Daily Mail July, 1999

Vaccinations  Do they pose a risk to children?
Yes, says Dr Michel Odent

THE Government has announced the most ambitious vaccination programme ever, starting this winter, when millions of children will be protected against meningitis C for the first time. It is expected to prevent hundreds of cases of the disease and scores of deaths. But the increasing number of vaccines given to babies in the first few months of life has raised concerns about possible long-term risks to our children’s health. Here, two leading experts debate the pros and cons of inoculation

WHEN childhood vaccination was introduced, there was a simple and direct benefit to children at a time when we could see the devastating effects of diphtheria and whooping cough epidemics.

The issue was clear-cut because babies were offered only one or two vaccines and the question was: How effective is this vaccine against the disease?

Today, children are given ten different vaccines at a stage when their immune systems are developing. This blanket immunisation raises quite different Issues— the most important of which are how these different vaccines interact with each other and the long-term effects on health. A society that asks its members to participate in a public health endeavour such as mass immunisation has to be prepared to support that action in every sense. It goes without saying that those who suffer demonstrable ill-effects from being vaccinated should be compensated. Britain has such as scheme, although I know it has been criticised as inadequate.

But there is a wider problem because of the failure to carry out long-term, randomised, controlled studies — properly conducted scientific investigations which would monitor the effects of multiple, early vaccination versus non-vaccination into adulthood.

In these studies, half the children would receive the active vaccine while half would not. It is argued that this would be unethical because those who had not been inoculated would be exposed to the risk of diseases which are preventable.

However, my research and other studies in Britain suggest there is an urgent need to reconsider the issue, especially when we have a further vaccine for meningitis C about to be given to babies here.

Almost five years ago in the Journal of the American Medical Association, I published a study of 446 children, half of whom had not been vaccinated against whooping cough. All the children had been breast fed exclusively for at least six months, which eliminated the problem of diet triggering health problems.

The rate of asthma was five times higher among youngsters who had been immunised. The importance of the research is that the vaccinated children had received three or four different vaccines at the same time and it was supported by results from another study where half of children attending British Rudolf Steiner schools were not immunised.

But similar research we carried out in a French Rudolf Steiner school did not find such a link. Far from undermining our case, it highlights the issue of vaccine interaction because the difference with the French children was that they received the anti-TB vaccination (the BCG) at the same time. There is a plausible biological mechanism which would explain how a potentially damaging effect caused by the whooping cough vaccine could be counteracted by the other.

This illustrates my main concern that we know too little about the long-term effects of multiple, early vaccination.

Vaccination is firmly on the public health agenda — by the year 2010 we could be giving babies 15 different vaccines at the same time. It would be fiendishly difficult to carry out prospective studies, but for the sake of the health of each new generation of children we should be prepared to try.

•DR MICHEL Odent is an internationally renowned obstetrician who runs the Primal Health Research Centre in London.

[Home] [Vaccination]