Dr Sarah Myhill’s website has a page on MMR vaccination that contains several untrue statements. I shall highlight some of the most obviously incorrect assertions and comment on each of them in this blogpost.
The page on Dr Myhill’s website (saved as a PDF here) incorrectly asserts that:
It is now known that multiple vaccinations given to Gulf War soldiers were partly to blame for the subsequent development of Gulf War Syndrome.
This is untrue. As I pointed out in this blogpost on squalene and Gulf War Syndrome, the link between vaccination and Gulf War Syndrome was based on a report that suffered from technical deficiencies and, more importantly, squalene was not added to the vaccines administered to these veterans, nor was it used in the manufacturing process.
Getting mumps before puberty is a minor illness and confers immunity for life.
Mumps is not quite as benign as Dr Myhill seems to suggest. While the disease is self-limiting and deaths from mumps are very rare, I personally would not wish to risk the possibility of death from mumps when there is a vaccine that can prevent infection with the disease.
Other complications of mumps infection also need to be considered: pancreatitis in about 4% of cases, encephalitis (which is rarely a complication of mumps, but can be very serious indeed), and sensorineural hearing loss.
Boys do not ever need rubella vaccination.
While it may be true that boys do not themselves need to be protected from rubella, this approach would mean that pregnant women who were not immune to rubella (for whatever reason) would be at risk of rubella infection – something that can lead to their baby contracting congenital rubella syndrome. It’s worth looking at the manifestations of CRS to get an idea of how seriously this should be taken.
Now for the longest quote in this post:
My view is autism has many possible causes but that mercury is a major trigger, other heavy metals may also be involved. All vaccines contain adjuvants – these are immune stimulants which wake up the immune system and make it react to the dead or attenuated virus in the vaccine. MMR used to contain mercury, it now contains aluminium – both are know to be toxic to the brain and probably much more so to the developing brain.
This is epically wrong. The NHS website on MMR lists the brands of MMR vaccine – MMR II and Priorix – and I will now link to the patient information leaflets for these vaccines. [Edit 20th June: The vaccines listed in the BNF are apparently Priorix and MMRvaxpro. H/T darkside.]
The growth mediums for MMR II are (a) Medium 199 (a buffered salt solution containing vitamins and amino acids and supplemented with fetal bovine serum), which contains SPGA (sucrose, phosphate, glutamate, and recombinant human albumin) as stabilizer and neomycin (an aminoglycoside antibiotic) and (b) Minimum Essential Medium (a buffered salt solution containing vitamins and amino acids and supplemented with fetal bovine serum) containing recombinant human albumin and neomycin. Sorbitol and hydrolyzed gelatin stabilizer are added to the individual virus harvests.
Priorix contains the following ingredients: lactose, mannitiol, sorbitol and amino acids (and may also contain traces of neomycin).
MMR II and Priorix do not contain aluminium and the MMR vaccine never contained thimerosal (the adjuvant* that Myhill is referring to, which releases ethylmercury). MMR is a live vaccine and as such would not contain a preservative. Holford Watch can explain why MMR would not contain a preservative better than I, so here is a quote from the Holford Watch blog:
Just to be clear, MMR is a live vaccine. You would never add a preservative like thimerosal to it for much the same reason as you wouldn’t pasteurise live yogurt: this would ‘kill’ the vaccine, and render it ineffective.
Dr Myhill is simply wrong – and dangerously so.
Another doctor who takes issue with vaccination (and by “takes issue with” I mean “scaremongers about”) is Richard Halvorsen.
For more on MMR and autism, see Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science blog.
* Edit, 21.30: As Dr Aust points out in the comments, thimerosal / thiomersal would normally be referred to as a preservative (as Holford Watch do) rather than as an adjuvant (as Dr Myhill seems to refer to it). Rather than using the same terms as Dr Myhill, I should probably have changed “adjuvant” when referring to this section of her webpage.
Edit, 21:10 19th April: I sent an email asking for the page on MMR Vaccination to be reviewed and Dr Myhill’s website has now been amended slightly. There is now a statement on the page that is correct:
MMR has never contained mercury and does not contain aluminium now. [MMR vaccination – intermediate revision]
Edit, 21:30 19th April: the page has now been amended again: MMR vaccination – Myhill amended [PDF]
Update April 19th 2010
I have received several emails from authorative sources who tell me my information on vaccinations is out of date. This page was originally based on a lecture given by Dr Peter Mansfield.
I am grateful for new information that I will incorporate as soon as reasonably possible!
Update, 17:07 23rd April
I left a message on the Facebook group set up to support Dr Myhill, pointing out that she has already removed incorrect assertions from her website. The message was deleted. Someone then posted the following comment:
THANK YOU TO ONE OF OUR MEMBERS FOR INFORMING ME OF A PERSON POSTING ABUSIVE COMMENTS ON THE PAGE . THE OFFENDING COMMENTS HAVE NOW BEEN REMOVED THOUGH IF I HAVE MISSED ANY PLEASE LET ME KNOW . ABUSIVE BEHAVIOUR WILL NOT BE TOLERATED BY ANYONE AND WILL RESULT IN ANY SUCH PERSON BEING BANNED FROM THE GROUP …….. THANKYOU
I’ve now been banned from the Facebook group for pointing out that Dr Myhill has removed incorrect information from her website.
I really don’t think it is abusive to point out that incorrect statements have been removed from a website. I’d also question whether it is acceptable to censor reasonable comment simply because you disagree with it.
Personally, I don’t think that Myhill’s supporters are helping her cause.
Update, 30th April 18:13
Here is a PDF of the panel’s ruling in the Sarah Myhill case.
Edit, 20th September
Dr Myhill has now published her defence document: defence-document-finalfinal.
Update, 7th January 2011
http://www.drmyhill.co.uk/wiki/Vaccinations – redirects to the first deleted article.