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A Dangerous Vaccine - Hep B
A Dangerous Vaccine - Hep B
Fri, 16 Feb 2001 22:01:16 -0800

Dear Members and Friends -
The following excellent article regarding the very real dangers of Hepatitis B vaccine was sent to us by Dani Hansen, Idaho's legislative activist extraordinaire. If you want to become involved in Idaho politics (as I believe every person needs to for their own "safety" in this day and age) contact her at

Dani Hansen
Idaho Citizens Eagle Forum  (WEB-SITE)

Dani wrote:

I know of three families that have lost children with this same kind of thing. Two years ago when the Governor wanted to create an "Immunization Registry " housed in Health and Welfare, that committee held several hours of hearings about the adverse effects of immunizations in general, and this one in particular. Hospitals give this one to newborns before they come home. My children were all immunized, but they were immunized with the old attentuated vaccines. The new vaccines are now mostly chemical. That is what has caused the higher mortality and severe injury rate. Things have changed in this arena too, what used to be good is now questionable. Maybe if you are in a third world country, it is worth the gamble, but I'm not sure about the risk when you live here, in an age of readily available antibotics, and accessible medical help.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Lauren Scheffers Sent: Friday, February 16, 2001 4:10 PM
Subject: [Hepatitis B] A Dangerous Vaccine

A Dangerous Vaccine
by Kevin B. O'Reilly

Kristin Jennings was explaining what happened to her 3 1/2-year-old son, Dylan. She recounted how he was a "completely healthy" two-week- old baby before he received his hepatitis B vaccination, at the recommendation of his pediatrician.

She told of his extreme agitation and high fever the night of the vaccination, and how he stopped breathing in the doctor's office the next day. He was feverish for three days and projectile vomited on the fourth. On the fifth day, all the tests came back negative and Dylan was to be released. That's when he started having seizures, and drifting in and out of consciousness.

Jennings relayed how a CAT scan revealed tremendous swelling of Dylan's brain. Three months later, she and her husband, Jeb Jennings, learned that Dylan had suffered 40 percent brain damage as a result of meningo-encephalitis (swelling of the brain) -- almost the entire left side of his brain.

Even under the best of circumstances Dylan would have a severe learning disability and mild cerebral palsy, doctors told the Jennings. Under the worst case scenario, he would be mentally retarded and confined to a wheelchair.

That's when Dylan could be heard crying and yelping in the background, having just awakened from a nap. His mother asked him whether he wanted to say, "Hi." A sweet little boy's voice spat out the word. "Hi," Dylan said.

"Do you want to say, 'Bye'?" his mother asked. In the same fashion, he spat out a heartily brief, "Bye."

"That's about half his vocabulary," Jennings said.

Though it has cost the Jennings, who live in Vail, Colo., more than $50,000 for occupational, physical, and alternative therapies in the last three years to ensure that Dylan could walk on his own and "be the best person he could be," he was fortunate, at least, to survive.

Lyla Rose Belkin of Manhattan, N.Y., was not so lucky. She died on Sept. 16, 1998 at the age of five weeks, about 15 hours after receiving her second hepatitis B vaccine shot. That night, her father Michael Belkin said, Lyla "was extremely agitated, noisy, and feisty, and then she fell asleep suddenly and stopped breathing."

The New York City medical examiner ruled the death Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), because there wasn't evidence to indicate any other cause of death. The coroner's notes said, "brain is swollen" -just like Dylan's was.

These are just two of the many stories of parents whose children, usually infants, have suffered severe reactions shortly after being given the hepatitis B vaccine, which was licensed by the FDA in 1982.

As of 1999, about 36,000 reports had been filed with the Centers for Disease Control's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) since 1991, when the hepatitis B vaccine was recommended for all infants by a CDC advisory panel.

Hepatitis B is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. The virus can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death.

It is present in the blood and bodily fluids of an infected individual and can be transmitted through sexual activity, intravenous drug use, and perinatally -- that is, from an infected mother to her child during birth.

"It's not like a flu virus, where you get the virus and you get over it and it goes away," explained Dr. Pamela Diaz, medical director for acute disease surveillance at the Chicago Department of Health. "With hepatitis B, there are two possibilities: you can get over it and it goes away, or it can stay with you as a chronic infection for the rest of your life."

The CDC estimates that there are as many as 1.25 million Americans chronically infected with hepatitis B. Every year, the CDC says, between 140,000 and 320,000 people in the United States become infected with hepatitis B, but only half of those infections are symptomatic. Every year, between 140 and 320 Americans die of the disease, according to the CDC.

The CDC says that hepatitis B rates were down 55 percent through 1993, though they are going up among three groups: "sexually active heterosexuals, homosexual men, and injection drug users." Forty-one states have added hepatitis B to their list of vaccinations required for children entering elementary school.

Many of the parents who have reported adverse events to VAERS believe that the hepatitis B vaccine injured their children, though researchers at the Atlanta, Ga.-based CDC say that there is no scientific evidence of any serious reactions to the vaccine.

"The most common side effect is a mild redness at the injection site, and an occasional mild fever," said Diaz of the Chicago Health Department.

Dr. Jane M. Orient, executive director of the Arizona-based Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), and an opponent of the mandatory hepatitis B vaccine, disagrees.

"It's much more common for the baby to scream for days on end inconsolably," she said, "which is probably evidence for some neurological damage that's going on, which may or may not be permanent."

Diaz noted that in order for the hepatitis B vaccine to be licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it had to go through a "very, very rigorous" testing process. The approval process usually takes 10 to 12 years, Diaz said, and includes randomized, double-blind clinical trials using placebos.

"The hepatitis B vaccine was tested on adults and in infants, because of the high rate of carriage in China and Southeast Asia," Diaz said, "where there were problems with perinatal transmission, and a huge problem with liver cancer, etc. Initially, a lot of the vaccine trials were done in that part of the world."

It is precisely where the trials were originally conducted that troubles Orient. "All the really bad long-term chronic crippling conditions [caused by the hepatitis B vaccine] have occurred in Caucasians," Orient said.

"But the safety studies pre-licensure for infants were done on Asians, like Taiwanese or Alaskan Indians or Eskimos, who have a much higher risk of disease and may also not have the genetic factors that predispose a bad reaction to the vaccine."

Jennings said she almost immediately suspected that Dylan was injured by the hepatitis B vaccine, and mentioned it to her doctors. She says they dismissed her concerns, saying that the hepatitis B vaccine couldn't have caused Dylan's problems.

"They made me feel like I was a bad mother, that I exposed the baby to some unknown virus," Jennings said. "I took him out to the supermarket when he was two weeks of age and he caught something there. You know that's the way that I think they make you feel. They don't mean to, but the burden's placed on you that your baby got sick."

Not one of the doctors who treated Dylan during his first stay in the hospital, when he was having seizures and his brain had swollen, reported the matter to VAERS, Jennings said.

This is in spite of the fact that VAERS "encourages reporting of any clinically significant adverse event that occurs after the administration of any vaccine licensed in the United States, even if it is not certain that the vaccine caused the event."

This is one of the many controversies surrounding VAERS. Parents and advocates for limiting the hepatitis B vaccine's use among infants and children say that, at most, 10 percent of doctors report adverse reactions to VAERS.

In spite of VAERS being "underreported," in their opinion, these same advocates have attempted to use VAERS data to show that for children under 14 the risk of an adverse reaction to the hepatitis B vaccine is higher than the risk of acquiring the disease itself.

"There were 872 serious adverse events reported to VAERS in children under 14 years of age who had been injected with hepatitis B vaccine," said Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a vaccine safety advocacy organization.

"The children were either taken to a hospital emergency room, had life threatening health problems, were hospitalized or were left disabled following vaccination. Forty-eight children were reported to have died after they were injected with hepatitis B vaccine in 1996. By contrast, in 1996 only 279 cases of hepatitis B disease were reported in children under age 14."

Diaz says that VAERS data cannot be used to reach such a conclusion. "VAERS is an adverse events reporting system, so any adverse event that occurs after vaccination, no matter how long after vaccination, can be included.

"And so," Diaz continued, "albeit that VAERS collects a lot of information about adverse events and vaccine history, its not designed to associate causality."

Dr. Deborah Wexler explained it differently. "Many times in looking for answers [about why children become ill], we do tend to draw associations to something that happened very recently," said Wexler, executive director of the St. Paul, Minn.-based Immunization Action Coalition, which works to boost immunization rates.

"In terms of children," Wexler continued, "it would not be uncommon to be able to find within a certain time frame a point at which a vaccine was given. That doesn't make it a cause."

So, if VAERS is not designed to associate causality and is statistically questionable, what is its purpose? "There might be very, very rare events that wouldn't get picked up in clinical trials that might be detected with VAERS," Diaz explained.

"It should be looked at in the sense that, 'We've had these reports, could there possibly be an association, let's go look and find out and do a study do determine that.' It's a way of generating hypotheses post-licensure."

So, don't the thousands of adverse events reports so far justify a new round of safety studies on the hepatitis B vaccine? "Most definitely," Diaz said, "we always need to continue to monitor safety."

What especially angered Michael Belkin and his wife, Lorna, was when they discovered that hepatitis B was most prevalent among high-risk populations of adults such as the sexually adventurous, intravenous drug users, and medical workers.

"Why in the world is this being given to babies?" Belkin asked himself.

The reason, says Diaz, is that while most adults do not become chronic carriers of the disease, "if you acquire it as an infant, unfortunately the scales are tipped toward the baby being a chronic carrier.

"Ninety percent of babies become chronic carriers," said Diaz. "Many who have the virus chronically are asymptomatic. A number of individuals will, however, go on to chronic hepatitis B symptoms mostly associated with liver damage, like cirrhosis and liver cancer."

Wexler added that "children who acquire hepatitis B have a 25 percent chance of dying of liver disease as adults."

Jane Orient of AAPS finds this logic questionable. "They say that the risk of the disease is worse than the risk of the vaccine. Well," she said, "if you get hepatitis B the chance of having a bad outcome is maybe greater than your risk of getting a bad outcome from taking the vaccine.

"But what they don't take into consideration is that you may be very, very unlikely to ever get the disease. It is not easily contagious. It is often a lifestyle or occupational factor, something that you are not likely to get in casual contact."

Barbara Loe Fisher of NVIC agrees. "You know you don't get hepatitis B by being next to someone who sneezed in an elevator. It's not like whooping cough or the measles. This is a very different kind of disease to require children to be vaccinated for."

"We're taught to believe that vaccinations are safe and effective," Jennings said. "We all buy into that -- I, as a new mother, did. I'm not against all vaccinations. Every parent should have the right to choose what is right for their child.

"But with the hepatitis B vaccine S it is criminal to require it to be given to a newborn. They are not in a high-risk category."

Kevin B. O'Reilly is a journalism major at Columbia College Chicago.