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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Spin Machine Kicks into Action

Yesterday, Russell Brown was on Linda Clark's Morning Programme talking about the effects of two shots of meningococcal B vaccine on his 14yo son. Linda invited him on because of what he wrote in Hard News on Friday. After the show, Linda was flooded with emails, including an email from a doctor who was not happy that information about the potential severity of the side effects of the vaccine was not given to parents. And a vet, who said that testing and information available for the vaccine was not up to the standard of the vaccines that he gave his animal clients.

What was very interesting to me was the final email that was read out before the programme ended at 12 by some spokeperson from the Hutt DHB. She said that all Wellington schools had been surveyed and half had returned their surveys. From that half she concluded that there was no massive outbreaks of illness in schools after the vaccine had been given to children in the Wellington region as had been alluded to.

Every half hour after that, that line of no increased illness, blah, blah, blah was spun out on the National Radio news. Today we have an article published in the Dominion Post Vaccine link to sick kids ruled out. All I can say, this looks like pure spin. Illness following the vaccination cannot be ruled out, because the information is never collected, it is not considered reportable. They have no actual figures to work off, only the results of the survey sent out to schools of which only half were returned. They don't even seem to be leaping into action to find out from parents what happened to their children after they received the vaccine. The only leap into action is to deny there could be a problem.

Posted by Lucia Maria | 5/31/2005 09:56:00 am

19 Comments:

Blogger coge said...

My 3yo son had a bad tummy bug around four days after his first shot. Funnily enough no one else in our family caught it, which usually happens.

My eldest is getting his today, so I'll be interested to see what happens.

Of course two kids is hardly scientific research, but parents do notice things. I wouldn't describe myself as being overprotective.

5/31/2005 10:44:00 am  
Blogger Lucyna said...

It would be worth giving your son Vit C after his shot - it's supposed to help minimise reactions.

5/31/2005 11:01:00 am  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

I'd be careful giving anyone high dosages of Vitamin C. Can be very dangerous.

5/31/2005 11:18:00 am  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

About your post - this is grossly irresponsible behaviour from people like Linda Clark and Russell Brown. Obviously they think their paranoia about modern medicine and drugs gives them some sort of right to scare other people.

They are no better than 3rd-world anti-science nut-jobs.

5/31/2005 11:25:00 am  
Blogger coge said...

I agree, Linda Clark strikes me as someone who doesn't know when to shut up. I preferred Kim on the nine to noon slot. Better music too, I should add.

Thanks for your tip Lucyna.

5/31/2005 11:35:00 am  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

AL: Most of the science directed around vaccines seems to be bad science to me.

There is no serious attempt to collect adverse reaction data for the entire population, and build this data up over a 10,20,50 year period. You've pretty much got to die or be hospitalised to make it on to the adverse reaction database.

This means the studies that look into possible long term health effects; the effects of receiving multiple vaccinations (something like 20-30 for a small child); and links between asthma, autism, SIDS etc are confined to relatively small test groups. Even a test group of 5,000 is too small consiering the huge variety of factors in environment, economic group, diet, and genetic history.

It would do both sides of the debate much good to expand on the reactions database and track more information. It's not much harder than tracking all of the people that have had it, declined it or evaded it (which is where the majority of funding for tracking has gone)

5/31/2005 11:37:00 am  
Blogger Lucyna said...

AL, both Linda and Russell have been getting their kids vaccinated so far. If anything, they were both very surprised by the reactions.

5/31/2005 11:47:00 am  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Meningitis B is not a little virus like the flu.

If your child contracts it and the develops septicemia there is a very good likelihood the infection will spread faster than your ability to identify the illness.

At the minimum, limbs will be amputated. And you know what happens if the infection area has already spread past the amputatation area and various anti-biotics aren't having effect: death.

5/31/2005 11:54:00 am  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Furthermore, both myself and a flatmate have had the nasty flu-like virus referred to. We had it a month ago and I can assure you we didn't have the Meningitis B vaccine beforehand.

It is normal human response to blame whatever is injested just before sickness occurs, but it is not scientific, and should not be the basis of scaremongering broadcasts.

For all I know it may be physically impossible for the Men-b virus to drop a persons immunity to other viruses. I will find out from someone who knows about such matters.

5/31/2005 12:02:00 pm  
Blogger Lucyna said...

I'm certainly not debating how devasting the illness can be - the issue here seems to be the ferocity of the clampdown over the possibility that increased illness in Wellington school children was caused by the vaccine.

I really don't get the big deal - surely it would be better to be upfront with people on what can be expected in side effects and then track those same side effects in a scientific way, rather than just get the spin machine into action? There doesn't seem to be any science being followed in tracking the effects of the vaccine at all.

5/31/2005 12:06:00 pm  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

I am asking someone about this, but it will take a while for that person to respond.

The reason its a big deal is because of the promulgation of the (invalid) human assumption that sickness is caused by the most recently injested material or activity.

It is not scientifically valid to link the onset of flu to the injection of the Men-B virust purely because of timing, though in years past that would have been good enough reason for further investigation.

In Auckland many schools have up to a 25% of their students home sick due to a particularly nasty strain of flu (or similar) virus.

I will wait until I've talked with my friend before saying anything about the physical chemical differences between various viruses and types of vaccines.

5/31/2005 12:15:00 pm  
Blogger Lucyna said...

It is not scientifically valid to link the onset of flu to the injection of the Men-B virust purely because of timing, though in years past that would have been good enough reason for further investigation.

But that's the point isn't it. How is it known that it's not scientifically valid, if this information is not recorded?

5/31/2005 12:18:00 pm  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Science isn't the collection of statistics, though statistics certainly helps indicate relationships.

We already understand the physical structure of some of the most common viruses, so why rely on statistics when we can study the actual design?

Look at it this way - to a virologist the claim that the men-B vaccine might make the effect of the flu virus worse could be as outlandish as saying the Space Shuttle can dock with a submarine. Ie not only might there be physical impossibilities involved, but components of the two substances may not even act in the same region of a cell.

Anyway, I won't post any more comments here until I know more.

5/31/2005 12:24:00 pm  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

Lucyna, I disagree. You're not reading the article correctly. Let me quote this:

A Regional Public Health survey of more than 100 schools last week found that of the 16 schools worst hit by sickness, 10 had not yet had the meningococcal B vaccine. In a further five, pupils became ill well before the campaign started. Only one school had had the meningococcal B campaign about the same time as children became sick.

This effectively rules out a link, there's not even a statistical dependency.

Of course parents are worried, and the supposed effectiveness of this vaccine depends on a high number of kids taking it. So no wonder that when these things are reported, you counteract it with accurate information.

That doesn't imply the vaccine is safe, or that this vaccination program isn't bogus (which it is IMHO), but this story isn't the proof.

5/31/2005 12:30:00 pm  
Blogger Lucyna said...

Berend, what the article doesn't mention is that half the schools did not return the survey. Anyway, I'm going to keep an eye out over the next couple of days at my kid's school to see if there are an unusual number of absenses.

5/31/2005 12:32:00 pm  
Blogger Kimble said...

It doesnt matter how many DIDNT send in their surveys, all that matters is the number that did. As long as the sample is large enough you can make worthwhile inferences.

5/31/2005 01:13:00 pm  
Blogger Kimble said...

What would be an unusual number of absenses? What is normal? What is the natural variation? Is your estimation of unusual within the natural variation?

5/31/2005 01:15:00 pm  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

Irrespective of opinion on the vaccine debate and how scientific it is, lets COLLECT THE DATA.

For example, say 80% of the kids in Russell Browns school get sick following the vaccine and NO OTHER school does within that month.

Official line - "was the flu season" Nothing more done.

Let's assume another school, a month later gets 80% sickness rate.

In a proper register, recording ALL reactions, it wouldn't take long to determine that the BATCH might be bad, and a third school is saved in the nick of time....

With a willingness to track this information over the long term, on the entire population, the sample size and duration will be approaching the amount I deem might actually provide reasonable data to formulate scientific opinion on.

Until I see more effort from the Health Department about collecting this data, if only for the situation outlined above, instead of reading on the brochure - "your kid may get sick, don't bother reporting it unless you think it serious" then I shall remain sceptical.

5/31/2005 02:07:00 pm  
Blogger Lucyna said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5/31/2005 02:20:00 pm  

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