Hepatitis Vaccines Safe?
Are they Effective?
Are they Necessary?
[ January/February 2001 ]
Are Hepatitis Vaccines Safe?
Are they Effective?
Are they Necessary?
by Robert Wheeler, DC
Recently, the Anchorage School District voted unanimously to require five new vaccines for all schoolchildren. Among these vaccines are those for hepatitis A and B. There is mounting evidence that the hepatitis B vaccine in particular is associated with chronic immune and neurological disease in both children and adults. In the past decade, there have been many reports in medical journals (mostly international) linking hepatitis B vaccination to such diseases as lupus, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, optic neuritis and others.
In July 1998, 15,000 French citizens filed a class action lawsuit against the French government, accusing it of understating the risks of hepatitis B vaccination and "exaggerating the benefits for the average person." (Science magazine, 7-31-1998) In October of the same year, the Minister of Health in France suspended the hepatitis B vaccine requirement for school children after symptoms of chronic arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune and neurological disorders were reported following vaccinations. In addition to these disorders, the hepatitis B vaccine has been associated with anaphylactic shock, heart and liver conditions, juvenile onset diabetes, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Bell's Palsy, transverse myelitis, seizures and many other conditions. (These are documented in various medical journals, and are also noted in the vaccine manufacturer's -- SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals -- insert, July 1998).
Besides the danger of possible harm, one other major problem with the mandatory vaccination of children for this disease is that they are not at risk. Hepatitis B is very rare in the United States. According to data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), less than 0.5% of the U.S. population are carriers, and nearly all of these are in hospitals. (Hepatitis B occurs in approximately 8% of the population worldwide.)
In 1996, only 279 cases of hepatitis B were reported in children under the age of 14, while there were 872 serious adverse events reported in the same age group associated with hepatitis B vaccination. In other words, there were 68% more adverse reactions from the vaccine than were reported from natural infection! What we have here is a mandatory vaccine that is dangerous, for infants and children who are not at risk, for a disease which is extremely rare in children, and which usually resolves without complications.
The CDC, the Merck Manual (a standard reference for physicians) as well as the manufacturer of the vaccine all admit that the people most at risk for hepatitis B infection are 1) IV drug users; 2) prostitutes; 3) practicing homosexuals; 4) dialysis patients; and 5) health care workers exposed to human blood. Which of these categories justify immunizing 4 million children a year with a vaccine that carries known risks, which are often much more dangerous than hepatitis B infection? Recovery without treatment occurs in approximately 90% of those with hepatitis A and 80% of those with hepatitis B infections.
Hepatitis B usually resolves spontaneously, without treatment, after a 4 to 8 week illness. (In the elderly, mortality may reach up to 10 to 15%, however.) Once again, most children are not at risk. Further, hepatitis B infection via blood transfusion has been almost eliminated by avoiding unnecessary infusions, screening donors and using volunteers as opposed to paid donors. Until this recent change in vaccine policy, only infants born to infected mothers were recommended to receive vaccination. Why the sudden change? While it is true that Alaskan bush communities have higher than average rates of hepatitis A infections (due to a unique lifestyle), does this warrant mandatory vaccines for children statewide?
According to CDC data (http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hepatitis/h96surve.htm), there were 8,817 total cases of hepatitis A and 3,714 cases of hepatitis B reported in the United States in 1993. Of these, only 456 cases of hepatitis A occurred in children under 5 years old (or 5.2% of the total cases) and only 7 cases of hepatitis B in the same age group (or only 0.2 % of total cases). Of those children between 5 and 9 years of age, there were 1,066 cases of hepatitis A (12.1% of the total cases) and 15 cases of hepatitis B (0.4% of the total cases). Of the 22 hepatitis B cases occurring in children under 9 years of age, only 21% required hospitalization; further, no deaths resulted from infection in the 0-14 year old age group. The number of hospitalizations for hepatitis A in the infant to 14 year old age category were 10.6% and only 0.2% died. The justification for vaccination of infants was made by the Immunization Practices Advisory Committee in 1991 because children are accessible.
Regarding hepatitis A, the vaccine
manufacturer's insert (SmithKline Beecham, June 1999), clearly states
that the vaccine will not prevent infection in immunosuppressed individuals
or in those who do not respond with high antibody titers. The insert
also states that it has not been determined how high antibody titers
must be to confer immunity. As noted by SmithKline Beecham, this vaccine
"has not been evaluated for its carcinogenic (cancer causing) potential,
mutagenic potential or impairment of fertility. Animal reproduction
studies have not been conducted... It is also not known whether Havrix
(hepatitis A vaccine) can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant
woman or can affect reproduction capacity... It is not known whether
Havrix is excreted in human milků As with all pharmaceuticals, however,
it is possible that expanded commercial use of the vaccine could reveal
rare adverse events not observed in clinical studies." In addition,
the following reactions have been reported since licensure (not all
are listed here -- see SmithKline Beecham insert, June 1999, for complete
A local senator e-mailed me a couple of months ago encouraging my support in contacting other state legislators regarding a bill that would grant philosophical exemptions to vaccination in Alaska in addition to the current religious and medical exemptions. You do have a choice to forego these vaccines. I spoke with the Supervisor for the Department of Health and Human Services on October, 26, 2000, who informed me that school nurses must allow children into school who possess either a signed medical exemption or whose parent has signed a religious exemption. When I asked this person why we are vaccinating children who are not at risk for hepatitis B, she responded that we wanted to keep up with the lower 48. What kind of thinking is this?
Your child cannot be forced to have vaccinations. Neither schools nor health departments can assume responsibility for your child's health, and local health departments can not change federal law, which requires exemptions in every state. All parents do have a choice to forego the hepatitis A and B vaccines for their children. As mentioned, the state of Alaska currently offers two types of exemptions: medical or religious. (For more on this, see "School Vaccinations: Your Parental Rights" in the July/August 1999 issue of Alaska Wellness).
According to the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a poll conducted in 1998 revealed that 2 out of 3 Americans want informed consent rights regarding vaccinations. In addition, 45% of Americans oppose hepatitis B vaccination for children to enter school and 59% of those who were told about the risks said they were less likely to support such mandatory vaccination laws. Only 25% of Americans believe that people should be forced to use drugs or vaccines that carry known risks. (NVIC poll performed by The Polling Company, December 1998. Margin of error is +/-3.1% at the 95% confidence level.)
The truth is that people with healthy immune systems will do fine without the vaccines, while those with unhealthy immune systems will be more likely to suffer symptomatic infection and will also be more likely to fail to produce antibodies from the vaccine. What we need to do is strengthen our immune systems naturally.
Alternative ways to strengthen the immune system without vaccines may include immune globulin injections utilized before a known exposure, homeopathic nosodes, chiropractic, and good nutrition. Other natural approaches that strengthen the immune system are also beneficial. All vaccines are not created equal. Tetanus is the safest that I have studied, though it too is not without risks, while hepatitis B and Pertussis are the most deadly. With this in mind, I believe there is something seriously wrong with the mandatory vaccination of children against a disease of which they are not at risk and which does not cause childhood fatalities. Hepatitis A has only recently been used in children so it will take time for the guinea pigs (our children) to begin manifesting reactions in high enough numbers to raise concern.
Please take the time to review the risks and dangers regarding vaccination. Choose to become informed. Let's stand up and fight for our children! Dr. Wheeler is a practicing Chiropractor at Alaska Back Care Center and can be reached at (907) 349-4212 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Wheeler is also the loving and informed father of 3 healthy children who have never been vaccinated.
FOR MORE INFORMATION on parental rights and vaccinations, see "Vaccination Decisions For Parents" (May/June 1999 issue, Alaska Wellness) by The National Vaccine Information Center and "School Vaccinations: Your Parental Rights" by Dr. Robert Wheeler (July/August 1999 issue, Alaska Wellness). You may view these articles along with others on vaccination in the Archive section of our website: www.alaskawellness.com.