Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Belief not science is behind flu jab promotion, new report says

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 19 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7856

Rapid Response:

Re: Belief not science is behind flu jab promotion, new report says

Belief not science behind smallpox and polio jabs

Jeanne Lenzer’s assertion, that “Smallpox and polio vaccines halted deadly scourges of their time.” is a belief unsupported by published evidence.

Smallpox vaccination never prevented smallpox, quite the opposite: it caused large outbreaks of the “dreaded disease” in their recipients. I refer Jeanne to the relevant discussion by medical doctors in BMJ (14th and 21st January) 1928. Dr. Parry raised the following questions:

1. How is it that small-pox is five times as likely to be fatal in the vaccinated as in the unvaccinated?
2. How is it that, as the percentage of people vaccinated has steadily fallen from about 85 in 1887 to about 40 in 1925, the number of people attacked with variola has declined pari passu and the case mortality has progressively lessened? The years of least vaccination have been the years of least small-pox and the least mortality.
3. How is it that in some of our best vaccinated towns – for example Bombay and Calcutta – small-pox is rife, whilst in some of our worst vaccinated towns, such as Leicester, it is almost unknown?
4. How is it that something like 80 percent of the cases admitted into the Metropolitan Asylum Board small-pox hospitals have been vaccinated whilst only 20 percent have not been vaccinated?
5. How is it that in Germany, the best vaccinated country in the world, there are more deaths [from smallpox] in proportion to the population than in England – for example, in 1919, 28 deaths in England, 707 in Germany; in 1920, 30 deaths in England, 354 in Germany? In Germany, in 1919, there were 5,012 cases of small-pox with 6 deaths. What is the explanation?
6. Is it possible to explain the lessened incidence and fatality of small-pox on the same grounds as the lessened incidence and fatality of other infectious fevers – namely, as due to improved hygiene and administrative control?

The ‘experts’ commented, “We think that Dr Parry in his desire for enlightenment would have been wiser not to introduce assumptions of facts into the framework of his questions.“ The editorial comment also accused Dr Parry of introducing assumptions of fact into his questions, while he was the one referring to the well-documented facts.

To this day the proponents of vaccination accuse those who oppose vaccination of expressing undocumented opinions while it is the other way around.

Harmful reactions and ineffectiveness of smallpox vaccination motivated the “eradication” campaign of the 1970s. Smallpox was pronounced eradicated on 8th May 1980, vaccination stopped and epidemics disappeared, bar small outbreaks of whitepox, buffalopox, monkeypox, camelpox and similar names, while the disease was indistinguishable from smallpox. According to Arita and Gromyko (1982. Bull WHO; 60 (4): 367-375), the main benefit of smallpox being pronounced officially eradicated was that vaccination could be discontinued in all countries. Simply, smallpox vaccination had become an embarrassment.

In early 2003, smallpox vaccination for selected segments of the US population was introduced. Many recipients developed serious cardiac events (MMWR; March 28 2002), myopericarditis (JAMA; 289(24): 3283-3289) cardiac death (MMWR; Oct 16 2003), focal and generalized folliculitis (JAMA; 289(24): 3290-3294) and other serious problems. The explanation offered was poor immunological status in general population, aggravated by immunosuppressive medication. Vaccination had to be abandoned.

Poliomyelitis (originally called provocation paralysis caused by unrelated foreign protein-containing vaccines) increased with polio vaccination already during the first poliovaccine trials, and then continued with mass vaccination. Instead of abandoning the ineffective vaccines the polio disease was reclassified (a disease with a residual paralysis resolving within 60 days changed into a disease with residual paralysis persisting for more than 60 days, seemingly resulting in eradication of 90% cases, since the majority of polio paralysis cases resolved within 60 days) and new names introduced: Guillain-Barre syndrome, ascending paralysis, viral meningitis. The vaccine type of polio-virus-associated paralysis cases have predominated (60,849 cases in India in 2011) ever since then, yet the proponents of vaccination have been claiming the vaccination success, so well described by Ron Law ( rapid response, 10th March 2012, with a telling graph): “And the professor [David Colquhoun] rests his case that polio is no longer rampant while reclassified polio-like paralysis continues unabated…Perhaps the good professor could explain how reclassifying a disease and then claiming eradication of the disease is a medical success?”

Perhaps the most disconcerting but neglected element in the poliomyelitis vaccination debate is the continuing potential contamination of polio vaccines by monkey viruses such as SV40 (being the one best researched, while the possible deleterious effects of the majority of the monkey viruses remain unaddressed), and chimpanzee coryza virus (renamed respiratory syncytial virus), linked to many types of cancers and dangerous lower respiratory tract infections, respectively (Scheibner, rapid responses to “Polio eradication: a complex end game” of 3rd, 24th, 26th and 27th August 2012).

Recommended reading:
Peterson et al. 1955. JAMA; 159(4): 241-244; Abraham et al. 1993. J Infect Dis; 168: 1005-1009; Hilleman and Sweet 1960. Proc Soc Exp Biol and Med; 105: 420-427; Gerber et al. 1961. Proc Soc Exp Biol and Med; 108: 205-209; Eddy et al. 1961. Proc Soc Exp Biol and Med; 107: 191-197; Fenner 1962. BMJ; 21 July: 135-142; Weiner et al. 1976. NEJM; 286 (8): 385-389; Bergsagel et al. 1992. NEJM; 326: 988-993; Butel and Lednicky 1999. J Natl Cancer Res; 91: 119-134; Carbone et al. 1997. Nature Med; 3 (8): 908-912; Kops 2000. Anticancer Res; 26: 4745-4750; Chanock and Finberg. 1957. I. Am J Hyg; 66: 281-290; Chanock and Finberg. 1957. II. Am J Hyg; 66: 291-300; Mensi and Pregliasco 1998. Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology; 5 (3): 278-280; Sutter et al. 1991. Lancet 338:715-720; Biellik et al. 1994. Lancet; 344: 1776; Kim-Farley et al. 1984. Lancet; 8 December: 1322-1324; Ogra. 1995. Ann NY Acad Sci; 97-107; Furione et al. 1993. Virology; 196: 199-208; Carbone et al. 1994. Oncogene; 9: 1781-1790; Neetu Vashisht and Jacob Pulliel. 2012. Indian Journal of Medical Ethics; IX(2).

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 December 2012
Dr Viera Scheibner (PhD)
scientist/author retired
Blackheath, Australia