Vaccination: a choice between two unknowns

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

Yoshimi Kawabe’s daughter was 2 years old in 2008 when an unusual rash broke out on her hands and feet. Her family doctor at first thought the rash was caused by hand, foot and mouth disease — a contagious viral infection common in young children — but decided to investigate further after her condition took a turn for the worse.

The doctor ordered a blood test, then informed Kawabe that her daughter had been infected with hepatitis B. As if that wasn’t shocking enough, a subsequent examination of her entire family revealed that her two other children and Kawabe herself also carried the virus.

To this day, the 37-year-old nurse does not know how they became infected, but their doctor suspects one of her children picked it up at a day care center.

“I couldn’t believe it. It was such a shock,” says Kawabe, who asked to remain anonymous in order to protect her children’s privacy. “I thought hepatitis B was a disease that adults got. It didn’t even occur to me to get my children vaccinated for it.”

Hepatitis B is one of the so-called vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD). In Japan, so-called routine vaccinations that help prevent tuberculosis, measles and rubella, inter alia, are encouraged by law, and local municipalities generally cover the cost for each shot. Vaccinations that prevent such things as hepatitis B and mumps, however, are voluntary, and fees range from a few thousand yen to around ¥15,000 per dose.

From Oct. 1, a vaccine against chickenpox was officially added to the list of routine vaccinations.

“It has been more than 20 years since the vaccine was created and we have finally achieved our wish to have it included in the routine (vaccination) schedule,” says Keiko Taya, division chief of the Infectious Disease Surveillance Center at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Chickenpox and the mumps are almost synonymous with childhood, and “chickenpox parties” — where children are deliberately exposed to the varicella virus to promote immunity — were fairly common in the U.S. before a vaccine was introduced in 1995. However, medical experts warn that some cases can become very serious, even deadly. Of the 1 million people infected with chickenpox every year, about 4,000 are hospitalized and 20 die from it, according to data compiled by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

“People often regard chickenpox as a sickness that is common among children and it’s true that, normally, children recover without too much trouble,” Taya says. “However, that’s not necessary the case for everyone.”

There are about 110 infectious diseases — from Ebola and cholera to measles and influenza — listed in the country’s Law Concerning Prevention of Infectious Diseases and Medical Care for Patients of Infections. Vaccines are available for just 22 of them.

“Like any medicine, there is no vaccination that has zero side effects,” Taya says. “However, there are very few infectious diseases that are preventable, and vaccines exist to prevent people from experiencing grave health issues.”

In July, a group of doctors, patients and family members of those infected with various diseases held a parade in Tokyo, calling on the government to ensure that vaccinations are free and available to everyone in Japan.

Even though chickenpox is now part of the routine vaccination schedule, vaccines for hepatitis B, mumps and the rotavirus are still excluded. Subsidies for these vaccinations vary depending on the municipality, as well as the stance of local medical practitioners on whether or not they recommend such shots.

What’s more, compensation for victims of side effects differ greatly between those who received a vaccination through the routine program or voluntarily.

According to nonprofit organization Know VPD, Protect Our Children, victims’ families receive ¥42.8 million if someone dies from a routine inoculation. By comparison, victims’ families receive just ¥7.14 million for children who die from a voluntary inoculation.

“We are asking that all vaccines become routine so that there is no inconsistency,” says pediatrician Chiharu Hosobe, one of the organizers of the July parade. “Collective immunity is essential if everyone is to be protected from infectious disease. That, however, is limited, so the people need to speak up.”

Hosobe, head of Hosobe Pediatric Clinic in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward, says she often hears mothers express concern about possible side effects of vaccines. The pediatrician holds regular study groups to provide information to parents about infectious diseases and inoculation in an effort to ease their fears.

“I provide information on the consequences of contracting a VPD. I also talk about the side effects of vaccination and ask them to weigh the risks,” Hosobe says. “I tell them there are many benefits to vaccination … and, ultimately, have each family decide what to do.”

However, there is also a strong core group of people opposed to this movement.

Hiroko Mori, former head of the infectious disease section at the former Institute of Public Health (now known as the National Institute of Public Health), has been warning people about the dangers of vaccination for decades.

The 80-year-old expert on public health used to be involved in research to improve the Japanese encephalitis vaccine and prevent the maternal transmission of hepatitis B.

Mori says times have changed and children don’t need to be vaccinated as much, noting that deaths of infants less than 1 year old have dropped from 205,000 in 1947 to 2,200 in 2013. Indeed, Japan has one of the lowest mortality rates of newborns and infants on the planet, according to World Health Organization data.

Much of this is due to the country’s first-class sanitation and levels of nutrition, Mori says, agreeing that vaccination is still advisable in developing countries.

“I don’t oppose vaccination across the board,” Mori says. “Medicine is supposed to be about healing, but babies who cannot speak are being given unnecessary shots because parents are scared. Children are losing their ability to heal naturally.”

Mori says that the push to vaccinate children is so strong that mothers who avoid it are being harassed and accused of neglect.

“There are so many people who have suffered side effects (from vaccination),” Mori says. “All we are asking is to establish the right to say ‘no.’ The right to choose should be recognized as a fundamental human right.”

In recent history, Japan has experienced its fair share of incidents related to vaccination.

In the 1970s, about 300 victims and relatives of children who died after receiving vaccinations against smallpox and other diseases in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka fought against the government and won compensation in the 1980s and ’90s.

Japan introduced the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine in 1989 but was forced to take it off the shelves four years later after about 2,000 people suffered side effects that included aseptic meningitis.

These incidents led to a major revision of the Preventive Vaccination Law in 1994, with lawmakers deciding to recategorize vaccination from being mandatory to one that is routine and optional.

People, however, continue to suffer from side effects caused by inoculation.

Statistics compiled by the health ministry show that 38 infants have died after being inoculated with the Haemophilus influenzae type B or streptococcus pneumoniae vaccines since 2011. And the health ministry has received more than 2,000 complaints of side effects from the human papillomavirus vaccine that is designed to prevent cervical cancer.

Parents, sadly, are caught between a rock and a hard place.

“The people I’ve met thought they were doing the right thing by getting their children vaccinated and now regret that decision forever,” says Masako Koga, who used to represent the Consumers Union of Japan. “There is no knowing who will suffer side effects as a result of vaccination. … (Proponents of vaccination) say the chance of suffering a side effect is 1 in a million. For parents, however, that one is everything.”

Koga, who has a son in his late 20s, says vaccinations used to start when children were around 2 years old. These days, however, infants get their first shot at around 2 months old and will usually receive at least 10 before their first birthday.

“Vaccination is different from medicine in that it intervenes unnaturally and puts viruses into a person’s body so that they build antibodies against certain diseases on their own,” Koga says. “Infants, however, have an immune system that is not fully developing, and so we should ensure it’s safe to put so many pathogenic germs into their bodies before doing so.”

Mori and Koga are concerned about the rapidly growing vaccination market. According to the Japanese Association of Vaccine Industries, the estimated value of domestic production totaled ¥41.8 billion in 1995 but shot up to ¥273.9 billion in 2012.

“Vaccines should only be given to those who need them but that is not happening. The global industry is being driven by a strategy that promotes VPD. We must put a stop to it,” says Koga, who currently works for Consumer Net Japan, an independent information network. “Vaccines have close ties to money. From development to circulation to research on side effects, there are a lot of vested interests involved.”

Proponents of vaccination have long argued that there is a wide “vaccine gap” between Japan and other Western countries and that Japan needs to catch up to the rest of the world.

According to a 2011 document compiled by the late Hitoshi Kamiya, honorary director of National Mie Hospital and an expert in vaccination, there is a 20-year period from the late 1980s when virtually no vaccine was approved in Japan. In that same period, the U.S. approved numerous vaccines, including inoculations to prevent chickenpox, streptococcus pneumoniae and human papillomavirus.

Now, however, Japan is slowly making up for lost time.

Tetsuo Nakayama, dean of Kitasato University’s Graduate School of Infection Control Sciences, says Japan has caught up in the sense that it has basically approved all of the necessary vaccines that are currently on the market.

Then again, he says there is not enough information provided on how vaccines have helped people over the years. Vaccination experts all agreed that the media coverage tends to focus on the dangerous side effects of inoculation rather than the positive aspects.

“There is an education gap and children are generally healthy because they have been protected by a vaccination,” Nakayama says. “However, many mothers nowadays hear about the dangers surrounding vaccination. They hear about how poisonous they are and are then unsure about whether to get their children inoculated or not. We need to fill the gap in education … because people also need to be educated about the danger of not vaccinating a child.”

Nakayama says 1 in 1,000 people who catch measles develop encephalitis, and around 30 percent of these people die or suffer severe complications afterward.

Meanwhile, 1 in a million people are estimated to develop encephalitis from a severe allergic reaction that may be related to the vaccine, he says.

“There is no guarantee that your child will not be that one out of 1,000. You have to compare the risks between the side effects and what will happen if you are infected with the disease naturally,” Nakayama says. “Under the existing law, the decision to vaccinate your child or not is basically left up to the parents, but there is not enough information out there for them to make an informed decision.”

Kawabe and her two daughters will be carriers of the hepatitis B virus for life, while her son has been diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B. She says she will have to warn her son about getting into fights that might lead to bleeding. She will also advise her children to ensure their partners are vaccinated and tell her daughters to seek proper medical care if they wish to have children so that they will be protected from maternal transmission.

“If I had known hepatitis B was something that children could contract, I would have had them vaccinated,” Kawabe says. “There is nothing we can do now.”

‘Scheduling vaccinations is notoriously difficult’

For new parents, the first year is always the hardest. From changing your baby’s first diaper to round-the-clock feeding, everything is a new and challenging experience.

On top of all the everyday stuff, parents soon discover there is a long list of vaccinations recommended by doctors that start at an extremely early age. It is recommended that infants receive vaccines for streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae type B, rotavirus and hepatitis B at 2 months old. These are followed by vaccines for diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles, rubella, mumps, chickenpox and Japanese encephalitis.

“I didn’t realize that so many vaccines were necessary,” says Noriko Miyamoto, a 43-year-old mother of a 4-month-old girl. “I had to look for information to study why all of these vaccines were necessary. I also talked to my daughter’s pediatrician and came to the conclusion that I would get her vaccinated to protect her.”

Compounding the problem, most vaccines need to be given a number of times, with a certain period of time required between shots. And then there are booster shots that are recommended as the child grows older. To help parents manage their scheduling, developers have created a number of smartphone applications. Know VPD, Protect Our Children, a nonprofit organization established in 2008, created an app called Vaccine Scheduler in December 2011.

About 10,000 people download Vaccine Scheduler onto their smartphones every month, and in total 400,000 people have downloaded the app so far, according to the organization. “We knew that scheduling vaccinations is notoriously difficult and inconvenient, but we didn’t think it would get such a big response,” says Know VPD, Protect Our Children’s Asako Nakai. “It shows that many mothers are trying to manage the schedule properly.”

  • Perogyo

    Where exactly does the figure of 38 infant deaths after the HiB vaccine was administered come from?

    38 deaths in less than 3 years which are actually related to a vaccine (rather than a child dying of SIDS or a car accident a month after the vaccine), as this article implies, would be cause for grave concern. Since the MHLW has pulled vaccines (such as Japanese encephalitis) in the past for much less serious suspicions, it doesn’t make sense that there has been no talk about pulling the HiB vaccine if this were true.

  • Judith

    If they can create an App which reminds people of the vaccine schedule – why can’t they create one on which a person can report adverse reactions of vaccination.l There is a simple reason – the Governments in all first world countries do not want the true extent of vaccine damage to become known. It is estimated that only 1% of all vaccine damage is reported as it is not mandatory for busy nurses and doctors to report and they often dismiss side effects as not related. Adverse events are not often reported by the public as they don;t know how to report.

    • Dorit Reiss

      There is no basis for the 1% number for vaccines. It is taken from an article by David Kessler that made an express exception for vaccines. While there is probably some problems caused by vaccines that go unreported, there is a lot of over reporting – reporting of things not caused by vaccines – in the U.S..

      And the real incidence of problems isn’t left to reports: there are studies looking at them.

      That’s how we know vaccines are very, very safe, and serious problems very, very rare.

  • Joe Kurosu, M.D.

    Although there are studies that show that provision of information does not change the minds of those who choose not to vaccinate, I think we must always try to provide as accurate as information as possible. In that vein…

    The MMR was discontinued in Japan for reports of increased rates of aseptic meningitis (not bacterial meningitis) presumably due to the mumps component.

    “puts viruses into a person’s body” — Although “live” vaccines do contain viruses, many vaccines are inactivated vaccines for bacterial diseases and do not contain viruses.

    “The right to choose should be recognized as a fundamental human right.” All vaccines are optional in Japan. None are required for school attendance.

    “38 infants have died after being inoculated” — must always be careful with association versus causation…

    “Japan has caught up in the sense that it has basically approved all of the necessary vaccines that are currently on the market.” — I would beg to differ. Many combined vaccines, which would greatly simplify the current complex schedule, are not approved.

    Finally, I would be interested in knowing what Dr. Mori would say to the infants suffering from congenital rubella syndrome (which most developed nations seem to be have been able to minimize through vaccination), or those who with deafness from mumps. She’ll have to speak up, though, because they can’t hear that well…

    • Mike Stevens

      Quite right.
      Mori also says:
      “Japan introduced the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine in 1989
      but was forced to take it off the shelves four years later after about
      2,000 people suffered side effects that included aseptic meningitis.”

      What he doesn’t say is that this side effect (aseptic meningitis, which was due to the Urabe strain mumps vaccine), is usually a very minor problem. It causes illness, with headache, fever and can rarely be quite severe, but almost always resolves with no sequelae whatsoever. It affected around one in every 12,000 who received Urabe MMR.
      The salient fact Mori fails to mention is that when kids get mumps, around 5-10% of them will also suffer from this same aseptic meningitis. It is part of having natural mumps.

      Mori does not mention the awful consequences of Japan stopping MMR vaccines – within a decade there were massive epidemics of measles, with over 200,000 kids affected, and numerous deaths from measles encephalitis, pneumonia and other complications.

  • Ron NJ

    I find it troubling that the “right to choose” is so often believed to
    be without limit and that little concern is given to the people who are
    put in danger by those who refuse to vaccinate. Herd immunity only
    exists because the majority is immune, which is only possible thanks to
    vaccinations (or massive outbreaks of diseases which trigger active

    You certainly should have a right to choose, but not when you put others at risk.

    • June Park

      Herd immunity is a myth. If it worked, due to the high vaccination rates in the US, we would have eradicated quite a few diseases here.

  • Dorit Reiss

    It’s great that this article highlights the access problems inherent in the voluntary vaccination problem, and the dangers of leaving children unvaccinated. That said, it has a few problems, falling into the trap of false balance. Mainly is letting Dr. Mori’s claims stand uncorrected. For example, there was no need to take the MMR away: there was another version available without the connection to meningitis, the one used in the U.S.. The cost of taking the MMR off the schedule was, to my understanding, outbreaks rubella with cases of Congenital Rubella Syndrome and still ongoing outbreaks of mumps. Hardly a good result.

    As pointed by another commentator, deaths after HiB vaccine are not the same as deaths caused by the HiB vaccine. The HiB vaccine is a very safe one and not connected with serious problems in the U.S. (see “A Look at Each Vaccine: Hib Vaccine” CHOP vaccine education center).

    Modern vaccines are very, very safe. There are no two unknowns: there are two sets of known risks. One, the risks from the vaccine, is very small. The other, the risk from the disease, is much smaller today than in the past, thanks to high vaccination rates, but is much, much larger than the risks of the vaccine.

  • Judith

    Gates Foundation, WHO, PATH, GAVI, UNICEF Behind Chad Vaccine Disaster

    In December 2012, in the small village of Gouro, Chad, Africa, situated on the edge of the Sahara Desert, five hundred children were locked into their school, threatened that if they did not agree to being force-vaccinated with a meningitis A vaccine, they would receive no further education.

    These children were vaccinated without their parents’ knowledge. This vaccine was an unlicensed product still going through the third and fourth phases of testing.

    Within hours, one hundred and six children began to suffer from headaches, vomiting, severe uncontrollable convulsions and paralysis. The children’s wait for a doctor began. They had to wait one full week for a doctor to arrive while the team of vaccinators proceeded to vaccinate others in the village.

    When the doctor finally came, he could do nothing for the children. The team of vaccinators, upon seeing what had happened, fled the village in fear.

    The original report written in a small, local newspaper called La Voix, the only newspaper to have published the original story, stated that forty children were finally transferred to a hospital in Faya and later taken by plane to two hospitals in N’Djamena, the capital city of Chad.

    • Sam Gilman

      This is an anti-vax scare story. Certainly, a group of children fell ill in Chad. The story is here:

      And in digitised form here:

      If the children had been infected by the vaccine, they would have taken a lot longer than a few hours to develop symptoms. As is made clear in the original story in La Voix, the symptoms they experienced are different to those one gets from adverse reactions to vaccines.

      If a group of children going to a clinic fall ill together, but children elsewhere going to clinics for the same vaccine don’t fall ill, and if what they fall ill with looks nothing like a vaccine reaction, perhaps the cause just might be something else. Perhaps that’s why it didn’t get splashed across the world.

      Please stop being a danger to child health by spreading this trash.

      • Judith

        More shenanigans by the Gate’s foundation

        The Economic Times India published their report August 2014. They stated that in 2009, tests had been carried out on 16,000 tribal school children in Andhra Pradesh, India, using the human papiloma virus (HPV) vaccine, Gardasil.

        According to the report written by KP Narayana Kumar, within a month of receiving the vaccine, many of the children fell ill and by 2010, five of them had died. A further two children were reported to have died in Vadodara, Gujarat, where an estimated 14,000 tribal children were vaccinated with another brand of the HPV vaccine, Cervarix, manufactured by GlaxoSmitheKline (GSK).

        Shockingly, the report stated that many of the consent forms used to vaccinate the girls were signed “illegally,” either by the wardens from the hostels where many of the girls resided, or using thumbprints from illiterate parents.

        This travesty was not discovered until a team of health activists from the non-government organization SAMA, an organization specializing in women’s health, decided to investigate what had been going on.

        According to the report, they were shocked to discover that a total of 120 girls had been taken ill, suffering from a variety of symptoms, including “epileptic seizures, severe stomach aches, headaches and mood swings.”

        The Economic Times stated:

        “The Sama report also said there had been cases of early onset of menstruation following the vaccination, heavy bleeding and severe menstrual cramps among many students. The standing committee pulled up the relevant state governments for the shoddy investigation into these deaths.

        It said it was disturbed to find that ‘all the seven deaths were summarily dismissed as unrelated to vaccinations without in-depth investigations …’ the speculative causes were suicides, accidental drowning in well (why not suicide?), malaria, viral infections, subarachnoid hemorrhage (without autopsy) etc.”

        This information is even more shocking when you discover that the organization funding the study was none other than the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who declared the project a total success.

      • Sam Gilman

        Judith, your problem is that you cut and paste without thinking, like an automaton. I can prove it to you.

        You’re presenting a scandal where, out of 16,000 women aged 9-15, five died, and out of another 14,000, 2 died.

        Let’s take a moment to put our brains in and ask: “how many girls of that age would we expect to die anyway in that time period – of things like suicide, malaria and so on?”

        Luckily, there’s this thing called the Internet. The internet helps me find this page, which gives me age specific mortality rates for women in India on one of the many excel files on the UN Department of Economica and Social Affairs site on mortality data. I find that the probability of a female dying while they are aged 10 is 0.00508. If you like, 0.5% of Indian girls aged 10 will never make it out of that age. Coincidentally, it’s the safest age there to be female, so I’m not cherry picking the rate at all for what I want to show you. (For comparison, the rate for Australia is 0.00045, or 0.045%).

        16,000 times 0.00508 is 81.28. We would expect 81 deaths a year. From the whole 30,000, we would expect 152 deaths.

        So seven deaths is hardly a shock; I’m actually interested where all the rest went; there should actually be more. I’m pretty sure that it’s seven sets of parents who have dealt with their grief by blaming their child’s death on vaccines, no doubt egged on by anti-vaxxers. I shudder at the thought of losing my own children, and I can understand people trying to rationalise what must make them devastated with guilt, and I can understand how vulnerable they can be. That, however, is not the same as scientific evidence.

        The deaths were “suicides, accidental drowning in well, malaria, viral infections, subarachnoid hemorrhage”. In no way does this look anything like a problem caused by vaccines. It just doesn’t. Instead, it looks like a story cooked up by anti-vaccine activists out of the personal tragedy of a small group of people.

        You see? A little independent thinking, a little intelligent use of google, and suddenly you are liberated from the hold of the cult-like Anti-Vaccination Network.

        Now, Judith, I want you to do something for me. I want you to reflect on the group that has been passing you all this information that I’m showing you is false or utterly misleading, and which exploits the tragedy of teenage suicide, especially of girls in a country which has a serious issue of gender abuse, and exploits the grief of bereaved parents, and does it all for their own self-serving propaganda, and reflect on this: Should you trust them?. If you were open-minded, you wouldn’t shy away from thinking about just that.

        Are you open-minded enough, Judith?

      • Judith

        Mr Sam – I have reflected on the
        Economic Times and consider it a fair source of information. I think what is shocking about this incident is that their it appears there was no proper permission given for the studies I am concerned with the way the powerful corporations are treating those too illiterate to help themselves.

        “The committee found that consent for conducting these studies, in many cases, was taken from the hostel wardens, which was a flagrant violation of norms. In many other cases, thumbprint impressions of their poor and illiterate parents were duly affixed onto the consent form. The children also had no idea about the nature of the disease or the vaccine. The authorities concerned could not furnish requisite consent forms for the vaccinated children in a huge number of cases.

        The committee said it was “deeply shocked to find that in Andhra Pradesh out of the 9,543 [consent] forms, 1,948 forms have thumb impressions while hostel wardens have signed 2,763 forms. In Gujarat, out of the 6,217 forms 3,944 have thumb impressions and 5,454 either signed or carried thumb impressions of guardians. The data revealed that a very large number of parents or guardians are illiterate and could not even write in their local languages, Telugu or Gujarati.”

        Earlier this month, taking a serious view of the death of seven tribal girls in the context of the observation studies, the Supreme Court asked the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to explain how permissions were given”.

      • Sam Gilman

        You say

        I also do not understand why Indian girls who rarely if ever have sex before they marry are being given a vaccine for genital warts – mostly a product of sexual promiscuity.

        When you don’t understand something, I think it’s a good idea to access the internet, using something like Google, to try and learn. Stopping at “I do not understand” is what your anti-vaccine groups want you to do. Look what happened when I googled [India HPV]:

        Cervical cancer in India and HPV vaccination
        K. Kaarthigeyan

        Cervical cancer, mainly caused by Human Papillomavirus infection, is the leading cancer in Indian women and the second most common cancer in women worldwide. Though there are several methods of prevention of cervical cancer, prevention by vaccination is emerging as the most effective option, with the availability of two vaccines. Several studies have been published examining the vaccine’s efficacy, immunogenicity and safety. Questions and controversy remain regarding mandatory vaccination, need for booster doses and cost-effectiveness, particularly in the Indian context..

        Do you feel like you understand now?

        If your concern is about consent – which has nothing to do with the vaccines themselves – then I’m all ears, although being sniffy about people using fingerprints instead of signatures is to disenfranchise the illiterate poor, who are generally more female. I’d like to see the results of an investigation.

      • Judith

        If the women have not picked it up through sexual exposure as sex before marriage is rare in India – then it must be through other exposures which means that the girls would have these viruses when they get the vaccine. In this case the vaccine is not effective. according to information Merck presented to the FDA prior to approval, if you have already been exposed to HPV 16 or 18 before getting a Gardasil shot, then Gardasil may increase your risk of developing precancerous lesions and cancer by nearly 45 percent. There are more than 100 viral strains of HPV. Of these, about 30-40 are sexually transmitted and 15 strains are associated with cervical cancer.
        Gardasil contains only four of these HPV strains, so if you contract one of the 96+ types that aren’t included, too bad.. And, if you’ve already been exposed to one of the four types of virus in the vaccine, it doesn’t work against those either.

      • Sam Gilman


        I know you have protested that you are thinking independently about vaccines when I say you’re not, but what you wrote here – they’re not your words, are they? They’re copy-pasted from Joseph Mercola’s site, in an article about a video by the Queen of the anti-vaccination movement, Barbara Loe Fisher. You even forgot to capitalise the first letter of your cut and paste, beginning as it did, in the original, in the middle of a sentence.

        So what? Who is Joseph Mercola? He is a snake-oil salesman, complete with FDA warnings about his promotion of quack medicines and fake diagnostic equipment. He makes his money selling woo to gullible people – he brings in $7 million a year. He is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a far-right quasi-religious organisation that has published not only dangerous scientific nonsense (such as claiming that abortions cause breast cancer, or that global warming does not exist), but also racist material too. He denies the link between HIV and AIDS, wants people to stop protecting themselves against skin cancer, wants to stop heart disease suffers getting vital drugs and, of course, he hates vaccines.

        Who is Barbara Loe Fisher? Put it this way, when she tried to sue a real vaccine specialist for saying “she tells lies”, the case was dismissed out of court. She supports the fraud Andrew Wakefield, for pity’s sake, a man worthily reviled in his own country and stripped of his license for the lies he told millions of parents.

        Why are you putting your faith in such nasty individuals? Why trust them, with their millions in annual income from selling quack medicine?

      • Judith

        Sam – you ask why I trust evil people like Joseph Mercola who is just one of the “evil” people who speaks independantly and talks honestly about the dangers of vaccines. Of course you hate and vilify any person who does. I ask you why do you trust the evil corporations who make vaccines and who have killed many thousands of people through their corruption.

        Richard Horton, writing as editor of the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, stated that:

        “A study of the interactions between authors of clinical practice guidelines and the pharmaceutical industry……… found serious omissions in declarations of conflicts of interest. Almost 90% of authors received research funding from or acted as consultants for a drug company. Over half had connections with companies whose drugs were being reviewed in the guideline, and the same proportion indicated that there was no formal procedure for reporting these interactions.” He also wrote in 2004 that “journals have devolved into information laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry”.

        ” Merck was continually trying to deflect major criminal charges related to its shady marketing and sales tactics and allegations of mismanagement. A U.S. Senate Finance Committee hearing investigated the drug company’s cozy ties with the FDA, questioned the company’s $195 million direct-to-consumer marketing plan and looked into possible Medicaid and Medicare fraud. Today, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, continues to question Merck’s relationship with the FDA, charging the FDA and Merck collaborated to hide the Vioxx side effects.Although Merck agreed to pay $950 million and plead guilty to a federal misdemeanor related to its marketing practices, many were outraged by the settlement because the company still gleaned billions of dollars in Vioxx profits and was hardly reprimanded for the related deaths. The company did pay a $321 million criminal fine, $426 million to the federal government and $202 million to 48 states and the District of Columbia to settle civil claims that Merck’s illegal marketing influenced doctors to prescribe a drug they would not have otherwise prescribed. Up to 38,000 people died from heart attacks or strokes after taking Vioxx, with a total of about 160,000 patients injured. While some of the victims had had ongoing heart problems, many more did not…

      • Mike Stevens

        Judith, these girls died variously of problems such as drowning, suicide, snakebite and malaria. In a country where many girls die of similar causes, it is expected that among tens of thousands of vaccine trial participants that one would expect to see a few deaths – that is merely background noise. Indeed, it would be rather odd if some girls had not died.

        Whether the trial had irregularities in it concerning consent of participants is another matter entirely. The inquiry committee which has highlighted these lapses in protocol has specifically stated the deaths had nothing to do with the vaccine.
        “The final report, which was out in February, is yet to be placed in the public domain. It is interesting to note that though the inquiry committee did not find any link between the deaths and vaccination, it found lapses as far as protocols of clinical trials and ethical issues of consent, particularly in the case of vulnerable groups, were concerned.”

    • Mike Stevens

      I hope that now you realise this is a “non-story” wrt vaccines, you will cease citing it?

  • Sam Gilman

    You said “All vaccines are tested against other vaccines”. I’m afraid this is simply false. Vaccines for conditions where there is no known effective treatment are tested against placebo.

    What groups like the deplorableAnti-Vaccine Network in Australia are trying to exploit for fearmongering purposes (and about child health, for pity’s sake, Judith!) is the fact that where there is already an established vaccine for a condition, when a new vaccine gets to the human trial stage (that is, there is already very good evidence that it works well), it is compared to the existing vaccine. This is because it is UNETHICAL to deliberately expose children to catching a disease for which there is already an effective means of prevention. It would be an appalling thing to do.

    Judith, is it that you would prefer children to be unnecessarily exposed to crippling and fatal diseases? Do you want that? Of course you don’t. But that’s what the AVN are demanding. They’re not very nice people, Judith. They’re not very honest.

    You then provide a long quote by someone called Viera Scheibner, someone who thinks it’s good for children to get measles and other childhood diseases. To put it mildly, she’s a quack. She’s not a medical doctor, and she doesn’t publish her vaccine “research” in scientific journals. She just makes money out of selling books to the gullible. She’s even worked with the vaccine uberfraud Andrew Wakefield (a man who should be in jail, frankly – his deception was astonishing). For example:

    When immunization was delayed until a child was 24 months of age, Sudden Infant Death cases and claims for vaccine related deaths disappeared

    Of course it did. SIDS can only happen, by definition, to children under 12 months of age. She’s bullsh*tting you. She says:

    [Following cessation of early vaccine in 1975] Japan zoomed from a high 17th place in infant mortality rate to the lowest infant mortality rate in the world when they stopped vaccinating. But then in 1988, Japanese parents were given the choice to start vaccinating anywhere between three months and 48 months.

    This is a lie. Look at the figures for where Japan was in the UN tables:

    1950-55: 19th. 1955-60: 20th. 1960-65: 14th. 1965-70: 7th. 1970-75: 6th. 1975-80: 3rd. 1980-85: 3rd. 1985-90: 1st. 1990-95: 1st.

    No connection whatsoever with the years she quotes, including when early vaccinations were reintroduced. By the by, from 1995-2010, the country with the lowest infant mortality was Singapore. Here’s their vaccination schedule. LOADS of vaccines between birth and 18 months.

    To quote the World Health Organisation, who are a bit more qualified than the retired geologist Viera Scheibner:

    One myth that won’t seem to go away is that DTP vaccine causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This belief came about because a moderate proportion of children who die of SIDS have recently been vaccinated with DTP; on the surface, this seems to point toward a causal connection. This logic is faulty however; you might as well say that eating bread causes car crashes, since most drivers who crash their cars could probably be shown to have eaten bread within the past 24 hours.

    If you consider that most SIDS deaths occur during the age range when three shots of DTP are given, you would expect DTP shots to precede a fair number of SIDS deaths simply by chance. In fact, when a number of well-controlled studies were conducted during the 1980s, the investigators found, nearly unanimously, that the number of SIDS deaths temporally associated with DTP vaccination was within the range expected to occur by chance. In other words, the SIDS deaths would have occurred even if no vaccinations had been given.

    In fact, in several of the studies, children who had recently received a DTP shot were less likely to get SIDS. The Institute of Medicine reported that “all controlled studies that have compared immunized versus non-immunized children have found either no association . . . or a decreased risk . . . of SIDS among immunized children” and concluded that “the evidence does not indicate a causal relation between [DTP] vaccine and SIDS.”

    Please do everyone a favour, Judith: look at the AVN for what it is: a serious menace to children’s health. Please, please, for the sake of everyone else’s children even if not your own: stop reproducing their scams. I cannot confess to understanding their motivations, but to me, they are bad, bad people.

    • Judith

      Sam there are no double blind placebo studies of any vaccine on the current schedule. Please post one full study so I can read it. A retrospective study could be done between
      vaccinated and unvaccinated as there are many unvaccinated children but the government refuses to do it.

      Tell me Sam why does the government allow Thimerosal in the form of mercury – a known neurotoxin to be given to pregnant women and children? Most of the flu vaccines contain
      thimerosal. To get a thimerosal free vaccine you have to make a special request and they are more expensive.

      Also I have never visited the AVN site – why do you assume I cannot think for myself.

      • Sam Gilman

        Here’s what you say:

        Sam there are no double blind placebo studies of any vaccine on the current schedule. Please post one full study so I can read it.

        I’ve made it very clear why a lot of modern vaccine trials, which involve improvements on older treatments, do not involve a placebo: it would be deeply unethical where there is already an effective treatment. Are you really saying that you, Judith, would instead recommend the needless exposure of children to crippling and fatal diseases by giving them no protection at all?I wouldn’t wish that on your children; why on Earth would you wish it on others?

        But in any case, licenses have been given to vaccines that have been placebo trialled: here’s a reference to a couple:

        And here is an example of a trial for novel infant vaccines that include placebo in development:,_Immunogenicity_and_Efficacy.14.aspx

        And another here:

        A retrospective study could be done between vaccinated and unvaccinated as there are many unvaccinated children but the government refuses to do it.

        No comparator studies?Again, your anti-vaccine sites are letting you down: Here’s a nice summary of just such a study:

        Do vaccinations put too much strain on or weaken children’s immune systems? Roma Schmitz and her colleagues from the Robert Koch Institute investigate exactly this research question in the current issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International.
        Their data are based on the results of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS).

        In their study, the authors compare the occurrence of infections and allergies in vaccinated and unvaccinated children and adolescents. These include bronchitis, eczema, colds, and gastrointestinal infections.

        The evaluation showed that unvaccinated children and adolescents differ from their vaccinated peers merely in terms of the frequency of vaccine preventable diseases. These include pertussis, mumps, or measles. As expected, the risk of contracting these diseases is substantially lower in vaccinated children and adolescents.

        Original study available here. tl;dr: Vaccines work.

        Then, inevitably:

        Tell me Sam why does the government allow Thimerosal in the form of mercury – a known neurotoxin to be given to pregnant women and children?

        Mercury is not a form of Thimerosal. Thimerosal is a compound of mercury. Compounds are different to their constituents. Drinking chlorine is dangerous, but putting salt in food is not (blood pressure aside). And, in any case, studies have shown no harm:

        It’s being withdrawn anyway, mainly it seems, to allay fears, and is present in very, very few vaccines these days.

        I consider the anti-vaccine groups to be little short of monstrous, and I urge you to disassociate yourself from them.

      • Judith

        Sam -The KIGGS study is a poor example of a study. The unvaccinated represented a very small fraction only 94 children, among 17.641 vaccinated which makes it impossible to do any meaningful statistics on things such as autism which has a prevalence rate of roughly 1 in 110 at the time. However if the German’s can do it – so can the USA – some of the billions flowing from Big Pharma’s coffers could be put into a proper study.

        (KIGGS) showed that 4.7% of these children suffer from asthma, 10.7% of these children from hay fever and 13.2% from neurodermatitis. These numbers differ in western countries, i.e. the prevalence of asthma among children in the US is 6% whereas it is 14-16% in Australia (Australia’s Health 2004, AIHW).
        The prevalence of asthma among unvaccinated children in the study is 0.2%, hay fever 1.5% and neurodermatitis 2%.

      • Sam Gilman


        You didn’t specify studies into autism, just general comparative studies. Now, if you want studies specifically on vaccines and autism then I can give you absolutely loads.

        This review from 2009: “A worldwide increase in the rate of autism diagnoses—likely driven by broadened diagnostic criteria and increased awareness—has fueled concerns that an environmental exposure like vaccines might cause autism. Theories for this putative association have centered on the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, thimerosal, and the large number of vaccines currently administered. However, both epidemiological and biological studies fail to support these claims.”

        Or this one about the US, Sweden and Denmark: “In all three countries, the incidence and prevalence of autism-like disorders began to rise in the 1985–1989 period, and the rate of increase accelerated in the early 1990s. However, in contrast to the situation in the United States, where the average Thimerosal dose from vaccines increased throughout the 1990s, Thimerosal exposures from vaccines in both Sweden and Denmark—already low throughout the 1970s and 1980s—began to decrease in the late 1980s and were eliminated in the early 1990s.”

        What upsets me about your behaviour, Judith, is that It’s really easy to find this stuff, and I’m not sure what stops you from finding it. Is it possibly some weird kind of ideological fundamentalism? Or is it that you find it but keep it a secret? I’m having difficulty trusting you here. You are, I hope, a trustworthy person, and someone who would prefer to stick with the truth than with any ideology.

        Look, here’s a good place to start if you want scientific evidence: . That cuts back the trash on your screen from the cranks at AVN, Vaccination Information Network, naturalnews, Joseph Mercola, Stormfront, David Icke, etc. and gets you what scientists are saying.

        People running the show in the anti-vaccine movement are a horrible bunch of deceitful, delusional, money-making toads. They’re exploiting people like you, Judith. I’m not saying that because I want to sell you anything. I have nothing to sell. On the other hand, they do. Think about that.

      • Mike Stevens

        Well said that man!

      • Judith

        In reply to your statement “Mercury is not a form of Thimerosal. Thimerosal is a compound of mercury. Compounds are different to their constituents. Drinking chlorine is dangerous, but putting salt in food is not (blood pressure aside). And, in any case, studies have shown no harm:” I would refer you to
        Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 11 Number 2 Summer 2006
        Thimerosal is an ethyl mercury-thiosalicylate compound that rapidly disassociates into ethyl mercury, a short-chain alkyl mercurial. It has also been shown that ethyl mercury is further metabolized to inorganic mercury. Therefore, toxicity data from studies of thimerosal, ethyl mercury, and inorganic mercury are all relevant in assessing influenza vaccine safety.There are currently no federal regulatory guidelines for ethyl mercury exposure by injection; however, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established guidelines for ingested methylmercury, which has been far more extensively studied. The EPAís current daily allowable methylmercury exposure limit is 0.1μg/kg/day. Both forms of mercury are structurally similar short- chain alkyl (organic) mercurials that readily enter cell membrane lipid bilayers, including the placenta and brain. Most adult influenza vaccines contain an equivalent of 25 μg of mercury per dose (Table 1). An average-sized pregnant woman receiving an influenza vaccine will be exposed to organic mercury that exceeds the EPA limit by a factor of 3.5 (Table 4). The fetus could potentially receive a dose of mercury that exceeds EPA limits by a much larger factor. Furthermore, fetal blood mercury concentrations have been shown to be as much as 4.3 times the maternal level. A larger proportion of ethyl mercury accumulates in fetal tissues relative to maternal tissues, especially in the central nervous system. The observation of a 7.8-15.7% prevalence of elevated umbilical cord mercury in the United States, at levels associated with loss of IQ, adds to the significance of additional mercury exposure from prenatal vaccination.

      • Sam Gilman


        In addition to Enkidu (who beat me to it) pointing out that JPANDS is not a serious journal, but the product of a far-right pseudo-scientific organisation that publishes all kinds of nonsense, it’s worth looking at the authors Ayoub and Yazbak, just to confirm why we’d need something just a little more reliable.

        David Ayoub is a New-World-Order conspiracy theorist who believes that the Illuminati (secret beings that control the world) created vaccines for population control. He hates Unicef, and he hates women’s rights.

        F. Edward Yazbak cites vaccines as a means of covering up parents who abuse their own children. The link is to an anti-vaccine site proudly promoting the idea that shaken baby syndrome is a result of vaccines. I don’t really know how much lower these people can sink before it should become clear to you, Judith, that they’re not nice people.

  • Electra CV

    “deaths of infants less than 1 year old have dropped from 205,000 in 1947 to 2,200 in 2013”
    Infant and child death rates have gone down elsewhere, too, not least thanks to vaccination programmes. As for the scheduling difficulties, Japan could seek advice from abroad, since it doesn’t seem to be a problem in less well-organised countries (and that includes a time when parents only had those little booklets with dates and notes about vaccines and examinations).

  • Enkidu

    Hi Judith, I’m not sure if you know this already, but the journal you referenced, the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, is just a front for the conservative political advocacy group Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. You may want to be more careful when referencing sources in the future to ensure that they are somewhat credible.

  • June Park

    Vaccines are not 100% effective thus the term “vaccine preventable disease” is not accurate. Read the package inserts and study the diseases. Know that manufacturers often do their own testing which creates biased studies in their favor. I wish I knew this before two of my children were injured. Informed consent is a huge factor.

  • Starviking

    Do you have a scientific reference for your quote Judith?

    • Judith

      Which quote Starviking?

      • Starviking

        The quote starting:

        “JAPAN: In 1975, about 37 Crib Sudden Deaths were linked to vaccination
        in Japan. Doctors in one prefecture boycotted vaccinations, and refused
        to vaccinate. The Japanese government paid attention and stopped
        vaccinating children below the age of two years….”

      • Judith
      • Starviking

        Science-y. Steven Bassler MD, has a good review article which covers Viera Scheibner’s claims.

        Notable is the fact that her claim that after Japan moved the immunization age from 3 months to 2 years, no cases of SIDS occurred in Japan. She was wrong at best, lying at worst.

        Bassler writes:

        “In Japan during the period concerned there was in place a Vaccine Compensation System, and the data presented by Noble and Cherry relate to claims made through this system. Compensation was commonly awarded for events considered possibly due to immunisation, unless there was clear evidence that this was not the case. Approximately two thirds of claims submitted were accepted.

        Noble and Cherry both report that when the minimum immunisation age was moved from three
        months to two years there were no claims made
        through the compensation system for vaccine related sudden death. They do not claim, as Dr Scheibner suggests, that there were no deaths from SIDS in Japan following the change in immunisation age.

        Claims for vaccine related sudden death stopped,
        not because children were no longer dying, but because their deaths no longer occurred during a period when they were also receiving immunisation.

        How can you claim for a vaccine-related death if no vaccine was given?”

      • Starviking
      • Judith

        Japan delayed the DTP vaccine from 3 months to 2 yrs, but did not move the whole vaccine schedule to 2 years. Japan is quite cautious -If they see adverse effects they immediately stop and investigate and invariably restart. Currently the HPV vaccine is on hold pending investigation.

      • Starviking

        Well, if you look at Table 1 on page 21 of the document I linked to yesterday, you’ll find two things:

        1) Evidence that the Japanese authorities’ cautious attitude resulted in an explosion of Pertussis, and related deaths.

        and 2) As this is from the same paper Dr Scheibner used to bolster her claims, she must either be a poor reader or a fraud.

      • notation

        And this is significant how, exactly, Judy?

      • Mike Stevens

        I’m afraid that quoting something penned by a retired palaeontologist in an antivaccine website doesn’t count as a “scientific reference” Judith.

  • Sam Gilman

    Once again, you’re cutting and pasting, and hiding your sources (which is dishonest): Edward Yazbak again. You can’t back up Edward Yazbak with more Edward Yazbak. The other two articles don’t even mention vaccines at all. We’re talking about kids dying, and you’re not taking this issue seriously at all. Is this just a game to you?

    Read this very carefully, Judith. Shaken baby syndrome affects between 1000 and 1500 babies in the US every year. A quarter of them will die from their injuries. The article you secretly quote from is about a couple supposedly falsely accused by social services of fatally injuring their baby by shaking because actually, according to Yazbak, a vaccine did the damage? Their baby’s death was ruled homicide. The baby, which had several fractures had been shaken so violently it died of whiplash injuries. There was violent damage to the spinal cord. The baby’s sister was examined and she had skeletal injuries to her ribs, arms, and legs.

    This is where your anti-vaccine beliefs have taken you to: not just to the point where you think it’s fine for children to get all kinds of diseases that may deafen, cripple or kill them. You want actively to cover up for people who beat and murder children.

    For the love of god, Judith, can’t you see you’ve made a bad choice here?