RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: September 2012

Whooping cough vaccine and pregnant women- The answer to our prayers?

Let’s kick off this blog with a controversial and heated topic, shall we?

Vaccines have recently become a favorite topic of mine. With a baby on the way, I wanted to be prepared and know where my partner and I stand on this issue so when the time came, we wouldn’t feel overwhelmed or pushed into a choice we weren’t comfortable with. So I have been reading as much as I can about vaccines, their side effects, and what they are made of.

In the news today an article is proclaiming ‘Whooping Cough Vaccine to be Offered to Pregnant Women!’ The article states this pertussis outbreak is the worst in 20 years, resulting in 9 babies this year dying. As a result all pregnant women between 28-38 weeks will be offered the jab at their routine antenatal appointments. They say it is a temporary measure until disease rates fall again. It then goes on to use the ‘dead baby’ tactic* to scare people into thinking this is a good idea.

Because babies under 8 weeks of age cannot be immunised due to their underdeveloped immune system, the hope is that vaccinating pregnant women will cause them to produce antibodies to the disease, which then would be passed to their fetus via the placenta. The Department of Health “insists that the injections are entirely safe and there is no risk of harming the unborn baby or causing complications in the pregnancy.”

Here is the problem; the Department of Health has absolutely no evidence that vaccinating pregnant women with this jab is safe and risk-free. Indeed, NO vaccine is risk-free (just look at the manufacturer’s pamphlets for each vaccine). There have never been vaccine safety trials conducted on pregnant women, because no one will do them! It’s dangerous and unethical. Also, pregnant women are routinely told that getting vaccinated during pregnancy is risky. This bit of advice is taken directly from the NHS Choices website, in response to the question, “Can I have travel vaccinations during pregnancy.”

“Ideally, you should try to avoid visiting destinations which require vaccinations while you are pregnant. This is because very little research has been carried out into the effects of vaccinations on unborn babies.

The Department of Health’s view must be that being protected from pertussis is safer than the unknown risk of getting vaccinated during pregnancy. But that’s an opinion, not backed up by any research. I’m gonna need more than just a guess before I put my unborn child or myself at risk.

Another issue is that the Department of Health says this is a temporary measure until disease rates fall again. However with or without extra vaccinations, the disease will fall. All diseases follow a pattern; a natural rise and fall over time. With pertussis, outbreaks usually occur every few years, and then die down again. If they knew this, why have they waited until now to warn the public or put extra safety measures in place? The article states:

“The Health Protection Agency  is unclear as to why this outbreak is so severe, but rates tend to go up and down every three or four years. If they are low for several years and few catch the infection, everyone’s immunity goes down.”

What I especially don’t understand is that according to the official figures given by the Department of Health on their website, the pertussis outbreak of 2012 is actually less fatal and less likely to infect infants compared to last year. In 2011 the total number of reported cases of pertussis was 1,118. Of those, 115 were infants under 12 weeks old (that’s just over 10% of the total cases). Of those 115 infants, 7 died from the illness (a death rate of 6%). In 2012, the total number of reported cases thus far is 4,791- 4 times as much as 2011. However, only 302 cases were in infants under the age of 12 week (6% of total cases, compared to the previous year’s rate of 10%). Of these 302 cases, 9 babies have died this year (a death rate of just under 3%, down from the previous year’s figure of 6%). Why introduce the vaccine to pregnant women now, when a lower percentage of babies are dying from this illness compared to last year? This also shows that the majority of people catching pertussis are people over the age of 12 weeks; that is, the very people most likely to be vaccinated. Why are vaccinated people still getting sick?

That question leads us to another contradiction; the HPA’s assertion that if cases of pertussis are low for awhile and few people catch the ‘wild’ disease, then everyone’s immunity goes down. Excuse me? Did they just undermine the entire rationale behind immunisation? I think they did!

The DOH and HPA (and CDC and WHO..) all tell us that vaccines are vital to public health because getting these shots produce antibodies to the wild disease, thus protecting us from actually contracting it. But here, the HPA is saying that because fewer people caught the disease, everyone’s immunity goes down. Why is that? Shouldn’t the vaccine protect everyone from the wild disease? Not necessarily. In the manufacturer’s leaflet for the whooping cough vaccine it plainly states, “As with any vaccine, a protective immune response may not be elicited in all vaccinees.” In other words, this might not protect you from the disease. Even if you get immunised, you might still be at risk. This is true of all vaccines.

Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation, says: ‘We’ve got a situation where there isn’t a choice. We’ve got a real problem and we’ve got babies dying. We have a solution available to us that has a strong safety record.’ So the DOH feel they have not got a choice in this matter, that they must be seen doing something about the outbreak.  However, what they are essentially saying is that a risky, untested choice is better than none at all. I don’t agree. And where is the evidence to back up his claim that giving the whooping cough vaccine to pregnant mothers has a ‘strong safety record’? Maybe the manufacturer has conducted trials or observed reactions in pregnant women, and that is where David Salisbury is getting his information? Let’s take a look, shall we?

The article mentions the name and brand of the ‘whooping cough vaccine’ that GP’s will be giving to pregnant women. It’s called Repevax, and is made by Sanofi Pasteur. What the article fails to point out is that Repevax contains not only the whooping cough vaccine, but also vaccines for DIPTHERIA, TETANUS, AND POLIO. Surely the DOH should mention that they intend to give pregnant women not only a vaccine against whooping cough, but against several other diseases as well?! You may be wondering why they don’t offer pregnant women a single vaccine just for whooping cough. The government no longer purchases single vaccines for anyone on the NHS because they are too costly and might undermine the message that vaccines are safe. There is no single pertussis vaccine to give. This also means, for example, if you receive an emergency tetanus shot in hospital you will be getting Repevax; 7 diseases in 1.

The other ingredients in this vaccine make me question whether it is safe for anybody, much less pregnant women. In addition to the 7 diseases this vaccine contains (diptheria, tetanus, 3 types of polio, and 2 types of whooping cough), it also contains: Phenoxyethanol, Polysorbate 80, aluminium phosphate, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, streptomycin, neomycin, polymyxin B and bovine serum albumin.

These other ingredients are in most other vaccines. They are not abnormal additions, and act as emulsifiers, adjuvants, etc. Although they are routine, they are far from safe. Streptomycin, neomycin, and polymixin B are antibiotics. Phenoxyethanol is a compound used in antifreeze and has been linked to infertility. Polysorbate 80 is a compound which has also been linked to infertility as well as being a causative agent of a pregnant woman going into anaphylactic shock (according to this PubMed article). Little research has been done to test the safety of Aluminium in vaccines, but it is known to be toxic to the brain, bones, and Central Nervous System. It is also implicated in dementia and chronic fatigue syndrome (or ME as it’s also known). Formaldehyde is carcinogenic,  glutaraldehyde is a preservative that is used to disinfect medical and dental equipment, and for industrial water treatment. Bovine serum albumin is a fancy way of saying cow protein. I don’t want any of these ingredients directly injected into my body. Do you?

Most shockingly of all, the information published by the manufacturer of the vaccine goes on to say,

“The effect of REPEVAX on embryo-foetal development has not been assessed. […] The use of this combined vaccine is not recommended during pregnancy.”

What the!?! But..?! I’m practically foaming at the mouth here. As a pregnant woman I am not only deeply insulted but SCARED that the Department of Health, the body in charge of introducing this vaccine to pregnant women, “insists that the injections are entirely safe and there is no risk of harming the unborn baby or causing complications in the pregnancy.

The Department of Health estimates that the immunisation programme will cost the taxpayer around £10million. It’s too bad they weren’t proactive, knowing outbreaks occur every 3-4 years. They could have used some of that money to fund safety trials to back up their completely baseless and dangerous claims. Also, let’s not dig too deep into the fact that GP’s are being paid per vaccine they give. That won’t motivate any of them to scare or bully women into getting it, surely… (By the way, this happens with standard vaccines, too. We’ll save that for another blog post).

If you are a pregnant woman deciding whether or not to get this vaccine, or someone close to you is in that position, please share this information. Every person has the right to know what they are signing up for when they receive medical intervention, especially when something so precious as a new life is on the line.

*The dead baby tactic is when someone uses infant death rates or the prospect of death to scare women/parents into complying with their demands, i.e- ‘your baby could die if we don’t perform a C-section immediately’ or ‘X number of babies have already died from this disease.. do you want yours to be next?’. It’s unethical and in most cases untrue, and it’s a form of emotional blackmail.