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:

Tony Floyd makes some valid points.

Dear Sir,

In reply to John Stone, and using the Science article, Tony Floyd
makes a very valid point. Interpretations can be very misplaced.

This happens both way.

The classic example, which I've yet to see an expose on, from the pro
-vaccine lobby is an article called:

"Impact of antivaccine movements on pertussis control: the untold
story" written by E. J. Gangarosa et al. Lancet, volume 351, January 31,

This article is still upheld by pro-vaccine people, and quoted on
various pro-vaccine websites unchallenged, as the paragon of virtue. It
is enshrined in the monument of all truth and repeatedly referenced as if
it is immutable law.

There is one huge problem with that.

In this article Gangarosa commits all the sins to which Tony Floyd
points, and more besides.

THAT is the real, untold story.

I will just concentrate on one of those sins:

Gangarosa quotes a Lancet July 1990; 336: 30 - 32 article
("Developments in pertussis immunisation in Japan", by Kimura M et al) as
the reference for vaccination rates in Japan.

As it happens, that study doesn't even mention vaccination rates.

However, the one study which does mention them, is JAMA March 13,
1997, Volume 257, No 10, page 1352, which has the graph he mentioned.

But even if he had given the right reference, the context of his
remark attributed to the wrong reference, was also incorrect. Gangarosa
said that pertussis coverage for infants fell from nearly 80% in 1974, to
10% in 1976.)

Now, what would you as a doctor classify as "pertussis coverage"?

I would like to know.

I checked all the data, to find that the 80% was for ONE SHOT only.

In fact on the same graph, in 1974, the total for THREE primary shots
of pertussis was only 56% in 1974 and 9% for THREE primary shots in 1976.
But 56% to 9% doesn't look very good does it.

It's much better to use the 80% to 10% drop for ONE shot only. That
looks much more dramatic, and worthwhile doesn't it? But is it accurate?
And is it the truth?

No-one in their right mind would consider 80% coverage of only one
shot down to 10% coverage of one shot particularly note-worthy.

Those figures are no basis upon which to make an argument that "anti-
vaccinators" ruined it all for Japanese babies.

I wrote a full rebuttal to this article and submitted it to the
Lancet, who declined to publish it.


Hilary Butler.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

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