More spitting on the graves of those who have died from influenza

He’s at it again. Lawrence Solomon has unleashed yet another heaping pile of cow dung onto his Huffington Post blog space. This time, he’s telling us that we “may” be better off without the flu vaccine. Why? What kind of fabulous insight “may” this non-epidemiologist, self-deluded fool have?

I wish I had more time. He begins:

“In Australia and New Zealand, two vaccines produced by CSL Biotherapies, one of the world’s largest influenza vaccine manufacturers, led in 2010 to some 1,700 alarming results — febrile convulsions, high fevers, and vomiting — most of them involving small children. The harm was especially borne by those under three years of age – CSL’s Fluvax Junior vaccine sent 4 per cent of these infants into febrile convulsions, its Fluvax vaccine 5 per cent. During a febrile convulsion a child often loses consciousness and shakes, generally for a minute or two, sometimes for 15 minutes or more. Because the flu season hits the southern hemisphere first, CSL’s flu vaccines were pulled from the much larger North American market before a similar disaster could befall our children.”

Ah, yes. You see, if 4% or 5% of people who get a vaccine have a severe side effect, it must be because 100% of the vaccine supply is tainted. That, or as Lawrence Solomon “may” have us believe, the other 95% or 96% will react the same way.

“Pandemrix, a GlaxoSmithKline vaccine used in Europe during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic season, was found by studies in Finland, Sweden, France, Ireland and the UK to have caused some800 cases of narcolepsy, mostly in youths and in adults under age 40.”

Of course, like in his last bit of nonsense, LS has decided to conveniently disregard more recent evidence on the case of Pandemrix. As it turns out, the vaccine triggered an auto-immune condition in a subset of the population. This auto-immune condition affected the neurons of these folks, causing the narcolepsy. But how common was it? Was it the alarming rate that LS “may” want us to believe? In one word, no. In many words:

“The disease was very rare, affecting at most one in 15,000 vaccinated children in the Nordic countries, where most young people were vaccinated. Fewer were vaccinated elsewhere, so there may not have been enough narcolepsy cases to detect statistically, says Miriam Sturkenboom of Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, who led the study.”

For reference, influenza will kill more than 1 in 15,000 who get it. It will send to the hospital more than 1 in 15,000 who get it. It will keep from school/work more than 1 in 15,000 who get it. Like I told you before, we need to weigh the benefits to the risks. The risks from getting the flu are very, very high. The risks from getting the vaccine are very, very, very, very, very,very small. The benefits are huge, no matter what Peter Doshi, PhD, another non-epidemiologist, “may” want you to believe.

And so it goes with the newest anti-vaccine nut to get a public writing space. I’m taking bets on how long it will take Lawrence Solomon to claim a multinational conspiracy. Any takers?

6 thoughts on “More spitting on the graves of those who have died from influenza

  1. Sometimes I get the unfortunate feeling that anti-vaccine activists do not count harms that cannot be connected to vaccines. I hope I’m wrong.

    • @reissd Given the antivax community count as harms things proven not to be connected to vaccines my limited facility for formal logic is having difficulty with this. I’m sure there are things they haven’t pulled into the mix yet but is there any syndrome – real or imagined – they definitely wouldn’t try to correlate? My brain hurts when I try to understand their perspective.
      It’s interesting here in the UK; the debate is far less public and it’s primarily the nexus of an educated middle class talking in the playground, a media that is beyond hopeless at reporting science without false balance and Dunning-Kruger gone mad that informs the discussion. I’m not sure whether the situation we find ourselves in or your Ms McCarthy and her ilk I find more worrisome.

  2. Yes, let us not forget the little detail that the same influenza strain that was in the pandemrix also causes narcolepsy in children.

  3. If I recall the Swedish data was closer to 1 in 30k – but before I get flamed I’m NOT an epidemiologist. But from the perspective of a simple microbiologist funny how all these nice folks criticising the vaccine either forget or didn’t realise in the first place that getting influenza carries that same risk of narcolepsy! But if you had flu narcolepsy would be the least of your worries…

  4. Well, 1 in 15000 is a big deal, if it’s permanent disability or death. It’s less of a big deal if 1 in 15000 suffer a fever.

    Let’s look at the primary claim, febrile seizures.
    It sounds like a really, really big deal to the initiated.
    It’s not, it’s actually not all that uncommon.
    Febrile=fever. Seizure=doing the funky chicken unintentionally.
    The latter *can* be a big deal, frequently, it’s not, as seizure is a variable term that ranges from an absent seizure to status epilepticus. The former isn’t a big deal if you’re sitting about, other than not recalling the time of the seizure, typically a few minutes. The latter can easily make you do that dead thing.
    Febrile seizures are typically not either, they’re a middle ground seizure that ranges from mild to significant grand mal seizures, caused by fever. They’re also referred to as infantile seizures (a really, really old name that is out of date for around as long as I’ve lived), as infants tend to suffer from them far more often than adults who suffer a fever.
    Let’s look at infants and fevers and *why* the effects might be more severe.
    Head size to body size is much, much higher in infants. That is for a reason, the infant brain isn’t *quite* complete, it’s a mass of interconnections, with many being broken down per hour as basic motor functions, senses, etc are “figured out” and the unused connections removed, used connections reinforced. More occurs as the infant learns.
    So, we have an already malfunctioning, compared to an adult brain, in a body that can barely keep sustaining and regulating its nutrition and temperature, being insulted by a fever.
    What can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong, go wrong…?

    Don’t need woo or magic or bovine defecation to figure out that a standard staph infection, one of the primary cause of fevers in children, could cause such a seizure.
    Something as common as a sniffle during cold season and during influenza vaccination season.

    So, from the clinical side, the person is more full of sh–, err, cra-, err, poop than a Christmas Goose.

    Really now, shouldn’t such authors refrain from spreading the fertilizer until spring?

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