There was a storm of amazement and disbelief when Dr. Paul Offit, vaccine industry insider and perhaps the most widely stated defender of vaccine safety, made the outrageous statement that each infant would have the theoretical capacity to respond to about 10,000 vaccines at any one time.
Many denounced the statement as being downright crazy, but it was soon apparent that there was method in the madness.
The words originated from Dr. Offit’s and co-authors’ article in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics “Addressing Parents’ Concerns: Do Multiple Vaccines Overwhelm or Weaken the Infant’s Immune System?” (1)
The statement is not supported by facts. It is based on a purely theoretical calculation with no relation to reality and it should have been dismissed as having no practical application.
But it was not dismissed. On the contrary it is widely quoted completely out of context to promote concomitant administration of many vaccines.
The strategy is surely to lull parents into accepting introduction of even more vaccines in the childhood vaccination schedule, the more the merrier.
Whilst there are practically no unbiased safety studies concerning concomitantly administered vaccines, coupled with the fact that risk of adverse events increases with increasing numbers of vaccines, advocating even more is irresponsible and unethical.
By chance in February 2012 I found this in the National Health Information (England) Leaflet “MMR THE FACTS”: “A baby could respond safely and effectively to around 10,000 vaccines at any one time. So the baby’s immune system can and does easily cope with the MMR vaccine.”
I sent an email message to the UK Department of Health requesting that the statement be deleted as it is not documented, it is incorrect and misleading. (2)
A polite answer was received referring to Dr. Offit’s article and repeating his theory. (Worded simply it implies that toddlers are able to cope with an 10 000 vaccines because their immune systems are designed to build up resistance when they crawl around in dirt and pick up thousands of germs!) (3)
On asking epidemiologist Tetyana Obukhanych Ph.D, about the capacity of the immune system I gathered the following information, in a nutshell: The immune system has a theoretical capacity to respond to an unlimited number of antigens, but not all at the same time.
A new message from the UK Department of Health was received explaining that the leaflet was revised in 2006 (- why didn’t they inform about this before?) and the statement now reads:
“In theory, a baby could respond effectively to around 10,000 vaccines at any one time. The baby’s immune system can and does easily cope with the MMR, pneumococcal and Hib/MenC vaccines at the same time.” (4)
Up to now the epidemiological issue had mainly been discussed, but what about the toxicological aspects? We are often confronted with the argument that toxic substances are no safety risk because they are present in minute quantities in vaccines, but the argument certainly falls flat in the case of many concomitantly administered vaccines.
My next message to the Department of Health included:
“It is hereby requested that a medically qualified person/toxicologist confirms the following statement (based on basic toxicology): In addition to antigens, vaccines normally contain several other substances, many of which are toxic in large doses. When many vaccines are administered concomitantly the amounts of these substances may be of such large quantities that a human being would in fact die within a very short time.” (5)
Some departmental feathers were obviously ruffled because their reply had undertones of sarcasm:
Dear Ms Lunoe,
Thank you for your email regarding the ‘MMR – The facts’ leaflet. Please find as requested, a reply to your correspondence from a medically qualified person.
The statement as provided deals specifically with the capacity of the infant immune system to respond to multiple antigens. It was not a calculation of the responses to other ingredients in vaccines such as water which is well known to be toxic to humans in large quantities. The statement should not be misinterpreted to imply inferences for which it was not intended.
Professor David Salisbury
MB BS, FRCP, FRCPCH, FFPH.
I hope this has been helpful.
Regards – Clarissa Hudson
Immunisation Policy Branch
Department of Health
The “medically qualified person” with the long list of letters after his name was no other than Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health, also known as the ‘Basil Fawlty’ of the UK vaccines industry! (Basil Fawlty is a comedian in a TV series, manager of a small hotel where everything goes hilariously wrong).
David Salisbury is like Basil Fawlty, well known for his antics. The difference is that Basil’s antics are funny whereas David’s antics are notoriously unethical. (6)
True to style Dr. Salisbury did not directly respond to my question concerning toxic substances, but he stated that water is toxic in large quantities. This was inappropriate as he surely knows that the reason why pure water cannot be injected is not toxicological, but physical – it causes irreversible damage to blood cells due to hemolysis.
As expected, he was not willing to confirm: “When many vaccines are administered concomitantly the amounts of these substances may be of such large quantities that a human being would in fact die within a very short time.”
(If “many tablets” had been substituted for “many vaccines” he would surely have responded that they may be dangerous. Is it the word vaccine which is holy and untouchable? )
Dissatisfied with the answer I sent a new message, again pointing out immunological and toxicological aspects and requesting that the statement regarding the 10 000 vaccines be removed from the leaflet. (7)
A reply was promptly received, this time suggesting that I take up matter with Dr. Offit!
Dear Ms Lunoe,
Thank you for your email of 22 March 2012. I have forwarded your comments onto Professor Salisbury as requested.
Professor Salisbury has replied to your comments and I have attached these below:
“The Department of Health stands by the statement which is a direct reflection of the published calculation on the capacity of an infant’s immune system to respond to multiple antigens made by Dr.Paul Offit. His calculation makes no reference to the consequences of other vaccine ingredients such as water and it should not be misrepresented as if it does so. If Ms. Lunoe objects to Dr.Offit’s analysis, I suggest she takes it up with him.”
Regards – Clarissa
Immunisation Policy Branch
Department of Health
So here is my polite message sent to Dr. Offit. It concludes with,
“With this in mind, trusting that you have the wellbeing of the general public at heart, I am asking that you consider making a public statement to clarify and to emphasize that the statement in the study “each infant would have the theoretical capacity to respond to about 10 000 vaccines at any one time” is based on a purely theoretical immunological calculation in a study, that it does not imply the toxicological aspect of a large number of vaccines administered concomitantly and that it should not be quoted out of context.” (8)
We are still waiting and hoping for a positive response from Dr. Offit – because he surely has peoples’ wellbeing at heart?