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Best of AoA: RotaTeq, The Vaccine No One Wants

Posted Apr 10 2010 12:00am

UNWANTED Managing Editor's Note: We ran this post last Fall about the RotaTeq vaccine, developed by Dr. Paul Offit and produced by Merck. Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune ran an advertisement, press release, article  about the urgent need for RotaTeq, and chastising Dr. Mehmet Oz for stating that RotaTeq is optional. JB had proven that it is indeed optional in most of the first world. Here's an excerpt from JB's post: “For Rotavirus, a vaccine commercially available now for 11 years, the numbers are laughable: Of 29 other first world countries that GR evaluated, only 2 also mandate Rotavirus. Said differently, 27 of 29 other first world countries besides the United States DO NOT think Rotavirus is an important enough disease that the children of their country should receive a vaccine for it, even though a vaccine has been available for over a decade.”

By J.B. Handley
 
It started innocently enough, I just wanted to know which vaccines the State of Oregon “requires” children to get before entering kindergarten in a public school. (As we all know, but few other Americans seem to, “require” is a relative term because parents can opt out of any and all vaccine requirements if they so choose through exemptions.)
 
A quick trip to the Oregon Department of Health website and I found what I was looking for, some of which surprised me 
Kindergartners in Oregon must demonstrate they have received the following vaccines: DTaP, Polio, Varicella, MMR, Hep B, and Hep A.
 
This means that kindergartners in Oregon do not need to demonstrate that they have received the following vaccines listed for children on the 2009 CDC Immunization schedule, and vaccines that many parents believe they need to get in order for their children to enter school: Hib, PCV (pneumococcal), Rotavirus, Influenza, and Meningitis (meningococcal).
 
So, of the 11 types of vaccines approved for pediatric use (and given in 36 doses because many are given multiple times), Oregon says you need to prove your child received 6 of them to enter kindergarten, or just over half of the vaccines recommended by CDC.
 
I called the Oregon Department of Health to try and understand why there appears to be a gap between the CDC’s overall recommendations and what the state of Oregon needs from its public school students and here’s what I learned:

For Hib, they believe a child should receive Hib, and that the earlier the better, and that most children receive Hib when they are much younger and when the risks of getting Haemophilus Influenza type B are much higher.
 
For PCV, it’s a newer vaccine (2000) and they just aren’t yet recommending or requiring it (I pressed, and that’s the party line).
 
For Flu, they think it should be a parent’s choice and in any one year the flu shot and actual influenza strain that’s circulating may not match, so making it an entry requirement didn’t make sense.
 
For Meningitis, they don’t have an opinion yet, but the vaccine is on the CDC schedule only for certain high-risk groups so it’s not required for public school
(which is true).
 
That leaves Rotavirus.
 
Sigh.
 
OK, let me just say it so you don’t have to: Paul Offit.
 
You just can’t talk about the Rotavirus vaccine without also talking about Paul Offit, the vaccine industry’s most well-paid spokesperson. The man who made tens of millions of dollars from a Rotavirus vaccine patent and who believes a baby could tolerate 100,000 vaccines simultaneously. The man who the media cannot get enough of (or is he simply the last doctor willing to publicly defend vaccines?) when it comes to discussing vaccine “safety”. The man who wrote a book, Autism’s False Profits, that is filled with lies, misstatements, and false reassurances for unwitting parents.
 
Yup, that guy.
 
One of the big challenges in discussing the possible relationship between vaccines and autism (or the whole concept of vaccine injury in general) with the average American is that very few people have a handle on the actual facts. I find that in particular, people do not understand:
  • How many vaccines and doses our kids actually receive
  • How the number of vaccines given to kids has changed over time (its nearly tripled in 20 years)
  • That autism rates are up geometrically in 20 years
  • What diseases the vaccines given actually are designed to prevent (people are always shocked when they learn we vaccinate for chicken pox, as just one example)
  • How many vaccines other first world countries give their children
  • That flu shots (and swine flu shots) still contain mercury

As I say way too often, the devil is always in the details. Shouldn’t it be fair to say that some vaccines are more important than others? Wouldn’t an average parent care less that their child caught the flu than polio? Don’t these differences matter?
 
Which brings me back to Rotavirus.
 
To me, Rotavirus is a great way to demonstrate how corrupted the process of adding vaccines to the US schedule has become.
 
As about 1,000 Americans understand (and they are all reading AoA right now), there is a little-known federal advisory committee that has ridiculous power to add vaccines to the CDC’s schedule, the Advisory Committee of Immunizations Practices (“ACIP”). For a vaccine maker, landing one of your own people on the ACIP is pay dirt.
 
Because we all know how sleazy the Rotavirus’ admission to the CDC schedule is, I will just summarize:

  • Paul Offit, vaccine patent holder for Rotavirus for Merck, was appointed to the ACIP, God knows why
  • He voted to add the Rotavirus vaccine to the schedule (it wasn’t Merck’s, because his vaccine wasn’t ready for market yet)
  • That Rotavirus vaccine damaged a bunch of kids and was pulled from the market, but Offit abstained from recommending its removal
  • A couple years later, rotavirus got added back to the schedule, with Offit’s vaccine leading the way
  • Offit made tens of millions of dollars from the sale of the Rotavirus patent he held to Merck.

Earlier this year, Generation Rescue looked at the vaccine schedules of 29 other first world countries. We found that compared to the 36 doses the CDC recommends for our kids, the average for the rest of the first world is 18, or half the total vaccine doses we give. And, many first world countries give as few as 11, 12 or 13 doses (Sweden, Finland, and Italy, respectively).
 
More interesting than the aggregate number of vaccines given in the first world was the seeming AVOIDANCE of certain vaccines that are mandated by CDC.
 
For Rotavirus, a vaccine commercially available now for 11 years, the numbers are laughable: Of 29 other first world countries that GR evaluated, only 2 also mandate Rotavirus. Said differently, 27 of 29 other first world countries besides the United States DO NOT think Rotavirus is an important enough disease that the children of their country should receive a vaccine for it, even though a vaccine has been available for over a decade.
 
Which brings me back to the State of Oregon. I mentioned that 6 of 11 vaccines from the CDC’s schedule are “required” to go public school in Oregon. For the ones that were not required, I found the Department of Health to be extremely helpful in explaining why certain vaccines were not on their required list and in giving me general advice about immunization strategy. When it came to Rotavirus, the last vaccine I asked them about, I will just leave you with a quote from their spokesperson 
“[A brief chuckle] Well, Rotavirus is just some diarrhea for a day or two. It’s just not a big deal. That one will never be on our list.”

JB Handley is co-founder of Generation Rescue and a Contributor to Age of Autism.

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