Vaccine Injuries from The MMR, A Review of VAERS

If you’ve seen some of the arguments from the anti-vaccine groups out there, you’ve probably seen their claims that the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) is some kind of a cornucopia of “evidence” that vaccines are bad. I’ve examined VAERS for you before, but mostly having to do with the HPV vaccine. VAERS is a reporting system to which everyone and anyone can report. You can go file a report right now if you want to. You can tell them that you turned into the Hulk after you got your vaccine or something.

Does VAERS give clues that something is happening because of a vaccine? Yes. Does it give evidence that a vaccine is bad or has caused death and destruction? No.

VAERS is what is called a “passive surveillance system” because those on the other side of the system don’t need to spend time and energy in looking for cases. It’s a cost-efficient way of doing surveillance for adverse events. However, once they get enough blips on the radar (enough reports that are similar), epidemiologists get to the task of looking deeper into the cases, looking for more cases, and then conducting a case-control study to see if odds of being vaccinated are different between cases and controls of a particular outcome. If the case-control study says that there is evidence that the vaccine is strongly associated with some sort of outcome, more evidence is gathered and a decision is made to act.

Contrary to anti-vaccine zealots’ claims, people at CDC really do care, and they really do want vaccines to be as safe and effective as they can be. This although they know that nothing is 100% safe nor 100% effective.

In recent days, there has been a claim on the internet that the MMR vaccine has been responsible for 108 deaths since 2005 while measles hasn’t killed anyone in the US since 2000. First, let’s look at the claim that measles hasn’t killed anyone in the US. Remember that measles was eliminated in the US around that time, so it stands to reason that there haven’t been that many cases of measles overall, so there wouldn’t be that many deaths. But what do the data say?

According to table #2 in this document, there were two deaths from measles in 2009. There were other years with deaths as well, but, for the purposes of the claim that there have not been deaths from measles in the United States in recent years, it’s case closed.

So what about the 108 deaths from the MMR? Let’s look at VAERS with the knowledge that, one, the reports can be put in by anyone at any time and for any reason, and, two, a report is not evidence of causality between vaccine and the outcome. A report is merely a “signal” in the “noise” that there was some sort of an event after a vaccine, not necessarily because of it.

After asking for all reports with an outcome of “death” going back to 1990 and associated with all known measles vaccines, I received 235 reports. Here are some of the details I found:

“On 05/07/1990 patient went to the Doctor and had a physical, which the doctor said he was in good health and doing well for his age and he also received 2 vaccinations MMR and DPT. He was congested and had a fever after receiving his shots. I gave him infant Tylenol during the day and before I put him to sleep. At 7am approximately 12 hours later I found patient in his bed not breathing and without a pulse. I performed CPR but patient died. The coroner determined that the cause of death was SIDS.”

That one had a one-day onset, but not much more information was given. Is this one report enough? Remember, there have been tens of millions of doses of MMR given in the United States. Let’s look at some more reports:

“On 31DEC90 experienced shock, renal failure, fever, convuls & pneumonia. Hospitalized & lab testing revealed a positive assay for toxic shock synd, septic shock, & disseminated intravascular coagulation. MD stated pt’s sxs not d/t vaccinatn”

This one happened 9 days after the vaccine. Could it have taken that long for such an outcome to happen? Let’s keep looking:

“Infant febrile morning of 5/18/2006 around 5:30 a.m. No other S/S per parent. Parent administered tylenol. Midday infant began seizing, mom called 911, infant transported and later pronounced dead at hospital. 7/19/06 Received death certificate which stated COD as pulmonary edema due to protracted febrile seizure. 7/28/06 Received tag-2 report from PCP. Family had moved to another state. Records accompanying report included vax records, Death Summary from ER & Autopsy Report. COD stated as non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema as the result of febrile seizures/ss”

This one happened six days after the immunizations. It’s interesting to me because so many anti-vaccine parents have stated that they want their children to have a fever, and even a febrile seizure, because it’s the “natural way” to deal with infections. Still, let’s keep looking:

“[Name] was given DPT/MMR/OPV while still on anitbiotic Pedizole and tassii organdin for otitis & bronchitis. He appeared happy & well until he died in his sleep. Shots were given on 5DEC89.”

This one happened 24 days after the immunizations. Could it have taken that long for the death to happen? Or was this child given the vaccine and then, about three weeks later, sick with otitis and bronchitis that got complicated? We’ll never know because we will never have access their private medical information. So let’s keep looking:

“adm to hosp 31AUG95 w/3wk hx progressive non prod cough,SOB & fevers;devel abd pain,diarrhea;lost 30lbs;pt had multiple diagnostic studies,devel pleural effusion,viral pneumonia & measles pneumonia;”

Oh, measles pneumonia? After receiving the MMR vaccine? This must be a red flag, right? Well, no… The rest of the report tells us that, sadly, this person had a CD4 count of less than 10 due to advanced HIV/AIDS. They were a hemophiliac, and that was likely how they were infected with HIV. (It’s the 1990’s, after all). Also, the vaccine was given four years earlier. It is very possible that this person’s immune status allowed them to catch measles at a time when measles was very active in the United States.

This one is interesting:

“”Brother states patient developed “”Transverse myelitis”” from the MMR vaccine then the patient “”Fell down and died””. Developed paralysis in legs one week after shot. 8/11/08-records received for DOS 12/12/07-1/6/08- DX: Paraparesis secondary to transverse myelitis. Death secondary to pulmonary embolism. Admitted for evaluation of lower extremity weakness for 2-3 weeks, with shooting pain in feet on 12/14/07-balance difficulties noted, tingling in left upper extremity prior to hospitalization Upgoing plantar reflex noted on right side, lower extremity reflex loss at ankles and left patella. Autopsy refused by family.””

Was it the MMR? It was given in September of 2007 and the person died in January of 2008. I mean, since the brother says so, it must be true, right? Let’s look at the rest of the evidence:

“Lung cancer 2 years with chemotherapy 8/11/08-records received- NCV abnormal evidence of primary muscle disorder. Glucose elevated, AST and ALT elevation of 144 and 177. MRI normal. CSF leukocytosis. Culture negative. on 1/6/08 began hypo” (Report cuts off.)

Do you think that maybe, just maybe, the lung cancer may have caused a pulmonary embolism? Is it possible that the cancer may have metastasized and caused the nervous system injuries that led to his condition? Nah. It was the MMR vaccine.

Here’s a 49 year-old male:

“Per translator client died 2 to 3 hrs. after receiving vaccines on 7/2/09. Autopsy is pending to determine cause of death. Due to language barrier unable to get more information.7/21/09-Nancy with Med Exam office called with preliminary COD: Coronary Artery Disease with no other significant conditions contributing to death. 8/13/09 Cause of Death: Coronary artery disease. Manner of death: Natural. Autopsy report summary of findings: I. Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. A. Calcific coronary artery disease, marked, involving three major vessels and left main. B. Aortic atherosclerosis, mild to moderate. II. Nephrosclerosis. III. Right rib fractures consistent with resuscitation efforts.”

It wasn’t the clogged arteries, ladies and gentlemen… It was the vaccines. It’s always the vaccines.

I could keep going, but you know where this goes. Someone had a vaccine, then something bad happened to them, and then someone filed a report because it must have been the vaccine, nothing else. Anti-vaccine activists will tell you that this is all ignored by CDC. However, if you look at the reports, you can see that the names of the vaccine manufacturers and lot numbers, when available, are presented right in the reports. Furthermore, you can see from the reports that CDC personnel took the time and made the effort to follow-up on all of these cases, even the ones where someone called them and had a chip on their shoulder. Why? Because they care. They wouldn’t be doing the work that they do if they didn’t.

Look, there are going to be times when someone will have a bad reaction to a vaccine, any vaccine. But these reactions are extremely rare. If they do happen, it is even more rare that it ends in death. Has someone ever died from a vaccine? I’m sure someone has. It is not unreasonable to think that it has happened. But it is unreasonable to think that it is so common that it is going to happen to me or you tomorrow or the day after if we get a vaccine. What is more likely to happen is the death or permanent injury of a child if we don’t vaccinate, if we don’t protect the herd.

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Everything is caused by vaccines and vaccines cause everything

I’ve done this mental exercise with you all before, but here it goes again, one more time:

Check out the following VAERS report for an HPV vaccine (ID 418957-1):

“Information has been received from a licensed practical nurse concerning a 19 year old female patient with penicillin allergy who on 09-NOV-2010 was vaccinated with the first dose of GARDASIL without incident. At 09:00 on 01-MAR-2011 the patient received a dose of GARDASIL (Lot# 666597/0768Z, Expiration: 17-OCT-2011) (dose, strength and therapy route were unspecified). A lot check has been initiated. Concomitant therapy included SEASONIQUE and ZYRTEC. In January 2011, the patient experienced mononuceleosis. At 13:26 on 01-MAR-2011, the patient was involved in an automobile accident and suffered some bumps and bruises. The patient was not hospitalized. At the time of report, the patient was recovering. Therapy was not discontinued. There was no lab diagnostics. The patient sought medical attention. Bumps, bruises and automobile accident were considered to be life threatening by the reporter. Additional information has been requested.”

Yes. This was reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System because the person who got the vaccine got into a goddamned automobile accident the same goddamn day. (Excuse my language, but, come on!) Then, although “the patient was not hospitalized”, she considered her bumps and bruises to be “life threatening”. Come on!

Then there’s this one (ID 308661-1):

“We received on 12 FEB 2008 from a healthcare professional the following information: A 7-year-old male patient, born on 21 JUN 2000 was vaccinated with FLUVIRIN (batch no. unknown) on 19 NOV 2007. The patient was killed in an automobile traffic accident on 01 FEB 2008. The subject had participated in a clinical trial sponsored by MedImmune. FLUVIRIN was used in that trial as a control, and Novartis Vaccine & Diagnostics (NVD) has donated the FLUVIRIN, but other than that has not been involved. Although the event did not occur during the duration of the trial, and the investigator did not see any causal relationship to the vaccination with FLUVIRIN, he reported the event to the IRB and NVD because the child had died.”

So, this one was reported because it was probably part of the study design that any and all deaths of participants was to be reported no matter what.

How about this (214473-1):

“A consumer reported that her 36 year old husband received a dose of FluMist on an unspecified date in 2003. On 12/13/03, he experienced dizziness and was subsequently involved in a car accident. The reporter indicated that the event was life-threatening. No additional information was available at the time of this report.”

And this (331195-1):

“Information has been received from a study concerning a patient (age and gender not reported) who was vaccinated with a dose of PROQUAD (date, dose, route not reported). It was reported that the patient died due to drowning (date not reported). This is one of several reports from the same source. Additional information has been requested.”

And, finally, this (168749-1):

“No data obtained. Parents are awaiting final autopsy report and the death certificate. These will not be produced until a final toxicology report is obtained. All of this is per the coroner. Autopsy states cause of death as undetermined. Death certificate states cause of death due to cerebral laceration w/open skull fracture due to an automobile accident.”

Organizations like NVIC and other anti-vaccine groups like that will tell you to dive deep into VAERS and see for yourself all of the horrible, horrible things that vaccines have done to people. In those reports are many reports of things that are not scientifically known to be linked to vaccines, like open-head fractures from car accidents. There is the story of a woman who smoked for 44 years and then died of a pulmonary embolism (a clot) a few days after getting the flu vaccine at work. (Was it the smoking?) There is the story of another woman who was morbidly obese and on birth control and got a blood clot weeks after getting the HPV vaccine. (Was it the fat and the hormones?) And on, and on, and on. The anti-vaccine organizations and their minions will not tell you about these cases that are obviously not related to vaccines.

They will, however, lump them in with other cases of non-serous adverse events and claim that it’s all proof of a reptilian conspiracy by CNN and maybe even Ted Turner, or some other bunch of myths like that.

Who will you believe?

NVIC: Information that’s not. Exhibit B.

So I’ve already told you about VAERS and how it’s not really true “evidence” of how mean and bad vaccines can be (because they’re not). I also told you that the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) takes information on vaccines and seems to only be presenting you, the consumer, with the bad parts about vaccines. Very seldom do they present the good side of vaccines. In fact, I’m yet to read anything from them that shows how vaccines have vanquished two viruses (one very bad for humans and one bad for cattle) and reduced the incidence of some very horrible diseases. For exhibit B in this little “indictment”, let’s look at how they misuse VAERS data themselves.
First, let’s look at the official page for VAERS, which you can find here. It has several sections. First, the guide to interpreting the data:

“When evaluating data from VAERS, it is important to note that for any reported event, no cause-and-effect relationship has been established. Reports of all possible associations between vaccines and adverse events (possible side effects) are filed in VAERS. Therefore, VAERS collects data on any adverse event following vaccination, be it coincidental or truly caused by a vaccine. The report of an adverse event to VAERS is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event.”

Did you read that? It reads “any adverse event following vaccination, be it coincidental or truly caused by a vaccine”. Furthermore, just to re-emphacize, a “report of an adverse event to VAERS is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event“. One more time, just to be clear: is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event. And again: is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event.

Are we clear?

This is what the NVIC page about VAERS, with access to the data, has to say about VAERS:

Oh, they’ll send you to the official link, like I did, but no where do they say that reports are not documentation that vaccines caused the events. Of course not. Also not that they write that the reports are of “adverse health events that follow the administration of vaccines”.

Let’s continue our comparison.

The official page reads the following:

“More than 10 million vaccines per year are given to children less than 1 year old, usually between 2 and 6 months of age. At this age, infants are at greatest risk for certain medical adverse events, including high fevers, seizures, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Some infants will experience these medical events shortly after a vaccination by coincidence.
These coincidences make it difficult to know whether a particular adverse event resulted from a medical condition or from a vaccination. Therefore, vaccine providers are encouraged to report all adverse events following vaccination, whether or not they believe the vaccination was the cause.”

Did you catch that last part? They state that “vaccine providers are encouraged to report all adverse events following vaccination, whether or not they believe that vaccination was the cause.” Again, “whether or not they believe that the vaccination was the cause”.

NVIC? What do they say about causality?

Well, nothing. The two previous screenshots are all that NVIC has to say about causality as it relates to VAERS reports. Well, all they have to say before you access the data.

CDC, on the other hand, has one more section for you to read:

“When reviewing data from VAERS, please keep in mind the following limitations: VAERS is a passive reporting system, meaning that reports about adverse events are not automatically collected, but require a report to be filed to VAERS. VAERS reports can be submitted voluntarily by anyone, including healthcare providers, patients, or family members. Reports vary in quality and completeness. They often lack details and sometimes can have information that contains errors.
 “Underreporting” is one of the main limitations of passive surveillance systems, including VAERS. The term, underreporting refers to the fact that VAERS receives reports for only a small fraction of actual adverse events. The degree of underreporting varies widely. As an example, a great many of the millions of vaccinations administered each year by injection cause soreness, but relatively few of these episodes lead to a VAERS report. Physicians and patients understand that minor side effects of vaccinations often include this kind of discomfort, as well as low fevers. On the other hand, more serious and unexpected medical events are probably more likely to be reported than minor ones, especially when they occur soon after vaccination, even if they may be coincidental and related to other causes.
 A report to VAERS generally does not prove that the identified vaccine(s) caused the adverse event described. It only confirms that the reported event occurred sometime after vaccine was given. No proof that the event was caused by the vaccine is required in order for VAERS to accept the report. VAERS accepts all reports without judging whether the event was caused by the vaccine.
 DISCLAIMER: Please note that VAERS staff follow-up on all serious and other selected adverse event reports to obtain additional medical, laboratory, and/or autopsy records to help understand the concern raised. However, in general coding terms in VAERS do not change based on the information received during the follow-up process. VAERS data should be used with caution as numbers and conditions do not reflect data collected during follow-up. Note that the inclusion of events in VAERS data does not infer causality.”

Wow, that’s a lot of information before you even start looking at the data! I thought information was NVIC’s job, being the “information” center and all. But, no, they link to the official site, but then they allow you to dive into the data.

We’re going to dive into the data as well, comparing the two systems for accessing the data. For [expletive] and giggles, let’s look at reports of deaths following the HPV vaccine, a subject that’s all the rage lately. The official site has one more thing for you to acknowledge:

NVIC doesn’t ask you to read and understand the statements about causality. Those “pharma shills” from CDC do.

Here is CDCs search page. And here is NVICs search page. Using the same criteria, death associated with any of the three HPV vaccines, the official page gave me 74 entries. NVICs page gave me 110 or 143 entries, depending on what you’re counting. So, either CDC is hiding something or…

Ah, the “information center” database is counting a single event as multiple entries “because some events have multiple vaccinations and symptoms”. The HPV vaccine is given in a series of shots, so they’re counting one associated death several times, depending on how many of the vaccine’s series shots were given.

To be fair, let’s look at the first five reports from both systems, and you tell me if they’re definitely caused by the vaccine, as many anti-vaccine advocates would want you to believe.

First case is VAERS ID 275428-1:

“presented to ED with Ventricular tachycardia. Preliminary autopsy finding of myocarditis. 4/3/07 Spoke w/ME who stated prelim COD as acute myocarditis, presumably viral. States patient had PMH of heart murmur which was evaluated by ped cardiologist who found mild aortic & mitral valve insufficiency & regurgitation. ME states did not see evidence of that on autopsy but did find cardiomegaly. Also states patient had been taken to ER on day of death for abdominal pain w/fever & was dx w/gastroenteritis. CXR at that time revealed cardiomegaly. No EKG or cultures were done. Was d/c to home & continued to not feel well. Parent found patient in bathroom unresponsive at approx 2AM & was transported to a second ER where she expired. ME states patient had approx 2 week hx of cough & runny nose prior to death. 6/12/07 Received final Autopsy Report which reveals COD as acute probable viral etiology myocarditis & manner of death as natural. 6/29/07 Received ER records from hospital where patient expired which reveal patient was in respiratory arrest & had been intubated by EMS. ACLS measures were unsuccessful & patient pronounced. 8/24/07 Received cardiology consult which reveals patient evaluated for heart murmur in 2005 which had been diagnosed for long time but never evaluated. Patient admitted to palpitations & nervousness. Patient history did not reveal any evidence of rheumatic fever. Antibiotic endocarditis prophylaxis recommended prior to dental & surgical procedures. Patient was to f/u w/cardiology in 2-3 yearrs to document progress of valvular insufficiency. FINAL Cardiology DX: Aortic & mitral valve insufficiency of unknown etiology.”

So we have a patient who unfortunately died of myocarditis causing a ventricular tachycardia. Ventricular tachycardia is a heart malfunction where the heart beats are irregular. This is not a good thing. The patient’s heart was not right. Was it caused by the vaccine? Well, look at this part: “Received cardiology consult which reveals patient evaluated for heart murmur in 2005 which had been diagnosed for long time but never evaluated. Patient admitted to palpitations & nervousness. Patient history did not reveal any evidence of rheumatic fever. Antibiotic endocarditis prophylaxis recommended prior to dental & surgical procedures. Patient was to f/u w/cardiology in 2-3 yearrs to document progress of valvular insufficiency.”

Without knowing more, we can still infer that this patient had heart problems for a while. Did the vaccine aggravate these problems? Was it mere coincidence? Would this lethal heart condition have caused the patient’s death eventually, vaccine or not? We will never know, but that doesn’t stop conspiracy theorists from declaring the vaccine culpable:

The second case is VAERS ID 275438-1:

“Given Gardasil vaccine dose #1 3/12/07. No adverse reaction reported. Collapsed and died on 3/26/07 secondary emboli (records unavailable). 4/3/07 Spoke w/investigating deputy who stated autopsy done at Medical Center. T/C to physician at Medical Center who is actually a cardiologist, not pathologist, who had responded to the code & pronounced. Spoke w/secretary who states from Death Certificate COD is sudden cardiac death and pulmonary embolism. Echocardiogram revealed very enlarged right ventricle & small left ventricle as well as large blood clots within both the right atrium & right ventricle. 6/25/07 Received Autopsy Report which reveals following anatomic diagnosis: 1. Pulmonary embolism, occlusive a. pulmonary trunk, left hilar & peripheral vessels b. acute cor pulmonale (by echocardiogram) 2. Pulmonary congestion & edema, bilatera a. no evidence of anomalous coronary artery distribution b. no evidence of ventricular dysplasia This is in follow-up to report(s) previously submitted on 6/11/2007. Information has been received on request from the FDA under the Freedom of Information Act and from a physician who presented at the “”Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety World Health Organizaqtion”” concerning a 19 year female nonsmoker with no history who on 12-MAR-2007 was vaccinated IM into the left arm with a first dose of GARDASIL lot #655849/0263U). Concomitant therapy included oral contraceptives. There was no adverse reaction reported. Subsequently on 26-MAR-2007 the patient, while exercising on a field collapsed, began convulsing and died secondary to emboli. An autopsy was done and on the death certificate the following is documented “”sudden cardiac death and pulmonary embolisem.”” An Echocardiogram revealed a very enlarged right ventricle and small left ventricle as well as large blood clots within both the right atrium and right ventricle. Coronary artery thrombosis and thrombosis were alsor reported. Upon internal review convulsing was considered an other important medical event. The original reporting source was not provided. A standar lot check investigation was performed. All in-process quality checks for the lot number in question were satisfactory. In addition, an expaned lot check investigation was performed. The testing performed on the batch prior to release met all release specifications. The lot met the requirements of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and was released. No further information is available. This report was filed with the FDA. The VAERS number is 275438.”

Here is another unfortunate death from a blood clot to the lung (pulmonary embolism). The patient was vaccinated on March 12 and collapsed and died on March 26. But, did you catch one key piece of information? It’s right there, and it’s significant. Here it is:

“Concomitant therapy included oral contraceptives.”

Why is it key? It’s key because oral contraceptives (“the pill”) are associated with increased risk of – you guessed it – blood clots. But the conspiracy theorists won’t tell you this. Instead, they’ll paint a scary picture that this patient got the shot and died two weeks later, so it must have been the shot. No similar line of reasoning with regards to the pill.

The third case is VAERS ID 275990-1:

“Information has been received from a physician’s assistant (PA), via a company representative, concerning a female patient who was vaccinated (date unspecified) with a dose of Gardasil the PA reported that “”the patient died of a blood clot 3 hours after getting the Gardasil vaccine.”” The PA clarified that the patient was not vaccinated at her office. Additional information has been requested.”

A rumor. Let’s go to the fourth.

The fourth case is VAERS ID 278865-1:

“Onset of symptoms on 3/1/07: fever, sore throat, cough, and myalgia. Respiratory failure on 3/6/07. 6/1/07 Received Death Certificate from epidemiologist which reveals COD asmultiorgan system failure and influenza B viral sepsis with contributing cause of staphyloccoccal secondary infection. Medical records included w/death certificate indicate patient was transferred to higher level of care on 3/6, was intubated & in PICU w/pneumonia & ARDS. Reportedly had been in good health until 3/1/07 when she developed sore throat, nasal congestion, rhinnorhea & low grade fever. COntinued to worsen & developed myalgias, chest pain & nonproductive cough w/higher fever. Seen by PCP on 3/5 & rapid strep was neg & dx was probable influenza. Sent home & developed nausea, vomiting & diarrhea as well as petechial rash over abdomen. Taken to outlying ER on 3/6 & found to be in respiratory failure, intubated & transferred to higher level of care. Respiratory status declined further & was placed on oscillator & ECMO. Peds ID consult done. Consult states had HPV vax at PCP on 3/2 & no other recent vaccines. 6/1/07 Received fax medical & vaccine records from CDC who had contacted provider. Reveals that on 1/2/07, patient received TDaP & HPV. On 3/2/07 received HPV #2. VAERS database updated w/same. On day of vax patient also dx w/right CTS, migraine HA, scoliosis. She was referred to Neuro & PT for the CTS & HA.”

This one is simple. The patient had influenza B sepsis and a secondary Staph infection. This is not unheard of. In Maryland, there was a recent cluster of cases where several people died from influenza and Staph. Why are they linking it to the vaccine? Because the patient had the vaccine on June 2, a day after the onset of symptoms and four days before the patient died.

Last case is VAERS ID 279592-1:

“Information has been received from a licensed visiting nurse via a nurse practitioner. The nurse practitioner was told by a friend that a female patient was vaccinated with Gardasil and two weeks alter developed a blood clot. Subsequently the patient died. The cause of death was from the blood clot. The reporting licensed visiting nurse considered the blood clot to be immediately life-threatening and disabling. Additional information has been requested.”

But wait. Isn’t the medical establishment in league with Big Pharma? Why would a nurse report something against a product from Big Pharma? Never mind that. Notice that this one is also a bit of a rumor. The patient is somehow related to a person who told the nurse that someone died of a blood clot two weeks after the vaccine. The nurse then reported it to VAERS. And this is somehow evidence. For all we know, this case could be the second one in our analysis, leading to a question of how many of these cases are duplicates. (And don’t even get me started on how many of these blood clots may have been due to contraceptive use.)

But let’s look at a bonus case, VAERS ID 287888-1:

“Information has been received from a nurse practitioner concerning a 22 year old female patient with no pertinent medical history or drug allergies who on 21-MAY-2007, was vaccinated IM with a 0.5ml dose of Gardasil (Lot# 657736/0389U). Concomitant therapy included hormonal contraceptives (unspecified) (“”MERCET””). On 23-MAY-2007, the patient died suddenly. The cause of death was unknown. Unspecified medical attention was sought. Laboratory diagnostic studies included an autopsy which showed no findings. No product quality complaint was involved. The reporter stated that Gardasil did not cause the patient’s death. Additional information is not expected. 7/2/08-records received-Adverse effect of drugs.Toxicology survey findings:urine positive for methadone, benzodiazepines, benzoylecgonine (from cocaine), cannabinoids, nicotine, diphenhydramine and naproxen.”

Did you read the last part? “Cocaine, cannabinoids, nicotine, diphenhydramine and naproxen.” No, no, no, I’m sure it was the vaccine.

One more thing…

There is this guy who claims that he analyzes the data in VAERS and puts together some fancy graphs. He writes for the NVIC blog about VAERS. Here is his entry on the HPV vaccine and pregnant women. He created this very scary tree of symptoms and conditions associated with pregnancy and HPV vaccine (click to see larger):

Without placing ANYTHING in context, he makes it look like all these horrible things are caused by the HPV vaccine if you give it to a pregnant woman. He even writes:
“As you can see, the most common issue is “Foetal complications” followed by “Abortions and stillbirth” and “Maternal complications”. The graph continues deeper, showing more symptom detail. So it appears that, according to VAERS reports involving pregnant women who received the HPV vaccine, they indeed had substantial pregnancy-related difficulties and the pattern of symptoms appears to be different than what is generally reported to VAERS.”

Information? Maybe. The correct information, one that includes the risks of HPV-related tumors – or other vaccine-preventable diseases – and the real numbers (nominators and denominators) as well as the fact that studies (case-control ones) have been done on vaccines and have not found them to be unsafe… That information seems to be somehow missing from NVIC, the “information” center.

Exhibit C coming soon.

VAERS as "evidence" of vaccine harm

Another common anti-vaccine attempt at rationalizing the fear they want to instill in you is to point at the “Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System”, or VAERS. It is a system set up as a repository for reports from the public of “adverse” events following immunization. The vaccine injury act created it. Just about anyone can post an event to the system, and it is up to epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to look into the reports and investigate them. In most cases, it is determined that the event had a cause other than the vaccine. But that doesn’t stop the anti-vaccine groups from scaring you through quoting numbers they got from VAERS.

It is as if you were to look at the nightly news and determine that you’re not going to interact with the world because, hey, bad things happen out in the big, bad world. Though only the bad news gets reported, many times, what you get in a 2-minute blurb is not a true picture of reality. Want proof?

Let’s do this step-by-step, so you can follow along and discover the “evidence” along with me. Before we do that, let me warn you about a site that purports itself to allow you to analyze VAERS data. The site is called “medalerts.org”. If you look at the site’s disclaimers, you’ll learn that it’s run by an anti-vaccine group. Furthermore, some of the conclusions drawn from the data in there seem to be based only on the raw numbers. I can’t find any critical thinking there. So let’s do our own thinking. Let’s look at reported deaths associated with vaccines.

First, go to the VAERS website here. After you’ve read through all the caveats of the VAERS database, click on the bottom link to proceed.

Alright, so you’ve agreed that “the inclusion of events in VAERS data does not infer causality”, contrary to everything the anti-vaccine groups will tell you. Next, you’ll get to the following web page:

If you’re not tech-saavy enough to download the data and analyze it yourself, no problem. CDC has it’s own software program called “CDC WONDER” to analyze it for you. That’s what we’ll use for this demo. So click on “CDC WONDER“. You’ll get to this site:

Once there, we only need to adjust a couple of variables to look at all reported deaths. Under “1. Organize table layout”, you want to group results by VAERS ID and check the box for “Adverse Event Description”, like so:

Next, under “4. Select event characteristics”, you want to select deaths, like so:

That’s it. Now click on “SEND” at the bottom of the page. You will not be presented with all the reported deaths submitted to VAERS, for all ages, genders, and locations. It’s a huge file, so give it some time.

As of 12/14/11, a total of 3,504 deaths have been reported to VAERS. Anti-vaccine groups will tell you that all those deaths are from vaccines and that they’re evidence of how deadly vaccines are. Are they?

Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff.

CAR ACCIDENTS?

First, let’s look for deaths related to car accidents. Car accidents? Yes, deaths related to car accidents have been reported to VAERS because, hey, the accidents happened after the vaccination, so they must be related, right? Sadly, because people died, we find the following (all bolding mine):

VAERS ID 168749-1: “No data obtained. Parents are awaiting final autopsy report and the death certificate. These will not be produced until a final toxicology report is obtained. All of this is per the coroner. Autopsy states cause of death as undetermined. Death certificate states cause of death due to cerebral laceration w/open skull fracture due to an automobile accident.”

VAERS ID 209245-1: “This subject is a three month old female, who suffered a fatal head injury while enrolled in a comparative post marketing safety study of Daptacel (diptheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine absorbed) administered with other recommended vaccines according to the US standard of care. The subject received one dose of study vaccine: the last dose prior to the event was given on 01/14/2003. The subject “”expired instantly due to blunt head injuries in motor vehicle accident described as “”auto vs. fixed object, ejected,”” 18 days post immunization and expired the same day. No other information was reported. Death Certificate has been received. Autopsy has been performed but report not yet received. The event of fatal head injury was reported by the investigator as unrelated to the study product. The autopsy report states accident automobile, death. Follow up on 09/30/2003: “”Autopsy Report received by medical affairs on 09/16/2003. This three-month-old female is a victim of an apparent accidental death. “”Auto (passenger) vs. F/O, rollover, ejected“”. The base portion of the car seat strapped in the center of the back seat. The car seat carrier was facing rear, however it was behind the passengers seat of the vehicle (not locked in the base) with the seat belts in use. The car seat canopy was found with the descedent. She was about 100 feet north of the vehicle, face down with her head against a rock. There was a blanket covering her. Death is probably instant and is clearly from crushing blunt injuries to the head. Other injuries also listed in the autopsy report include a crushed head and multiple severe abrasions and probable compressed chest event due to collapsed lungs and areas of hemorrhagic discoloration on lungs. This can happen in infants without fractures of the ribs, etc. Other injuries included fracture of the left femur as well as crushed and avulsed toes of the right foot. There was no signs of internal torso injuries except for the lungs. No further information is anticipate”

VAERS ID 308661-1: “We received on 12 FEB 2008 from a healthcare professional the following information: A 7-year-old male patient, born on 21 JUN 2000 was vaccinated with FLUVIRIN (batch no. unknown) on 19 NOV 2007. The patient was killed in an automobile traffic accident on 01 FEB 2008. The subject had participated in a clinical trial sponsored by MedImmune. FLUVIRIN was used in that trial as a control, and Novartis Vaccine & Diagnostics (NVD) has donated the FLUVIRIN, but other than that has not been involved. Although the event did not occur during the duration of the trial, and the investigator did not see any causal relationship to the vaccination with FLUVIRIN, he reported the event to the IRB and NVD because the child had died.”
VAERS ID 367379-1: “Killed in a car accident while pulling out of the street where the clinic was located. Was turning left onto a divided highway when the driver’s side door was hit by an oncoming vehicle. Died on impact.”

SUFFOCATION?

All deaths are tragic, and nothing – in my mind – is more tragic than the death of a young child. Unfortunately, there are times when well-meaning parents place the child in an awkward position in their cribs or on their beds. There are other times when the parents fall asleep with the child next to them in bed, eventually rolling over and asphyxiating/suffocating the child. Again, because these accidents happened after the child was vaccinated, they were reported to NEDSS…

VAERS ID 082237-1: “pt recvd vax 24NOV95 & was sleeping w/father & found pulseless & unresponsive;brought to ER & pronounced dead;autopsy done conclusion accidental suffocation as COD

VAERS ID 161098-1: “Pt received vaccines on 10/25/00 and on 10/26/00, infant asleep with 16 year old sibling. Mother found arm of sibling across baby’s face and baby was not breathing. CPR was administered and intubation to no avail. Autopsy shows found unresponsive, congestion of lungs, kidneys congested. Final cause of death stated as suffocation by mechanical asphyxia.”

VAERS ID 204529-1: “Infant found unresponsive laying on stomach am of 6/3. The autopsy states suffocation.”

VAERS ID 215994-1: “Per EMS, found face down in crib not breathing. CPR initiated. Patient intubated and received O2, epinephrine 2 times, Atropine 1 time per ER record. Autopsy Report received on 4/27/2004 states COD was suffocation.”

There are plenty more related to suffocation, but you can see those for yourself now that you know how to access the data. So let’s just look at one more.

DROWNING?

As with car accidents, these accidental drownings were also submitted.

VAERS ID 206893-1: “This subject is a 9 month old female, who was enrolled in a Phase IV P3T08 (Daptacel) study. The subject received two doses of study vaccine; the last dose prior to the event was given on 12/27/02. The subject died of multiple system organ failure due to near-drowning, 163 days post-immunization. The event of drowning was reported by the investigator as unrelated to the study vaccine. Autopsy results are pending. From additional information received on 11/4/03 from the autopsy report: It was determined by an investigation that an autopsy would be necessary to establish the cause of death. Based on the known circumstances and cause of death, the manner of death is an accident. The drowning occurred in a wading pool. Follow up on 11/25/2003: “”Information has been received from an investigator concerning a 9 month old Hispanic female patient who was enrolled in a phase IV diptheria toxoid/pertussis vaccine/tetanus (DAPTACEL) study. On 12/27/2002, the patient was vaccinated with a dose of hepatitis B virus vaccine rHBsAg (yeast) (manufacturer unknown). Concomitant vaccination on 12/27/2002 included a second dose of diphtheria toxoid/pertussis vaccine/tetanus (DAPTACEL), a dose of poliovirus vaccine (IPOL), a dose of Haemophilus influenzae vaccine (+) tetanus toxoid and a dose of Streptococcus pneumoniae vaccine (PREVNAR). 163 days post vaccination on 06/08/2003 at 15:52, the patient died. The cause of death was “”multi-organ failure due to near drowning.”” Autopsy findings included: heavy lungs with hypostatic pneumonia and diffuse alveolar damage; ischemic encephalopathy; thymic involutional changes; congestive hepatomegaly; generalized visceral congestion; minor contisions of legs. External examination revealed a normally developed, adequately nourished Hispanic female infant who appeared consistent with the reported age of almost ten months. Internal examination revealed histology-sections of all major viscera were submitted per the SIDS protocol; X-rays-total body X-rays showed no recent healing fractures or”

VAERS ID 331195-1: “Information has been received from a study concerning a patient (age and gender not reported) who was vaccinated with a dose of PROQUAD (date, dose, route not reported). It was reported that the patient died due to drowning (date not reported). This is one of several reports from the same source. Additional information has been requested.”

But what about all the others? Well, look at the data yourself. You know how to do it now, and – if you’re reading this – you’re a pretty smart person. You’ll see cases like this one, where it is painfully obvious that the vaccine did not cause the unfortunate end of this person:

VAERS ID 177955-1: “It was reported that a 44 year old white male was vaccinated in 1995 with a dose of pneumococcal vaccine 23 polyvalent and a dose of influenza virus vaccine. At the time of vaccination, the pt’s CD4 count was 250 cells/microL (19%) and he was prescribed concomitantly zidovudine, lamivudine and sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim. It was noted that over the subsequent 2 years, there was a transient increase of his CD4 count to a maximum of 370 cells/microL and then a slow decline. The pt presented in 4/97 to the ER with a 6 day history of violent shaking chills, night sweat and malaise. The pt reported shortness of breath, occasional blood-tinged sputum and pleuritic chest pain for 3 days. The pt was known to have been HIV (+) for 8 years, with risk factors including IV drug abuse. It was noted that the pt had received medical care at the infectious disease clinic at the same hospital. It was noted that at his last appointment, 3 months prior to his presentation to the ER, the pt had a CD4 cell count of 216 cells/microL (16%) and his viral load was 1270 copies/mL. It was reported that the pt completely recovered from a hepatitis b infection, but hat a history of chronic sinusitis and hepatitis C. The pt had never suffered from the opportunistic infections common in AIDS. It was reported that in the ER, the pt was poorly cooperative, appeared pale and coughed occasionally. He was afebrile, hypoxemic and had oliguria. Septic shock with severe bacterial pneumonia was dx’d. Ceftazidime, erythromycin, sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim and IV hydration were administered. It was reported that the pt required orotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation. About 11 hours after presenting to the ER, the pt developed recurrent ventricular tachycardia and expired. It was noted that with the exception of minimal aseptic leptomeningitis, the neuropathological findings were unremarkable. There was no evidence that the pt had a concurrent influenza infection. It was reported that Streptococcus pneumoniae was cultured from various blood

Unfortunately, I’m sure many anti-vaccine advocates will not hesitate to make giant leaps based on these reports. I’m not kidding you. Someone actually suggested that the person who drove out in front of a car was “disabled by the vaccine and couldn’t drive” the car or that the accident was done “to cover up the vaccine damage”.