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US county bars unvaccinated children from public spaces amid measles emergency

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 28 March 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l1481

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Measles in America—what’s playing out in New York State is nightmarish

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Unlimited tolerance of vaccines?


In my May 8 response to Joel Harrison I should have responded specifically to his discussion of our immune system and its seemingly unlimited capacity to respond to vaccines. (Harrison, BMJ rr 5/7/19) This idea was most famously proposed by Paul Offit. (Pediatrics 2002;109:124. Pediatrics 2003;111:653) Offit’s articles are interesting, and they continue to be quoted in defense of our dense immunization schedule, but they are theoretical and do not prove that the benefits of the schedule outweigh the risks. Only trials of the type proposed by Fine (Trop Med Internat Health 2007;12:1), Aaby (BMJ 2012;344:e3769) and Shann (rapid responses to Higgins, BMJ 2016;355:i5170) could do that. Here are some examples of how vaccines challenge our immune systems and produce dangerous or unpleasant reactions:

1. There is at least one fatality caused by multiple vaccinations. This was the healthy young woman who died from an autoimmune disease 33 days after receipt of smallpox, anthrax, typhoid, hepatitis B and MMR vaccines. (US Department of Defense, “Panels find vaccines may relate to reservist’s illness, death” News release, November 19, 2003. CIDRAP News, November 19, 2003)

2. Kawasaki disease first appeared in the 1960s and its frequency has marched upward right along with the expansion of the immunization schedule. (Uehara, “Epidemiology of Kawasaki disease” J Epidemiol 2012;22:79) This mysterious immune disorder has been associated with several vaccines in trials and case reports, including hepatitis B, rotavirus, yellow fever, pneumococcal conjugate, influenza, and group B meningococcal vaccines. No randomized trials have tested the possibility of vaccines’ causal role.

3. Acute febrile reactions, including seizures, are well-known responses to vaccinations. These are not trivial, and there is a dose-response relationship: the more vaccines given at one time, the greater the risk.

4. In spite of official pronouncements, vaccines have never been exonerated as potential causes of SIDS. Whole cell pertussis vaccine/wP is a highly reactive vaccine and was a major suspect in the 1970s and 1980s. SIDS declined in the US as use of wP declined, and there was a similar association in Japan. Vaccines in use today are just as reactive, so it is worth noting the persistence of SIDS with an age peak when they are administered. Inflammatory cytokines are important components in the SIDS cascade; some of the same cytokines are evoked by vaccinations. (Goldwater 2017. Ausiello, Infect Immun 1997;65:2168. Talaat, Influenza Other Resp Viruses 2018;12:202.) The statistics associating vaccinations and SIDS are conflicting and, once again, we have no unbiased trials to answer the question of causality.

According to Offit’s theory we should be able to tolerate any number of vaccines at any age, but the foregoing examples suggest otherwise.

A case can be made for trials comparing the current immunization schedule beginning at birth to 6 weeks with schedules that begin later—4, 5 or 6 months of age. Different assortments of vaccines could also be compared. Vaccine authorities have said such trials would be unethical, but they don’t have the data to support the assertion, and people like Fine, Aaby and Shann would disagree.


Competing interests: No competing interests

09 May 2019
Allan S. Cunningham
Retired pediatrician
Cooperstown NY 13326 USA <>