Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

Increase in autism due to change in definition, not MMR vaccine

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 13 January 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:112

Rapid Response:

Peter Flegg answer on TB

Dear Sir,

I would like to thank Peter Flegg for an answer which I found very
helpful. It puts his position very carefully, and thoughtfully.

And though he may have missed it, I did acknowledge, early on, that
Peter Flegg said that BCG wasn't much use as a public health measure.

As a freelance journalist, when we were "training", a lot of heated
discussions took place about the "meaning" of "unbiased" articles. We
were told that we have to present both sides even handedly. We were told
to concentrate on the "truth".

It's a very difficult concept, if you accept that presenting both
sides, means that at least some of either side might not be truth at all.
In fact, balanced journalism involves at least 50% lies. Of course,
journalists aren't supposed to make judgement calls on which half is lies,
and which is the truth. We are supposed to leave that to the reader to
discern. Which is tricky, since readers often discern from the position
of conditioned bias.

Yes, I accept that I've ignored a lot of studies that say that BCG is
wonderful. I do so, because I've got to the point of not being able to
accept that everything is the truth. I've not been able to accept,
either, that everything is lies. Obviously there are reason why certain
vaccines don't work, in different places.

Right now, the New Zealand medical authorities are attempting to do
creative immunology to "explain" why the pertussis vaccine here has (what
they are now toying with as a new concept)~~~ "effective vaccination rate"
~~~~. I have yet to see a good definition of this, but never mind. But
the "effective vaccination rate" for pertussis here, appears to be in the
order of 33%.

Theor Biol. 2003 Sep 21;224(2):269-75.
Estimation of effective vaccination rate: pertussis in New Zealand as a
case study.

>>>"The obtained figures indicate that in New Zealand the
effective vaccination rate against pertussis is lower than 50%, and
perhaps even as low as 33% of the population. These figures contradict the
medical statistics which claim that more than 80% of the newborns in New
Zealand are vaccinated against pertussis (Turner et al., 2000). This
contradiction is due to the mentioned unreliability of the available
vaccine. The fact that the fraction of immune population obtained here is
considerably lower than the fraction of vaccinated population implies a
high level of vaccination failure. We believe that we can safely conclude
that under the current conditions (with the present vaccine and the
current vaccination practice) the effective vaccination rate against
pertussis in New Zealand is considerably lower than is expected. Based on
the present data it is perhaps lower than 50% of the population."

This is all very vastly different to that told to us in the past,
though as mothers, we've all known it for years, since as I've said for
years here, the practical reality of the vaccine is a joke.

But no doubt there will be many who will say that the use of the
vaccine led to milder whooping cough, and fewer deaths. Which is a
supposition. Since most unvaccinated kids (by choice) don't get badly
sick, or die. Perhaps they eat their greens.

So yes. While the BCG may be valuable in preventing complications
and deaths, I don't think that's definitive for everone. And perhaps,
those studies might actually be as useful as all the old tosh studies
which said Pertussis had a 95% protective rate in this country when it
didnt. We both agree that BCG isn't much use as a public health measure.

The bit about all this that perhaps Peter Flegg struggles with isn't
the technicalities at all. We will never agree on that, because agreement
relies on accepting that every study is true. Which we know its not.
Even BMJ has published articles talking about the percentage of lousy
medical articles. Trouble is, you can only work out that in retrospect.
Just as the New Zealand medical people are only coming to grips with the
fact that the pertussis vaccine here, is, and always has been of minimal

the key issue is this:

>>>>Butler hopes to live in a fantasy world where all
infections would cease to exist the moment we all eat up our greens. That
world does not exist.<<<<

He is very wrong.

The way I see it is this. Millions of people in this world, have
never had the BCG, have been infected with tuberculosis strains, and
probably more than one, and have gone on to lead long, happy and
productive lives.

Same with pertussis. And tetanus. And measles, and mumps and
chickenpox. All those people who never had the vaccine, never got
complications and never die, prove that FOR THEM the vaccine would have
been a waste of time.

Years ago, when BCG was foisted on my parents, they were told that it
was the only thing that stood between "me" and the "white" death. Which
was actually a load of emotional blackmail, and quite inaccurate

Parents today, are still not given enough information upon which to
make a choice. They are still subjected to emotional messages which
convey the impression that if they don't do it, their children will get
seriously ill and die, if they don't. History shows that that isn't a
matter of proven fact. Otherwise we'd have no ancestors to have got here
in the first place.

The "fantasy" world that I would love to live in, isn't one where
everyone scoffs their greens.

It's one where every medical book, publication or person will
honestly disclose everything, discuss things rationally and allow me the
democratic right to make choices, which, even if the medical people don't
agree with, they agree with my right to make them.

And within that context, resist the urge to make me out to be a
lunatic paraiah, and on the rare occasion when their services have been
sought, to not be both precious and vindictive about it. Which is
something I've been victim to more than once.

That is the only actual world I would like to live in.

And I fear it will never become a reality, because most medical
people I know, subscribe to the theory that parents should just trust
them, and do as they are told to do, according to the medical paradigm of
the moment.

Whereas all I want is "democracy".


Hilary Butler.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 March 2005
Hilary Butler
freelance journalist.
home 1892, New Zealand.