Saturday, January 23, 2016

Huh? Less flu vac/less flu?!

A news report from our northern neighbors (Ontario, Canada) reveals an intriguing bit of information - this year only 40% of local residents have received a flu vaccine (so far), yet there has been a 94% drop in reported flu cases compared with last year. The writer did not report what percentage of the same population received a flu vaccine last year. And to be fair (ie: scientific) there are many variables that affect prevalence of an infectious illness like influenza - so there is no way to know (short of an actual double-blind randomized controlled trial) if this is an anomaly unrelated to amount of flu vaccine distributed or if perhaps receipt of flu vaccine actually makes people more vulnerable to URI's (Upper Respiratory Infections) or ILI (Influenza Like Illness) like this study suggests. Yet another study from Japan also implies that Vit D3 may reduce risk of contacting flu. 

But this sort of information (less flu in a population with a low rate of vaccination) begs the question - why? It implies that perhaps it is not the vaccine that is responsible for this outcome. 

The writer of course makes the obligatory knee-jerk statement advising one and all to get a flu vaccine regardless of the contradictory facts previously disclosed earlier in the article. I won't make such a blanket recommendation - but instead encourage all to do their own research and decide to receive or decline vaccination (of any kind) in conjunction with a trusted healthcare provider once he or she decides they have sufficient information to make an informed decision and that this decision is freely made - not coerced, nor manipulated nor contingent upon any other action. 

Some common sense strategies to reduce risk: 
- With hands being a primary vector of infection hand-washing is a great way to reduce risk of acquiring an infection or of spreading one. I am not a big fan of alcohol-based hand cleansers for a variety of reasons, but they are a reasonable option if soap and water are not available. 
- Plenty of rest 
- Good nutrition 
- Vit D3 (one alternative explanation for the increase in illness in winter is less exposure
to sunlight and subsequent lower levels of Vit D circulating in our bodies). It would be 
prudent to talk with your healthcare provider about this and consider having your levels 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Thar he blows ... the whistle on HPV safety

A Dr. Sin Hang Lee (of Milford Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory in Milford, CT) has released an open letter to the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) alleging certain individuals withheld important and pertinent information from Japanese policy-makers regarding the safety of the HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix. 

While he may not technically be a whistle-blower he is certainly functioning as one. 

On page 5 is a statement from Dr. Helen Petousis-Harris that I found a bit disconcerting: 

" ... The GACVS has not yet had a chance to delve into the DNA question.”
The GACVS is the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety - part of the WHO. 
Have residual VLP's (virus like particles) been found in HPV vaccines? Sure. Has residual HPV DNA been found in HPV vaccines? Yes. Do we know if this affects vaccine safety? No. But they are still recommended as a routine for every child (male or female) at age 11. Why? How is this when there are case reports and VAERS reports of permanent disability and even death following administration of this vaccine? She goes on to dismiss as a mere "hypothesis" (page 6) what Shaw and Tomljenovic posit in their papers (see links below) about the HPV vaccine. Hypotheses are what science is all about - it is the first step in the scientific process! If Dr. Helen Petousis-Harris embraces the scientific process she would not have been so condescending in response to other scientists contribution to the body of knowledge regarding the HPV vaccine.  

It is this aspect of "we don't know what we don't know" that so concerns me - time and again limited, small clinical studies demonstrate "safety" but with wider use more serious concerns surface (the real clinical trial also known as "post marketing clinical studies" whereby consumers are used as volunteer subjects in a clinical trial of far less rigorous design). For this reason the use of a vaccine should be entirely voluntary and completely free of any kind of manipulation or coercion (like you cannot go to school or work unless you comply with the entire schedule of recommended vaccines). Some might be willing to accept unknown risks because they may perceive sufficient benefit to justify this. Others should not be forced into accepting unknown risks when they do not believe there is sufficient benefit to justify these unknown risks. Each person (or parent for a minor child) must make their own personal calculation about these sorts of things. 

But as Dr. Lee points out ... they (a scientific panel like GACVS or a parent or adult individual) should have all the current, known information in order to make this decision - and it seems relevant information may have been withheld. As he also states, this understandably undermines confidence in medicine, science, and scientific bodies.   

It remains to be seen if the Director-General of WHO will take action and investigate his allegations. These allegations deserve investigation - we all deserve better from scientists and from policy makers. 

We all deserve the freedom to make our own medical decisions.