December 09, 2006

A very long post on: Vaccination

Please read this, I think it is very important... and if you lack the time, just skip to the bottom for key points.

I started reading Flea's blog just a few days ago. He wrote an entry entitled "Killed by Vaccines?" A very dramatic title, I thought. Indeed, the content was quite shocking, involving the death of a young child allegedly by the administration of the common vaccine DTP. Seizures followed for months afterwards, coming and going and Marissa passed away at the age of 8 1/2.

What does DTP prevent? I know this! The first bacteria, Corynebacterium diptheriae, can cause a severe throat infection with a thick pseudomembrane that can cause breathing problems, heart arrhythmias, coma and even death. The second bacteria Clostridium tetani has a toxoid that causes such strong spasms it can lift a person off their hospital bed, not to mention respiratory failure and again, death. The third bacteria Bordetella pertussis causes a respiratory infection characterized by a whooping cough and vomiting. It can lead to complications like pneumonia, seizures and encephalopathy.

Flea ends with this:

What makes the story even sadder for Flea is that mom believes with perfect faith that vaccines killed her daughter. She refers to the child she lost as "Marissa (victim of childhood vaccines)". It's bad enough to lose a child. It's worse to remember her with a parenthetical moniker like this one.

For readers of this sad tale, it doesn't help that this mother describes herself as a "lay-homeopath" who practices cranial sacral therapy, and "unschools" her surviving children (whatever that means). Oddest of all, Lavender Essence provides a link in her side bar to this web site that includes an article entitled "Orgasmic Childbirth".Let's be clear about one thing. There is no credible evidence that vaccines cause any negative neurodevelopmental outcome whatsoever. I'm afraid that no amount of evidence, no matter how credible, is going to change Lavender Essence's mind. Period. End of sentence. End of paragraph. Shut up now and hit "Publish Post".

Hm. The internet is a great place to bring out extremes from all sides and there was an uproar from his commenters. I read a few of his links to get more of the story. Lavender Essence's story can be read here, at

I did some research and I found a few facts to support her case, even if they weren't accepted by the medical community as a whole. I'm not sure if Marissa received the DTP or the newer DTaP vaccine. The "a" refers to acellular pertussis, a multivalent antigen mix that provokes the same immunogenic response with less side effects. SOME OF THE RARE SIDE EFFECTS mentioned by NIH's Medline for DTP are:
collapse; confusion; convulsions (seizures); crying for three or more hours; fever of 40.5 °C (105 °F) or more ; headache (severe or continuing); irritability (unusual and continuing); periods of unconsciousness or lack of awareness; sleepiness (unusual and continuing); vomiting (severe or continuing)

oh my. The internet is a great place to find these sorts of rare occurences and amplify their responses. I think that it is important to recognize that these are rare side effects and should not be a reason to refrain from giving your children the DTaP vaccine. Perhaps if Flea had emphasized this more than the mother's "altie" beliefs, he would not have provoked such anger.

Here is my long post to the mother, which elucidates my own position:

Barefoot mama,

I too found your link through Flea's blog. I am a first year medical student and I wanted to thank you for sharing your experiences with the world. It is a brave thing to do and it sounds like you don't deserve the criticism and mockery you're receiving from so-called "rational people." It doesn't lessen your pain to have your views ridiculed and I am sorry that you have suffered even more in the sharing of your story.

You've lost a love of your life after so many months of hardship and suffering. Your daughter died from something that the medical profession struggled to understand, but failed. To make matters worse, many of them were dismissive and unsympathetic to your concerns. That is regrettable and I will strive to use this as a reminder to myself to be different when I have patients and need patience. :)
Believe it or not, but the majority of a good diagnosis comes straight from patient history, not the blood sticks, labs and scans that are done at fancy hospitals. A good diagnostician recognizes the trends and notes when something is up. It sounds to me like you were in the position to recognize a suspicious trend in Marissa, linking vaccines with the crippling seizures that she experienced. Your doctors were dismissive of them at first, because it is a rare occurrence to get such a violent reaction.

I typed in "vaccine side effect seizure" into PubMed just now, the repository of scientific journals, and I came up with one link on "immunization with DPT vaccine activated thiosemicarbazide-induced convulsive syndrome in mice." This shows a causal link in mice between DPT and seizures... which I found curious, even through my puzzlement of the Russian to English translated'kaia, 1980.)

I do not post this to provide you with more evidence that your daughter suffered as a result of shots. I do this to let you know that I take your views seriously.

When I type in "vaccine seizure" into PubMed, the first link that comes up is this: [edited for length and grammar] "The boy started having attacks and jerks after the first injection of DTP. The EEG confirmed the typical features of hypsarrhythmia. Intramuscular ACTH was commenced for 2 weeks. No problem was reported until the age of 9 years when he started having attacks of jerking. He was treated with sodium valproate. Another 11 year old boy, his second cousin, had momentary black outs. The EEG showed findings of idiopathic epilepsy. Treatment with sodium valproate was commenced. The children of both cases belong to a family in which there is a tendency to seizures. It seems unlikely the triple vaccine produced the infantile spasms in case 1." (emphasis mine)(Lapatsanis, 2006.)

It is a dangerous thing to be misled by false information, be it "vaccinations can cause serious seizure disorders that would otherwise be preventable" or "vaccinations are dangerous to your health." Understand that Flea speaks bluntly not out of disrespect to you and your beliefs, but in the full understanding of the SEVERE consequences that would take place otherwise. He knows what diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis could do to a child. If you did not vaccinate and Marissa contracted one of these diseases, she would have suffered. Less than a handful of people contract tetanus each year, not because of any decrease in the prevalence of Clostridium tetani bacteria in rusty nails and dirt. Tetanus is not seen in hospitals precisely because of the aggressive public measures that have been going on in the past 100 years. Many doctors nowadays would consider themselves "lucky" (in purely academic sense) if they get to see a case of tetanus in their lifetime. Still they, know that a patient starts having a difficult time speaking (aka lockjaw) which progresses into muscle spasms that cause the entire body to arch back painfully, lifting the patient off the bed. When their diaphragm is involved, breathing is impaired and the only thing you can do at that point is put them on a respirator, pump them with meds and pray.

Imagine if instead of seizures, Marissa had tetanus and you had to live with the regret of knowing that you could have saved her life with a simple vaccine. This is basis for the “righteous fury” borne of medical professionals who see something they could prevent with simple public health measures, but parents refuse treatment. Flea is scared that you’re spreading false information and scaring people into refusing a vaccine. In fact, you might be spreading true information and there is something that doctors CAN do to intervene if a reaction to DTP is noted earlier. You might be speaking in the full understanding of the SEVERE side effects of a vaccine. Wikipediasuggests that you’re not alone. The thing is, this is not backed up by current literature and Flea’s position is. Additionally, the newer DTaP vaccine has a significantly reduced number of side effects. Why is DTP still used? A non-profit org called the "National Vaccine Information Center" claims that the profit margins for pharm companies are cushier with the more dangerous vaccine. *tilts head* That’s certainly something to get angry about, IMO.

Understand that everyone had their own experiences and emotions to color their comments. Flea’s are colored with his interactions with wary and resistant parents. Yours are colored with negative experiences with doctors. There are all sorts of parents and all sorts of doctors and it is unfair to stereotype either category as ignorant, stubborn and deaf to everything that does not fit their beliefs.
At the very least, consider yourself blessed that you found a good doctor. If any of your other children begin to manifest seizures of a familial type around 10 years of age, as the second article I cite suggests, you know who you can trust and who you can go to for advice on how to proceed.

Thank you for educating me. I will share my information with my fellow medical students and perhaps future tragedies can be averted and bonds of trust between patient and doctor will not be broken.

Kind wishes to you and yours,
Not My Second Opinion

I wrote this before I looked at a few more links about the old DTP vaccine, so I wasn't aware of all the goings on. Medicine tries to protect medicine and sometimes, it fails for a few people. Is it a deliberate cover-up? Are pharmaceutical companies or the government being negligent? Do we need to be so strict with vaccine administration?

It is sad that people suffer from disease. It is regrettable that we have a cure for some of these diseases -- a cure that comes before we get sick, but a cure nonetheless -- and some people refuse the cure. It is even worse when the cure makes someone sick, but their suffering is dismissed or attributed to something else by the people who are trying to make them better. Am I making sense? I sure hope so.

Key points:
Mom gets a DTP for her baby
Baby has fever that night and starts having seizures
At 13 months, she has a pattern of status seizures every fourth day
At 8 1/2 years old, her brain stem swelled up and she passed away
Is this a side effect of DTP? [edit (12/12): just to clarify, I'm only talking about seizures]
YES, but it is rare
Parents should be advised of side effects and educate their doctors if they do not know!
Docs are human too.


  1. You dropped the ball on the goal line.

    It was a terrific post right up to the point that you state that this girl's neurological decline and death were caused by vaccines.

    As you move forward into your career, beware of the concept of "biological plausibility". You will hear these words from time to time. Plausibility does not imply causality. Never did, never will.

    And this: Parents... should educate doctors if they don't know (I assume the antecendent of "they" is "doctors")

    Are you serious? What kind of education regarding vaccinations can be provided by patients that we are not inundated with on a daily basis?

    Docs are human indeed. Med students too.


  2. Thanks for you comments, Flea.

    I do not wholeheartedly believe that she died because of a vaccine... but I am open to that possibility. The few links that I found showed the DTP vaccine as a possible precipitating event for a family prone to seizures.

    I also believe that doctors cannot be expected to recite the laundry list of side effects for each vaccine, while a concerned parent might read about a few on the boards and want reassurance... something that I hope I could provide. It sounds like she continued to get DTP boosters when the guidelines say that:
    some types of side effects may mean that your child should not receive any more doses of DTP-Hib vaccine.

    I don't know all the details of the case. All I know is that there is a set of parents out there who feel like they were denied critical information that might have saved their baby.