Monday, October 26, 2009

So MOH has once again come out to say that there is no connection between autism and vaccines. Obviously whatever has been said before might not really be convincing to parents who believe otherwise.

Serendipity strikes my life yet again.

1) A letter from the school about Owain's orientation requested the following items - a vaccination cert (which I do not have), the BCG vaccination card (which I also do not have and did not know they even issued one these days!) and finally, his health booklet (of which his listed vaccinations to date number only ONE!)

2) Prevnar has officially been included in the childhood immunisations schedule for Singapore. To make it 'easier' for parents to vaccinate their children, parents can use their Baby Bonus and Medisave. Looks like MOH finally caved in to Big Pharma - they had previously stood firm on not including it into the schedule citing the low incidence of cases here, and low mortality rate thanks to our efficient healthcare and high hygiene/sanitation levels. So between then and now, what has really changed? In my opinion, nothing really. Big Pharma just got more effective at lobbying. Newspaper articles citing doctor's comments also do not impress me. They are still singing the same tune "more convenient for parents to vaccinate babies during well-baby checks" etc.

Again, no one seems to be addressing, or scrutinising the safety issue.

In Saturday's edition of ST, there was an article decrying the use of animal cells in treatments for humans. The writer deplored the use of animal cells, basically saying that this is unproven science, warning about the risk of exo-viruses which could exist in these animal cells and then potentially alter the very DNA in our system. And so on it went. I just want to know why there is such a hue and cry when animal cells have been used to culture vaccines and these are then injected into the immature immune systems of young babies? Bovine cells, sheep cells, simian cells have all been used at one point or another. SV40, identified from cultures of rhesus monkey cells was found to have contaminated one version of the polio vaccine. I won't go into the details of the SV40 debacle, just google it. But the point is, animal cells have been used for decades in vaccines. There are and have been no long term studies to demonstrate safety at all. If we're making a big noise about sheep cells injected for someone's vanity, I'd like to ask why no one is questioning the use of animal cells in vaccine cultures?

So anyway, the interesting events continue to unfold. A letter to the ST Forum recently asks a few pertinent questions, namely:

1) how much adjuvants are given to children in the form of aluminium and mercury salts in vaccines, besides preservatives, over a two-year period, under the Ministry of Health (MOH) childhood immunisation programme. Scientists have shown that aluminium and mercury are foreign to our biological system and do more harm than good.

2) Does MOH have a register of all complications related to childhood vaccines given in Singapore?

3) In a 2007 clinical study of 300 babies aged between nine and 12 months at five SingHealth polyclinics, what was the adverse complication rate and the severity, in terms of morbidity and mortality? Are these babies followed up long-term and for how long?

All great points and I'm glad someone is asking. But behold the official reply:

"...vaccines used here have been approved by the Health Sciences Authority and are deemed safe for the intended use by the general population. Side effects are usually mild, like a sore arm or a slight fever. Serious allergic reactions are very rare.

As for Mr Tan's concerns about autism and vaccination, there is strong scientific evidence to show that there is no link between vaccines and autism. This view is shared by the health authorities in the United States, Britain and the World Health Organisation. Independent reviews by the Cochrane Collaboration and the US Institute of Medicine have also come to the same conclusion."

Okay first, no one said anything about linking with autism. Methinks the official version doth protest too much. Second, the official reply does not answer any of the questions. At all. I too, would like to know - are there records and stats kept of children who have been diagnosed with some form of learning disorder over the years? This includes autism as well as other disorders. Does anyone track if the rise of these disorders are in tandem with the rise in the number of vaccines?

Not as far as I know.

I don't know if vaccines cause learning disorders or autism. I DO believe that these are on the rise. And if they are, perhaps something ought to be done to find out why. Rather than just brushing off the concerns of parents over vaccines, I think authorities worldwide ought to be trying to find out exactly why or what is really causing this increase. That would probably do much more in allaying fears instead of just the reflexive reply that vaccines are 'safe'. Show me how they are and I might be willing to believe you. But until then, you cannot blame parents for being sceptical. After all, when push comes to shove and a child develops a learning disorder, it is the parents who bear the burden and the grief. Not governments and not Big Pharma.

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