Goldacre is notorious for his defence of the MMR vaccine against claims it causes autism and for his public attacks as a national newspaper column writer on those he does not agree with.
Edwards’ warning should be the least of Ben Goldacre’s concerns. Goldacre encourages a “posse” on his Badscience.net blog including some notorious nutters and bullies the latter who roam the internet ridiculing, abusing and bullying those whom Goldacre and his acolytes choose not to agree with. Targets include parents of vaccine damaged children and those concerned for the health and safety of children threatened by serious adverse vaccine reactions. Now we see journalists running to Ben’s defence, like Jim Edwards, [albeit seemingly obscure in the UK] as if Goldacre did not have the means to defend himself.
Edwards reworks the criticism of Goldacre, saying that Goldacre’s father, Michael, authored a study claiming that the MMR vaccine containing the Urabe mumps strain had a higher risk for meningitis than other MMR vaccines. However, Edwards goes on to say that:-
“the offending vaccine was removed from the market based in part on such studies, and thus counts as a contribution to vaccine safety and not ….. as evidence that proves Goldacre’s dad is in league with Big Pharma’s vaccine makers.“
And at this point Edwards loses journalistic credibility. [And not just for citing Wikipedia as a reliable source. It is not, and Edwards ought to know that (as is indicated by his boasts of being a former managing editor of Adweek, of spending 4 years at Brandweek and being a "former Knight-Bagehot fellow" at Columbia University's business and journalism schools.)]
Edwards has no clue what he is writing about.
And there is also a problem with the story that this was simply to do with mumps viral meningitis (which Ben Goldacre’s father Michael J Goldacre wrote about in 1993, after the event).
Urabe mumps virus containing Pluserix MMR was not withdrawn from the UK because of Michael J Goldacre’s work. It was a known dangerous vaccine introduced irresponsibly into the UK by UK health officials. It was the identical vaccine with identical constituents, manufactured in the identical SmithKline factory in Belgium and supplied to Canada under the name Trivirix. The Canadians withdrew Pluserix/Trivirix in November 1987 because it was dangerous.
Pluserix MMR should never have been introduced into the UK but it was in October 1988, a year after withdrawal in Canada. The UK authorities must have had full disclosure of the problems with the vaccine from the suppliers Smith Kline & French Laboratories Ltd (a Glaxo company) so it beggars belief they unleashed it on the children of their own country.
Jack Ashley MP, now Lord Ashley, had obtained information that Pluserix MMR vaccine was dangerous, caused high levels of serious adverse reactions and that this was known by the UK DoH in 1990 and not two years later in September 1992. Lord Ashley also discovered that there was no surveillance being carried out, only spontaneous adverse reaction reports under the UK’s “Yellow Card” system.
The vaccine was withdrawn from the market worldwide by Smith Kline Beecham on one week’s notice to the UK Department of Health on 11th September 1992 leaving the UK DoH publicly embarrassed as they were intending continuing putting further British children at risk of the vaccine until they had got their story straight for an announcement to the medical professions.
Lord Ashley found that during 1990 there were 748 adverse vaccine reactions reports to the UK’s Committee on Safety of Medicines, as Ministerial correspondence showed. On a conservative scale these represented 7,480 adverse reactions. Adverse reactions to any drug are under reported by a minimum of 9 of every 10 cases. Formally published papers show serious adverse reactions can be under reported by 99 in every 100 cases.
Of these reactions 199 were classified by the CSM as “serious” – 45 involving MMR vaccines and 74 DTP. There were 7 deaths.
Including unreported serious reactions, conservatively, this represented in just one year 1,990 serious reactions, 450 involving MMR and 70 deaths. On a less conservative assessment there could have been up to 19,900 serious reactions, 4,500 involving MMR and 700 deaths.
The question is therefore, if Ben Goldacre’s father, Michael J Goldacre, as an Oxford University expert in health-care epidemiology was writing up papers about a relatively mild condition of mumps viral meningitis, why was he not also writing up papers about these other serious adverse vaccine reactions?
Was he wholly unaware of them? What was and is the position? Was he
hired by the UK Department of Health and kept in ignorance of the other
more serious problems? And if so why?
One thing is certain and documented, there were many many more reasons for the withdrawal of the Pluserix MMR vaccine from the market than the relatively innocuous issue of mumps viral meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is of serious concern, not viral meningitis, from which the majority of children would have recovered rapidly without permanent harm. And why, therefore, did Ben Goldacre’s father and co-authors make such a meal of viral menigitis. These are among many questions which deserve answers.