Here is an article on swine flu and vaccination written for The Times by guest contributor Dr Richard Halvorsen. Background: Halvorsen runs a clinic that offers single vaccines for measles and rubella (at a cost of £95 each), and he has also contributed to prolonging the media’s MMR hoax by writing pieces such as this one (an extract from his book “The Truth About Vaccines” in which he recommended that it may “be worth vaccinating against measles with a single vaccine”).
Halvorsen writes that “swine flu is far milder than we first feared, so the case for vaccinating millions of healthy adults against a disease that is no more unpleasant than a bad cold is questionable” which ignores the fact that the virus could yet mutate into a more virulent strain. As the WHO warned recently “the [swine flu] virus would, like all viruses, circulate more widely in colder weather and possibly mutate. As the days get shorter, so the need for the vaccine will grow” (from the scotsman.com website).
He then raises doubts that the vaccine will be safe and effective for certain groups, including children under five. To back this up, he claims that a number of trials have failed to show benefit of flu vaccination on asthma in children (and claims that one trial “suggested that the vaccine made asthma worse”). I am unclear as to why Halvorsen chose to use benefit of vaccination on asthma as the primary objective. I am also unclear as to why he referred to an adverse effect of influenza vaccination on asthma on the basis of a single study, while failing to inform readers as to the nature of this study or the number of children that would likely be affected were the results of the study demonstrating a genuine negative effect of vaccination. This paper notes, in the section headed “Safety of the influenza vaccines in children”, that “randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled multicenter study of 2,032 patients with asthma, 712 of whom were aged 3 to 18 years, no asthma exacerbations were observed among those vaccinated up to 2 weeks after vaccination” and later (under “Efficacy of the influenza vaccine in children”) states that “Kramarz et al reported efficacy in asthma patients for reducing asthma exacerbations after vaccination with the inactivated influenza vaccine”. I am unable to report on the paper that Halvorsen relies upon, as no citation or link is provided (the lack of citations and links to original research is, sadly, still customary in the mainstream media and this lack continues to hinder informed discussion).
Halvorsen goes on to raise the issue of Guillain-Barré syndrome, referring to a swine flu vaccine used in America in 1976, and claims that:
Research later estimated that there was one case of GBS caused by every 100,000 swine flu vaccines given. If the current vaccine caused a similar rate of cases, then we could expect hundreds of people to get GBS, some of whom will suffer permanent paralysis or die. [My italics - I think this is a rather big "if".]
Again, no link or citation is given. The reader must guess as to the nature of the research. By chance, I noticed a similar claim on Wikipedia and will now link to the source of the claim: here. The article states that “The 1978 book “The Swine Flu Affair” revealed that developing Guillain-Barré syndrome was about 11 times greater with the vaccination than without. Yet it noted that the risk was very low; about one in 105,000 who were vaccinated got it.” I have no idea whether the research Halvorsen refers to is the 1978 book or how rigorously the author of the book researched swine flu vaccination and Guillain-Barré syndrome. There are problems with referring to research but failing to give citations or links (nobody can check the research for themselves, for one thing) and with using a book as a source (books tend not to be indexed on Pubmed, so can’t be easily checked – it may not even be possible to buy a copy). Meanwhile, a paper I found on Pubmed states that of adverse events reported following inoculation with flu vaccines (note: not specifically swine flu) “Guillain-Barré syndrome was the most frequently reported serious event (0.70 reports per million vaccinations)” and the CDC website states that “Several studies have been done to evaluate if other flu vaccines since 1976 were associated with GBS. Only one of the studies showed an association. That study suggested that one person out of 1 million vaccinated persons may be at risk of GBS associated with the vaccine.” (Annoyingly, the CDC page, like The Times’ online article, fails to cite or link to the original research.)
What would I say to The Times about this article? Well, I would recommend that they think very carefully in future before inviting comment on vaccination from someone who played a part in the MMR scare and who may be looking to promote their clinic which offers single vaccines or, say, a book on vaccination that is due to be published shortly. Also, I would ask that when they publish an article that refers to research supporting the views of the author of a comment piece they cite the research or (even better) link directly to it. It isn’t difficult, it isn’t impractical and it doesn’t make your articles somehow less accessible to the layman reader.