Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Pressure mounts for inquiry into MMR furore

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 26 February 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:483

Rapid Response:

How can vaccines cause damage?

It seems to be unduly restrictive to keep any enquiry about Wakefield
and the MMR/Autism factor to his paper. What the public is demanding by
its concerns about the MMR vaccine and its possible ill effect on
children, is not only for research to be stepped up but also for previous
research to be compiled and analysed in an attempt to come to genuine
conclusions. By genuine I mean those that are not just subservient to
epidemiological policy of mass vaccination to create herd immunity.

Below are just a few examples of work that has been done. Much of is
probably not in public knowledge. Even more striking is the argument put
forward by the pro-vaccine adherents that there is no evidence that
vaccines cause harm.

How can vaccines cause damage?

No vaccine is perfectly safe. An adverse event can be said to be
caused by a vaccine (i.e., a true reaction) if it is associated with a
specific laboratory finding and a specific clinical syndrome or both.
Alternatively, a clinical or epidemiological study is needed to find out
whether the rate of a given syndrome in vaccinated individuals exceeds
that expected among unvaccinated controls.

Immune panels and other laboratory tests, medical histories, and the
supporting medical literature support a causal association, with increased
risks among those children who are sick or have recently been sick.

Vaccination may damage children in several ways. Live or attenuated
virus vaccination can actually produce the infection that the vaccine is
supposed to prevent.

A second mechanism of damage comes from neurotoxic materials found
sometimes in vaccines. Thimerosol is the most widely discussed, since it
contains mercury.

The third, and probably the most important theory of vaccine damage,
relates to allergic reactions and the development of an autoimmune
response, stimulated by the vaccine and its adjuvant. Vaccines always
contain adjuvants, which are substances known to amplify the body's
response to the vaccine. These adjuvants are known to sometimes cause
allergic and autoimmune responses on their own.

The US Center for Disease Control (as its name implies) represents
one answer to these questions, while the National Vaccine Information
Center (NVIC) champions the rights of individual families to refuse
vaccines. The NVIC makes a very important, sometimes neglected point:

"Vaccination is a medical procedure which carries a risk of injury or
death. As a parent, it is your responsibility to become educated about the
benefits and risks of vaccines in order to make the most informed,
responsible vaccination decisions."

A similar statement can be made about any medical procedure. There
area also possible, but unproven links between MMR vaccine and juvenile
diabetes multiple vaccines and autism, and OPV and Gulf War syndrome. Time
and further research will tell if these proposed relationships are real

The DPT Vaccine

There is a large amount of evidence showing that the DPT vaccines in
use up to the end of the 20th C., and still in use in some places, was the
cause of brain damage in some children.

As early as 1948, Randolph Byers and Frederick Moll, of Harvard
Medical School and the Federal Drug Administration, carried out tests on
DPT vaccines at Children's Hospital in Boston and concluded that severe
neurological problems could follow the administration of DPT vaccines. The
results of the tests were published in Pediatrics.

In 1976, Dr. Charles Manclark, a FDA scientist, remarked that "the
DPT vaccine had one of the worst failure rates of any product submitted to
the Division of Biologics for testing."

According to the testimony of the Assistant Secretary of Health,
Edward Grant, Jr., before a U.S. Senate Committee on May 3rd, 1985, every
year, 35,000 children suffer neurological damage related to the DTP

In 1990, a Workshop on Neurologic Complications of Pertussis and
Pertussis Vaccination [2] was convened. It concluded that pertussis
vaccines are not standardised between manufacturers, that vaccines are not
standardised by each manufacturer from one batch to another, that there is
no inherent difficulty in assigning cause and effect to the vaccine and
subsequent permanent neurological damage, that there was sufficient
experimental data to implicate both endotoxin and pertussis toxin in
adverse neurological reactions to pertussis vaccine, and that there was a
consensus between neurologists that the seizures following pertussis
vaccination could not accurately be described as "febrile convulsions"
because they are not necessarily benign. Incredibly, in the face of their
own conclusions, they released a report that concluded, "there is no
demonstrated association between DPT vaccination and SIDS, because sudden
death after pertussis vaccination is too rare to be detectable in the
context of presently available series." There are 10,000 cases of SIDS in
the United States each year. The conspiracy runs deep. In the 1990 Journal
of the American Medical Association an editorial clearly labelled vaccine-
induced encephalopathy "a myth", ironically accusing the American
Association of Pediatrics (AAP) "and other well-meaning physicians" of
"joining forces with parents groups and lawyers." Ironic, because the AAP
was the one who recommended in 1992 that babies in the United States
should be given five doses of pertussis vaccine. It is interesting how the
AAP changed their tune within two years. The end result of this insanity
led to the formation of the National Vaccine Injury Program.

Another bit of irony is that finally in 1992, the Institute of
Medicine admitted that, "the evidence is consistent with a causal relation
between DPT vaccine and acute encephalopathy, defined in the studies
reviewed as encephalopathy, encephalitis or encephalomyelitis, and the
evidence indicates a causal relation between DPT vaccine and anaphylaxis,
between the pertussis component of DPT vaccine and protracted,
inconsolable crying." In other words, brain damage in progress.

These are but a minuscule of the evidence available on the DPT
vaccine, but show just how evidence can be hidden from the general public
in the guise public protection issues.

DPT & Autism

Megson [3] proposed that autism is linked to the disruption of the G-
alpha protein, affecting retinoid receptors in the brain. A study of sixty
autistic children suggested that autism could be caused by inserting a G-
alpha protein defect, particularly the pertussis toxin found in the D.P.T.
vaccine, into genetically at-risk children. This toxin separates the G-
alpha protein from retinoid receptors. Those most at risk report a family
history of at least one parent with a pre-existing G-alpha protein defect,
including night blindness, pseudohypoparathyroidism, or adenoma of the
thyroid and/or pituitary gland.

Megson proposed that natural vitamin A could reconnect the retinoid
receptors critical for vision, sensory perception, language processing and

Megson proposed that treating autistic children with natural cis -
forms of Vitamin A could have the effect of reconnecting the hippocampal
retinoid receptor pathways, critical for vision, sensory perception,
language processing and attention.

Megson noted that many autistic children needed natural, unsaturated
cis forms of Vitamin A found in sources such as cold water fish (salmon,
or cod liver), kidney, and milk fat, foods not commonly available in the
modern diet. Instead, children depend on Vitamin A Palmitate, found in
commercial infant formula and low fat milk. Unfortunately, absorption of
Vitamin A Palmitate requires an intact gut mucosal microvilli surface at
the right pH, in the presence of bile for metabolism. Since many autistic
children already had damaged mucosal surfaces due to unrecognized wheat
allergy or intolerances, their capacity to absorb vitamin A is

Megson also argued that live viral measles vaccine depleted children
of their existing supply of Vitamin A, negatively impacting retinoid
receptors. Natural Vitamin A, in the cis form, is important for activation
of T and B cells for long-term immune memory. Measles, mumps and rubella
titers are either significantly elevated or negative, in spite of one or
two doses of the vaccine given to many of these children. Fish oils
contain one retinoid metabolite, alpha 14 hydroxyretroretinol that has a
role in T-cell activation, vision and growth of lymphoblasts.

The MMR and other vaccines

T. Zecca , et al. at the New Jersey Medical School's Children's
Hospital of New Jersey in Newark compared rubeola virus in autistic and
normal children. Among 16 children diagnosed with autism followed in their
clinical practice, they found a 3-fold increase in rubeola titers over
expected normal range. A Wilcoxon Kruskal Wallas test comparing 13 rubeola
titers from normal children revealed a statistically significant p-value
of 0.005.

The following facts are significant:

a) The incidence of Autism has increased significantly in the last
b) There is every reason to believe that this trend will continue.
c) No one has proved that MMR vaccine plays a role in autism.
d) No one has proved conclusively that it does not.
e) Serious studies by independent researchers are desperately needed, to
look into all aspects of this dreadful disease. [4]

Until recently, most vaccines presented antigens according to the
same principals as they were 200 years ago- when vaccines consisted of the
whole micro-organism, alive or killed. The new generation of vaccines
contains other defined antigens, called "subunit vaccines". Newly
developed genetic technology gives us the means to produce the defined
antigen in large enough amounts to generate a low price.

However, accessory technologies are required to make these defined
antigens immunogenic, including new approaches for the optimum physical
presentation of the antigen and the addition of adjuvants. An effective
adjuvant formulation provides the antigen with both an optimal physical
presentation and a boost to create immune recognition and reaction. A
construction aimed at fulfilling these requirements is called an ISCOM, or
"immuno-stimulatory complex". [5]

The concept of immuno-modulation is also important to modern
vaccination principles. It includes the induction of specific antibodies
of desired isotypes and IgG subclasses, the induction of selected T-helper
cell responses as classified by the resulting cytokine production, the
induction of cytotoxic T-cell responses, and the distribution of the
immune response to various lymphatic sites - for example, mucosal
surfaces. Any of these factors may be important to obtain protective
immunity - the ultimate goal for a vaccine.

In addition to the efficacy of eliciting a protective immune
response, there is concern about the toxicity of adjuvants. A number of
adjuvants evoke strong immune responses, and are widely used in research,
but are unsuitable for human and animal vaccines because of these toxic
side effects. Several substances have been tried for adjuvant activity and
safety. Still, even today, adjuvants and adjuvant formulations, which
combine both immuno-enhancing capacity and low toxicity, are lacking.



[3] Megson, M. N. Is autism a G-protein defect reversible with
natural vitamin A? Unpublished research available from Dr. Mary Megson,
7229 Forest Ave, Suite 211, Richmond, VA 23226.

[4] F. Edward Yazbak, MD, FAAP. Pro & Con Research on MMR, Autism
Connection Compared.

[5]Uppsala University, Sweden. Uppsala Biomedical Centre. Vaccine
Research at the Virology Department.

Competing interests:
Father of vaccine damaged daughter

Competing interests: No competing interests

29 February 2004
Alan Challoner MA (Phil) MChS
LL18 5UR