet you think the measles vaccine means anything when it comes to daily life in Africa?  Does it not occur to you that if Marie Abawede had had a good diet, and constant access to vitamin A, her three children wouldn’t have died of measles in the first place?

 I thought journalists asked real questions… like… how it is that the WHO actually came up with the measles decline statistics in the first place? That sounds such a simple thing doesn’t it, and yet, it has a very complicated enlightening answer, that raises more questions than it answers.  Perhaps real journalism died with Deep Throat judging by the fact that I see so little of it these days.

 I guess its only the home-grown jihad you pillory and slander, who question pre-digested press releases, or have the brains to ask real questions.

 It’s so much easier to be paid for the words that just tumble out from that place called “opinion” isn’t it?

 Which scientists do you listen to Johann? The ones who support your theories?  Have you ever read “Science is God” by Nairobi Professor David Horrobin?  Has it ever struck you as interesting, that like nobel prize winner, and once respectable Linus Pauling, there are over 300 scientists today, who once, ….because they said the same mantra as everyone else,…. were considered respectable.  The minute they started their own research and stated their own finding, they were relegated to the disreputable status.  Are you saying that “respectable” scientists are the only ones who speak the truth?

 As an illustration of this anomaly.  A New Zealand lawyer wrote to a friend of mine, a scientist with a CV most people couldn’t even obtain these days, even with hard work.  She asked him for a list of 10 other doctors like himself, who would be considered experts in their field.

 His 1994 answer was a classic, even to this day.  He said “Dear Ms Fisher, I could give you a list of 10 very eminent doctors who could furnish you with reports which are very accurate and well referenced.  But I must warn you, that, like me, they are “ex-eminent” doctors.  Having broken ranks with the system they too, are now “disgraced” ex-eminent doctors.  That is your dilemma.  No-one who holds a contrary view, is considered “eminent”.

So long as you only listen to the supposed experts, and don’t put your brain into gear, you will continue to spout focussless rabble rousing. 

 All you want, is everyone to conform to your way of thinking.  Will that do anything to help African mothers like Marie Abawede, who for lack of vitamin A, good food, and the basic amenities you take for granted every day, lost her children to measles?

 Did you know that in the UK in the late 1800’s children died of measles?  Did you know that the REASON they died from measles was because of fundamental malnutrition?  You didn’t? Why didn’t you?

 If as you say, the MEASLES VACCINE will save the rest of Marie’s children, perhaps it will be her children who survive measles, who dies on a European beach, because they tried to illegally enter, because the western world’s only contribution to Africa was vaccines, and meaningless aid, which does nothing to deal with the fundamental humanitarian issues which that continent faces today. 

 The western world will pay the price for that one day.  While you laud an unproveable achievement of 90% measles decrease, based on spurious diagnostic criteria, sit and consider this fact.  If this figure is accurate (and I dispute that) then every child saved, and educated in Africa, and not provided with the basics of life and a meaningful future, is another immigrant potentially pounding on your door tomorrow because their life in Africa isn’t worth living.

 You would be better focussing on pushing for action on the real issues which would help Africans, be Africans, and live their lives to the full in Africa, because that’s the key.

 Until the Western World gets a handle on real life in Africa, no amounting of self-congratulatory smugdom about the millions of children who survive today in Africa allegedly because of vaccines to provide fodder for Mugabe-types’ henchmen, will be any comfort when Africa comes to Europe en masse, because they have no food, no peace and no life worth living in Africa.


 Hilary Butler.

Johann Hari: This deadly resistance to vaccination http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/johann_hari/article3239355.ece
From the ignorance of the 'Daily Mail' has flowed a serious risk of children dying

Published: 10 December 2007 THE INDEPENDENT/UK

I want to tell you three interconnected stories. The first is some of the best news you will hear all year; the last two are some of the saddest. But they are all about how science saves tens of millions of lives, and how the persistence of faith-based thinking kills – not just in the distant, witch-burning past, but today, across the world and, yes, even in Britain.

When I first went to central Africa, I met a woman exactly the same age as myself called Marie Abawede, who had given birth to four children out in the rainforests. The first three had all died – of measles. Her last baby was sick, and she was convinced he had "the killer" too. "If he dies, I will die," she said, plainly, without tears.

In the year 2000, there were 396,000 women like this in Africa, watching their babies waste away pointlessly. Today, the figure has fallen by an incredible 90 percent. There are only 36,000 such women today, and there will be fewer next year, and the next year, and the next year.

This is because of pure science, combined with political will. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has used funds donated by governments across the world – including ours – to ramp up massively measles vaccinations across Africa, which cost just $1 a dose. It has worked. Vaccinations are perhaps the greatest achievement of humanity: using this scientific tool, we have literally eradicated smallpox – a disease that caused hundreds of millions of people to die in howling agony – from the human condition.

So whenever somebody tells you science is "cold" or "soulless", and needs the "meaning" offered in religious texts, think of Marie. All the major religious texts say explicitly that disease is caused by demons and devils. Following this mentality left her babies to die. But using science instead – sticking to empirical observation of the world, and inferences from it based on reason – is saving millions of children, and giving them a chance at life once more.

But today, some of the followers of faith-based thinking are waging a global war on vaccinations. At the turn of the 21st century, the WHO's vaccination programme was on the brink of sending polio to the graveyard of dead diseases. It had been chased down to a handful of remaining areas, which were being rapidly vaccinated. It was almost over, forever.

And then the local mullahs heard about it. The Islamic clerical elite in northern Nigeria announced that God had revealed to them that the vaccine was "un-Islamic", part of an evil plot by the godless West to sterilise Muslim children. The local population, with no alternative sources of information, stopped sending their kids. Now polio is back with a vengeance, and we may never wipe it out. In a clash between reason and revelation, revelation won out .

But before we get too smug and conclude this is a cultural gap between us and Those Damn Muslims, remember – in Britain, over the past five years, there has been a smaller but strikingly similar home-grown jihad against a particular vaccination. It has been waged by none other than the Daily Mail.

In 2000, the paper decided – in the absence of any reliable scientific evidence whatsoever – to give wildly undue prominence to the idea that Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism. Every reputable scientist in the country explained, patiently, that the sole scientist making these claims – Dr Andrew Wakefield – didn't have any reliable evidence to back him up. He had looked at only 12 autistic children whose parents all fervently blamed MMR – thus skewing his results irreparably. Instead, Britain's scientific community pointed to reams of studies showing conclusively that MMR is not to blame: a study of 1.8 million randomly-chosen children in Finland (as opposed to Wakefield's hand-picked 12) found that autism rates remained the same after the introduction of MMR.

But the Mail continued anyway, even after Wakefield was indicted before the General Medical Council, and it was – disgracefully – mimicked by other newspapers and by the BBC. Panicked parents assumed that, since it was on the news, there must be some evidence for it, and in several areas vaccination rates have fallen by 30 per cent. The result? Britain's chief scientist, Sir David King, warned last week that it is now probable 50 to 100 kids will die of measles because of the disinformation campaign spearheaded by the Mail. It's rare a newspaper actually manages to kill people, but Sir David believes they may pull it off.

Was the Mail's campaign based on faith-based thinking, like the campaign in northern Nigeria? I think it can be shown that it was. Let's look at the figure within the newspaper who spearheaded the MMR campaign: Melanie Phillips. Despite having no scientific qualifications, and despite making the most elementary scientific howlers time and again in her articles, she feels free to announce that virtually all the world's scientists are wrong, on everything from global warming to MMR.

But why was she so certain the MMR campaign should be stopped? Phillips presented her argument as if she was simply siding with one scientist against another. But in reality, she disputes on religious grounds the very basis of vaccinations: evolution. She says that creationism should be taught in schools, and that evolution is "only a theory".

So it's no wonder she is so hostile to (and ignorant of) vaccination science. Vaccines only work because we can observe evolution, live, as it happens. Take the flu virus. It is constantly changing – you can watch it under a microscope. That's why you need a booster shot every year: because the virus has evolved. That's why a vaccine against the 1918 flu virus would be radically different to a vaccine for the 2007 flu virus: it has evolved. Yet when Professor Colin Blakemore, head of the Medical Research Council, pointed out this elementary scientific truth, she accused him of seizing any sneaky opportunity to "beat the drum for Darwin" and for claiming "there was no intelligent design in a virus, only the mindless force of natural selection".

Let me get this right: Phillips actually believes that God personally tweaks the flu virus every year, just to keep it ahead of the vaccinators? What sort of sadist-deity does she follow? Why did newspapers and the BBC mimic her anti-scientific ravings? From this species of ignorance has flowed a serious risk of children dying, according to – remember – our chief scientist.

There have always been people who responded to life-saving scientific advances with peasant superstition and mutterings about the Almighty. For the sake of all that is good and un-Holy, it seems they still need to be resisted – from the deserts of northern Nigeria to the hills of north London.
j.hari@ independent.co.uk