MMR and Statistical Manipulation

Measles virus

When I was still at high school, way back in the late 1970s, there was a health scare that got a lot of media attention. Apparently, there was a perceived risk that the whooping cough vaccine could cause brain damage. The fall off in vaccination for this disease is claimed to have led to the widespread outbreaks of whooping cough in 1979 and 1982, there having previously been almost zero annual cases. At the peak there were some 60,000 cases.

Fast forward to the near present and you will recall similar scare stories about the combined measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, the MMR, and claims by researcher Andrew Wakefield (Lancet, 1998) that MMR could cause autism in some children. It’s a topic guest blogger Michael Marshall covered on Sciencebase in November 2004. It seemed that, at the time, the debate was pretty much over. However, despite repeated demonstrations of the apparent inadequacies of the original research into a link between MMR and autism, the issue is resurrected on a regular basis. Most recently in a cover story in The Observer, which drew much flack, but also left the chattering classes once more in a flap.

Right now, I’m looking at an article from the print edition of The Times offering an answer to the Question of the Week – “Measles or vaccine?” – the article talks of how measles has reappeared and it is apparently all down to many parents’ reluctance to have their children vaccinated with the MMR jab. The article talks of “herd immunity” and how enough children have had a double dose of MMR which should stave off an epidemic. The emergence of herd immunity, of course, will be little comfort for a parent whose child experience any of the potentially severe side-effects of vaccination.

In the article, pictured alongside a blow-up of the measles virus and an image of a nasty-looking hypodermic needle, are two charts, one showing the number of cases of measles in the UK from 1940 to the present day and the other showing the number of deaths over the same period. Incidence of the disease ebbed and flowed during the period up to the early 1970s whereupon cases began to fall rapidly from a peak of 800,000 a year in the early 1960s to just one or two hundred a year by the mid-1970s.

The MMR vaccine was introduced in the US in 1971 and later in the UK, thereafter incidence of measles has pretty much fallen to levels close to zero. It seems that the pre-vaccine drop had another cause, presumably reduced overcrowding, improved nutrition, better hygiene and healthcare. No one knows at what point this fall would have reached a plateau.

In contrast, the second chart of death rates shows an exponential decline in measles deaths since the 1940s, by about 1970 measles deaths were also close to zero. The risk of getting measles is about one in three, assuming no vaccination coverage at all. The risk of serious consequences to this disease, which personally I had in 1972 or thereabouts, is somewhere between 1 in 5000 and 1 in 15,000. Compare that to the risk of death in a road accident. According to Transport2000 , the UK’s national environmental transport body, each of us has a 1 in 17 chance of being killed or seriously injured in a road crash during our lives. Such figures damn the disease statistics somewhat. Of course, vaccination does come with some risks, but adverse reactions, such as seizures with an associated risk of brain damage, exist at the 1 in 10,000 level.

There has been one UK death from measles since 1992 (as opposed to the several hundred each year during the 1940s). The unfortunate victim was apparently suffering an underlying lung disease for which he required long-term immunosuppressant drugs. He was very unfortunate to be exposed to the measles virus, and when he contracted the disease he was very unlikely to have recovered. This is one fatal case. Even with near 100% vaccination, there would still be a finite risk of any random member of the population contracting the disease. Unfortunate, but true. The statistics would not lie surely?


54 thoughts on “MMR and Statistical Manipulation

  1. Any paper that purports to debate whether mercury is good or bad should a priori have measurements of mercury. I note all these papers to my understanding have not one single mercury measurement.
    How do you prove mercury is good or bad for us when you have absolutely no scientific basis for whether there is any or no mercury in patients or controls.
    It reminds me of many things
    1 Chemical company – our animals die with this new chemical. Regulatory authority – use more resistant animals. Chemical company – the new animals are just fine now. Regulatory authority – you are permitted to market your product.
    2 What or who actually allowed the most toxic non radioactive element mercury to be put in vaccines?
    Chemical company – 22 humans had no adverse reaction to mercury. Regulatory authority – fine use the stuff in vaccines. Later – weeks later all the 22 had died. Chemical company – Do nothing! Tell no one! 2008 – every adult should have a (mercury) flu vaccine, its not too late in the season to have yours.
    3 A leading epidemiologist was the late Sir Richard Doll ( how do you spell Sir?). His papers revealed he received a cheque for more than a thousand pounds from a chemical company for his services. How do you receive money and then judge their products fairly? Murders are known to have been committed for less than this.
    4 Professor Virginia Wong et al did do mercury levels in 2004 and find that mercury and autism were not statistically connected. The problem was their maths or statistics was wrong. When forced to change the figures to those that agree with the data they still insisted there was no connection although now statistically there was. How do you say this when your figures show there is a connection?
    5 It seems as if no connection will be seen even it is seen. I suggest we use the scientific traditon of just a few years ago and publish papers which show us something. Where is the benefit of every published paper meticulously showing us that nothing is happening?
    6 We need people today who can say yes X causes Y. The USA agencies tracked two deaths to one small field in some obscure corner of the country. The inability to track down 5 million deaths and illness to any cause let alone the most toxic non radioactive element present in every vaccine that the chindren ever had seems to be the best fairy story of the festive season I have ever heard.

  2. Hi Everyone

    Mercury is not the ‘primary’ cause of autism.

    Note that first of all this is one article which therefore by implication acknowledges that mercury is a nerve destroying toxin and must play a part in illness and death. A chemical and clinical exactitude.

    There is no doubt that mercury must be banned worldwide from vaccines. All those involved in vaccines agree but government and regulation lag years behind. Mercury is used to make Hep B vaccine and is recommended in other vaccines. The publicity that it is out and autism is not falling is bizarre. It is intellectually dishonest to talk about falling or not falling inicdence of an illness when the factor involved is still fulminating in vaccines.

    Lets get a universal and solid ban, wait 7 years and then look at figures.

    In the mean time people are not just getting ill from mercury they are dying. Worse the moms are being arrested and imprisoned to cover up the harm.

    A look at VAERS shows hundreds of thousands of examples of vaccine harm and predominantly and overwhelmingly mercury laced vaccines are those involved.

    I predict if action is not taken and truths admitted we will see an abandonment of vaccination except for those illnesses where there is a real need as opposed to a commercial profit need.

    The use of mercury vaccines for the elderly is more akin to eugenics than prophylaxis but is currently the biggest money earner.

    GSK, Aventis-Pasteur, Merck: Licensed to Kill? That was in 007 not 008. Lets move on please.

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