A paper just published asserts no association between Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) and vaccinations. But some of us say it doesn’t show anything much.
Vaccines Not Linked to Guillain-Barre, Asserts 13-Year Trial. That’s what the headline said. But, it wasn’t a trial at all; it was just a review of records.
In a paper just published online April 11, 2013, and in the July 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, researchers claimed to have examined records spanning 13 years and more than 30 million person-years and found no evidence of an increased risk for Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) after vaccinations of any type, including influenza vaccination.
Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Must be true maybe?
Point one to note: the lead author, Roger Baxter, MD, is co-director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center, Oakland, California. That’s an immediate red flag.
Point two: it’s a retrospective study. It’s easy to manipulate figures from the past… you just choose the ones you like!
Point three: causes of this syndrome are largely unknown, but are thought to involve an autoimmune process triggered by antigenic stimulation that results in demyelination and destruction of peripheral nerves.
Well, we know for sure, from veterinary studies, that vaccines are a major cause—if not THE cause—of autoimmune diseases in cats and dogs. So that’s a glaring inconsistency in their position: vaccinations cause autoimmune disease.
So “causes largely unknown” is being too cute.
What was interesting was that they found about two thirds of cases (66.7%) were preceded by a gastrointestinal or respiratory infection, with Campylobacter enteritis being the most common trigger. Also implicated are influenza, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, HIV, and Mycoplasma pneumonia.
The trouble is, despite the thunderous sounding numbers in my second paragraph, the researchers looked at just 415 cases. That’s stickpoint number four (these are adding up!)
Among the 415 patients with GBS they found (or were they chosen?), only 25 had received any vaccine in the 6 weeks before onset of the disease. The other 390 patients with GBS received no vaccines in the 6 weeks before onset. So in a sense it’s a series of 25! Not enough. Stickpoint number #5.
More reassuring is the fact that the researchers also found no cases of GBS resulting from vaccines given in childhood, despite the large number of doses given. These included the oral polio vaccine (1.2 million doses), measles-mumps-rubella (1.6 million), conjugated pneumococcal (1.3 million), live attenuated influenza (69,000), diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (1.9 million), varicella (764,000), Haemophilus-diphtheria-
It does seem clear that GBS is a disease of older people (50 plus years).
BUT… remember these are Kaiser’s own records. The fact that there was no mentioned association could be dumb doctors… or dishonest doctors, who don’t or can’t report accurately.
GBS really is rare. But here’s another sticky point: according to the US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, there is a “background rate” for GBS in the U.S. of about 80 to 160 cases of GBS each week. So how come Kaiser, with huge resources and what was claimed to be 30 million person-years, came up with only 415 cases over a span of 13 years? Is that believable?
That stinks of massaging. In any case, as I said, this is such a small series as to be almost meaningless.
Of course the pro-vaccination lobby are quick to latch onto this study and use it. Marian Michaels, MD, from the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told Medscape Medical News when asked for her views on this article, “…Too often, people hear of someone who had an illness temporarily associated with having received an immunization. By nature, we as humans try to make associations, and therefore the immunization often takes the blame, even if it had nothing to do with the problem.”
The Kaiser Permanente study, “which has huge numbers of people involved,” is extremely helpful, she said. 25 is “huge numbers”? That’s a glaring point #6.
An intelligent doctor or scientist might wonder why it’s being claimed any valuable information can be extracted from such a silly study.
Nobuhiro Yuki, MD, PhD, research professor in the Department of Medicine at National University of Singapore, told Medscape Medical News he believes a few vaccines could well have caused GBS, and he finds the paper title (“Lack of Association of Guillain-Barré Syndrome With Vaccinations”) misleading!
Says Yuki, “According to their study in a small population, they could not find the association of GBS with vaccines. That’s all. The title is too catchy, and I have no idea why this journal accepted their paper.”
Final sticking point to note (#7): Dr. Baxter and one coauthor report financial relationships with Merck & Company, Pfizer, Sanofi-Pasteur, Novartis Vaccines, GlaxoSmithKline, and Med-Immune. Right, so there is not the slightest chance of objectivity there, with all the dollars rolling in from these major vaccine companies.
In fact, you could say it’s a straight blind; doctoring facts from paid doctors!
Dr. Yuki apparently disclosed no relevant financial relationships with Big Pharma.
REFERENCE: [Clin Infect Dis. 2013;57:197-204]
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