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:

Re: Response to Donegan

“Almost half of the people who died from measles between 1970-83
(270) had a ‘pre-existing condition’.”this is the message of the paper by
CL Miller (1), the one that the Immunisation Handbook (Department of
Health 1996) uses as the source for it’s claim that, “Before 1988 (when
the MMR was introduced) more than half the acute measles deaths occurred
in previously healthy children who had not been immunised,” (2)

CL Miller adds that: ”In those with pre- existing conditions most
were grossly physically or mentally abnormal or both.” I am not suggesting
that it does not matter if those with ‘pre-existing conditions’ die from
measles. I am contesting the Immunisation Handbook’s claim that,

“Before 1988 (when the MMR was introduced) more than half the acute
measles deaths occurred in previously healthy children who had not been

Dr Flegg says that ‘it would have been useful to know’ – the
vaccination history.

Useful – it is crucial if we do not know the vaccination history then
we don’t know whether the measles vaccination is helping or not – if we
don’t know whether children who have complications or die of measles are
vaccinated or not, how can we know whether there is any point in
vaccinating against measles in the first place?

I can also imagine it would be insensitive and inappropriate to
question parents on their dead child’s vaccination status – especially if
their children had been vaccinated – it might certainly make the parents
question the effectiveness of that vaccination.

But why would it be necessary to ask the parents – are there not such
things as medical records? Or is it a complete waste of my time that I
write down notes every time I speak to a patient if these are not able to
be used in the future for such data gathering. The investigators had
access to the notes. Would it not be Dr Flegg’s standard practice to ask
whether a patient admitted with a vaccinatable disease had been vaccinated
against that disease?

Dr Flegg says: “The fact that over half the deaths occurred in
apparently “healthy” people should sound alarm bells about the potential
severity of the measles and not be dismissed lightly, as Donegan seems to
do.” Dr Flegg has seems to have missed the point that these children may
very well be not ‘healthy’ at all – just not actually, “grossly physically
or mentally abnormal or both.” (not my words – those of CL Miller) and
that the Department of Heath’s statement that “half the acute measles
deaths occurred in previously healthy children who had not been
immunised,” is just an attempt to scare parents into vaccinating their
children – often against their better judgement.

Dr Flegg says that advice such as “open the window, avoid dairy
products” etc. is unlikely to have any impact whatsoever on the
development of complications. Has he ever tried giving such advice, or
doing it himself? – If he hasn’t, how would he know? It is certainly the
case in my experience but I am afraid that I cannot produce studies in
medical journals to quote from because nobody does such studies – these
interventions are too simple, straight forward and free.

Dr Flegg says: “I find efforts to shift the blame for these deaths on
someone’s failure to “open a window” (when the infection is likely to have
been prevented in the first place through vaccination) rather saddening.”
– I find it saddening that we don’t know how many of these deaths would
have been prevented by vaccination, because we don’t know whether they
were vaccinated or not – if vaccination were safe and effective – I would
be all for it.

Dr Flegg then quotes papers regarding outbreaks of measles in
vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, claiming that vaccination is
‘protective’ because less people who are vaccinated get measles than those
who do not get measles. If there were no vaccination, most people would
get measles. What is wrong with getting measles? – it is a normal part of
childhood development. It is certainly not great fun to be hot with
sticky eyes, a rash and maybe a cough for as long as two weeks – and it
certainly is hard work to nurse someone who is ill with the measles – or
any childhood illness, whether there is a vaccine for it or not – but most
parents make many sacrifices for their children – it is part of being a
parent and life is not without it’s trials, at any age. I am sure that
all of the parents with vaccine damaged children would gladly nurse their
children through such an illness many times over, rather than have them
suffer the living death to which they are now condemned.

But the main point of even having a vaccine is surely to try to stop
death and disability.

As for the issue of herd immunity (which is supposed to protect those
who are unable to be vaccinated with live vaccines) and the 95% levels
that are supposed to be necessary eradicate measles, this figure is based
on no more science than that 60% levels didn’t do it, nor 70%, nor 80%,
nor 90% and when we get to 95% levels and measles is still circulating (it
will be causing deaths in small babies by then, whose vaccinated mothers
did not pass over good quality, long lasting, antibodies to natural
measles) we will be told that 99% levels are needed – as well as more
booster doses, based on nothing more than guess work – whoops, I mean
‘mathematical projections’ like the ones Dr Flegg quotes to tell us how
many complications of measles have been avoided in countries who vaccinate
against it, and to predict that so-called epidemic that was used as an
excuse to vaccinate seven million school children with Measles-Rubella
vaccine in 1994 – causing , I think, 577 acknowledged severe reactions
(cup looking pretty empty there)

If cars performed as reliably as vaccines, no-one would buy them.

“This is not the first time Donegan has been caught out by her
misrepresentation of the true facts”, says Dr Flegg. He should read
Hilary Butler’s ‘How accurate are the statistics anyway?’ (4th February
2005, above) regarding ‘true facts’.

I do not get caught out by misrepresentation of the true facts,
rather my conclusions based on the methods and results of studies are
often different to those of the authors.

The CONCLUSIONS of the authors, drawn from their results in their
studies are often not the same as mine because I carefully sift through
the method and the results section and form my own conclusions. This
course of action was recently supported in the BMJ (6th Nov 04) as being
the correct was to read a scientific paper. Indeed in: Users' guide to
detecting misleading claims in clinical research reports M Montori et al
specifically advise readers of scientific papers to: “Read methods and
results only?” And the reason.. “The discussion section of research
reports often offers inferences that differ from those a dispassionate
reader would draw from the methods and results.” (3)

Doctors read scientific papers very poorly, they are often very
unselective in what they believe, due to time pressure and from not
realising that there is a need.

(1) Immunisation against infectious diseases HMSO London 1996 para
22.1.5, p126

(2) Miller CL, Deaths from measles in England and Wales, 1970-83,BMJ

(3) M Montori et al (BMJ 2004;329:1093-1096

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

04 February 2005
Jayne LM Donegan
GP & Homoeopath
London NW4 1SH