As some readers know, we have expressed our concerns about childhood vaccinations a number of times. (See Newsmax,com Medicine Men Archives.)
We are not saying that all vaccines are bad, but we ask that parents, physicians, and health authorities proceed with care and caution and sometimes resist some of the "automatic" childhood vaccinations.
Today the issue is that of the hepatitis B vaccine.
From 1994 to 1998, almost two-thirds of the French population and almost all newborn babies were vaccinated against hepatitis B, but the campaign was temporarily suspended because of concerns about side effects.
In what was called a "thunderclap in the vaccine industry," French authorities have opened a formal investigation regarding a hepatitis B vaccination campaign by GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur in the 1990s. It is alleged that the companies failed to fully disclose neurologic side effects.
Another investigation opened by Judge Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy concerns the death ("manslaughter") of a 28-year-old woman from multiple sclerosis, allegedly connected to the vaccine (Le Figaro 1/31/08).
Some 30 plaintiffs, including the families of five patients who died after the vaccination, have launched civil actions (Reuters 1/1/08).
A British case-controlled analysis showed an odds ratio of 3-to-1 (95 percent) for the first symptoms of multiple sclerosis in recipients of recombinant hepatitis B vaccine compared to controls. Two previous French studies had shown a ratio of about 1-to-5. Other studies showed a non-significant increase (or null findings) especially when date of diagnosis rather than date of first symptoms was used (Neurology 2004; 63: 838-842).
According to attorney Clifford Miller, "British doctors administering hepatitis B vaccine to infants could face criminal prosecution if fully informed consent is not obtained. Civil prosecution for damages is possible over 21 years later if the injured survive as adults" (UK Press Association Newswire/Romeike, September 2005).
The hepatitis B vaccine has been considered "one of the safest vaccines ever produced" (Neurology, 2004; 63: 838-842). On the other hand, French medical expert Marc Girard has said that "for a preventive measure, hepatitis B is remarkable for the frequency, variety and severity of complications from its use" (Romeike, September 2005).
In the past, individual concerns over vaccination have often been transgressed because of the platitude that the public good takes precedence over the individual.
We suggest that when it comes to the routine childhood hepatitis B vaccination those affected and involved should think a little harder before they shoot.
We think that the French authorities finally got something right.
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Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., comments on medical-legal issues and is a visiting fellow in Economics and Citizenship at the International Trade Education Foundation of the Washington International Trade Council.
Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is a senior fellow and board member of the Discovery Institute and a past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.