Friday, May 28, 2010

Environmental Agents Trigger Autoimmune Thyroid Disease/ Medscape

From the Medscape report from the American Thyroid Association Meeting:
Multiple genetic and environmental risk factors can trigger autoimmune thyroid disease in humans, according to experts here at the American Thyroid Association (ATA) Spring 2010 Meeting.
Gregory A. Brent, MD, professor of medicine and physiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles, presented the findings.
He reported that "genetic background accounts for about 70% of the risk for autoimmune thyroid disease. The remainder is likely related to a range of environmental triggers."  [So if you have a family background of autoimmunity, you are generally at higher risk for developing thyroid disease after certain exposures, including vaccines.  Mandating vaccines for people from such families genetically discriminates against them, as they are at much higher risk of a severe adverse reaction than people from families without autoimmune disease.--Nass]
A number of toxicants affect iodine uptake and thyroid hormone synthesis, metabolism, binding, and action, he explained.
He noted that among the more common agents that affect thyroid metabolism are perchlorates (a rocket fuel additive), thiocyanates (a compound in cigarettes), and dioxins (a class of pesticides). Few studies assess how these agents affect humans, he added.
"The problem is that most of these thyroid toxicants have been identified in vitro and in animal models. The significance for humans is much more difficult to assess," said Dr. Brent...
The thyroid is influenced by toxicants. Researchers know very little about their effects in humans. These compounds include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and bisphenol A (BPA).
Autoimmune hypothyroidism has been shown to be a consequence of vaccination in dogs.  Many Gulf War veterans and anthrax vaccine recipients have developed thyroid disorders, usually hypofunction but also Graves' disease and thyroid cancers.  Raw thyroid cancer rates in servicemembers before and after receiving 1-3 anthrax vaccine doses revealed that cancer rates tripled after vaccination.  See tables G1-G3 of the IOM report.

"Incidents" at Fort Detrick, 2009: 17 infectious exposures of personnel/ Frederick News-Post

The local Frederick News-Post filed a FOIA to learn the number and type of infectious incidents and injuries that had been reported over the past few years.  Last November an employee was sick with tularemia for 3 weeks before being diagnosed,  Most likely she inhaled the bacteria.

Examples incllude the following:
Of the 16 reports that involved a potential exposure to viruses or bacteria, three workers were bitten or scratched by an animal, two were pricked by a needle and three were splashed by contaminated liquids.
Three workers each filed a report for a Feb. 9 incident involving a mouse that had been exposed to Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes the plague. One worker was weighing the mouse's spleen and dropped the petri dish containing the possibly infected organ. None of the three workers was wearing any respiratory protection, so they were put on antibiotics until the spleen tested negative for Yersinia pestis. After this accident, USAMRIID decided workers would weigh tissue in snap-cap vials instead of petri dishes.
Last June, a lab technician working with a primate infected with the Ebola-Zaire virus noticed a 1-centimeter tear in the right index finger of the worker's protective blue suit. The inner glove had not been punctured, and the technician's finger had no breaks in the skin, so the incident was deemed to have "negligible risk of disease."
What this demonstrates all too vividly is that when working with live animals the protective, high-containment suits are inadequate to prevent infectious exposures via bites and scratches.  Stuff happens, and workers are not always prepared with respiratory and eye protection for splashes or simply inhaling the bugs they study.  Work-related infections are sometimes not diagnosed early enough to prevent exposure to the surrounding community.

The NY Times looked at the safety issue over the entire industry, in "Safety Rules Can't Keep UP With Biotech Industry:
One study, reviewing incidents discussed in scientific journals from 1979 to 2004, counted 1,448 symptom-causing infections in biolabs, resulting in 36 deaths. About half the infections were in diagnostic laboratories, where patient blood or tissue samples are analyzed, and half in research laboratories.
But that may be a “substantial underestimation,” the study’s authors wrote, because many incidents are never made public. The study was done by two biosafety experts and published in the book “Biological Safety: Principles and Practices.”

Thursday, May 27, 2010

BP's Top Kill: Just gimme some truth/ NY Times

From the NY Times:  Both BP and multiple government spokespersons told the world this am that the top kill procedure was going well.  Not until late afternoon was the truth told:  the process had been aborted the night before:
As hour after hour passed after the top kill began early Wednesday afternoon, technicians along with millions of television and Internet viewers watched live video images showing that the dark oil escaping into the Gulf waters was giving way to a mud-colored plume.
That was an indication that the heavy liquids known as “drilling mud” were filling the chambers of the blowout preventer, replacing the escaping oil.
In the morning, U.S. officials expressed optimism that all was going well. “The top kill procedure is going as planned, and it is moving along as everyone had hoped,” Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the leader of the government effort, told CNN Thursday morning.
And Robert Dudley, BP’s managing director, said on the NBC Today Show on Wednesday morning that the top kill “was moving the way we want it to.”
It was not until late afternoon that BP acknowledged that the operation was not succeeding at halting the leak, and that pumping had halted at 11 p.m. Wednesday night.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bush-Blair (and now Obama) assault on civil liberties being overturned in the UK/ Glen Greenwald

Over the past months, I have been dismayed, and then alarmed, by the continuing erosion of civil liberties in the United States.  My recent op-ed noted that of the ten guaranteed freedoms granted by our Founders in the Bill of Rights, at least four have been regularly trampled (if not completely trashed) by the federal government in recent years.  Here is one powerful example:

According to attorney Glenn Greenwald,
One of the first acts undertaken by the Obama DOJ that actually shocked civil libertarians was when, last February, as The New York Times put it, Obama lawyers "told a federal judge that military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush’s legal team."
But last April, John Bates, the Bush-43-appointed, right-wing judge overseeing the case, rejected the Bush/Obama position and held that Boumediene applies to detainees picked up outside of Afghanistan and then shipped to Bagram.  I reviewed that ruling here, in which Judge Bates explained that the Bagram detainees are "virtually identical to the detainees in Boumediene," and that the Constitutional issue was exactly the same:  namely, "the concern that the President could move detainees physically beyond the reach of the Constitution and detain them indefinitely."  
But the Obama administration was undeterred by this loss.  They quickly appealed Judge Bates' ruling.  As the NYT put it about that appeal:  "The decision signaled that the administration was not backing down in its effort to maintain the power to imprison terrorism suspects for extended periods without judicial oversight."  Today, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals adopted the Bush/Obama position, holding that even detainees abducted outside of Afghanistan and then shipped to Bagram have no right to contest the legitimacy of their detention in a U.S. federal court, because Boumediene does not apply to prisons located within war zones (such as Afghanistan).
So congratulations to the United States and Barack Obama for winning the power to abduct people anywhere in the world and then imprison them for as long as they want with no judicial review of any kind...
Greenwald, in another article, reports that the new Coalition government in the UK has published its platform for the world to see.  And it is chock full of promises to restore British civil liberties!  Have a look at this amazing document.  Under the "Civil Liberties" section it says:
 "The Government believes the British state has become too authoritarian, and that over the past decade it has abused and eroded fundamental human freedoms and historic civil liberties."
The UK government's new platform promises to"roll back state intrusions," "scrap the ID card scheme," "outlaw the fingerprinting of children at school without parental permission," "defen[d] trial by jury," and establish a Commission to investigate the creation of a Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights... and protects and extends British liberties."

Thank God for the sanity of our friends across the Pond.  Maybe someday we will follow in their footsteps and restore the rights that our Constitution granted?

UPDATE May 27 from Raw Story:  Britain Scrapping ID Program:  
LONDON — The new coalition government is to scrap a national identity card scheme introduced by former prime minister Gordon Brown's administration, it announced Thursday.
The scheme will be abolished within 100 days under legislation presented by Home Secretary Theresa May, the first bill to be introduced to parliament by Prime Minister David Cameron's government.  The expected new legislation "is the first step of many that this government is taking to reduce the control of the state over decent, law-abiding people and hand power back to them," said Home Secretary May.  "With swift parliamentary approval, we aim to consign identity cards and the intrusive ID card scheme to history within 100 days," she said.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Anthrax vaccine recipients in Israel developing Crohn's Disease/ Haarretz

From Haaretz:
The (Israeli) Defense Ministry has recognized a former soldier who participated in the army's experiments on an anthrax vaccine as a disabled veteran after he developed Crohn's disease. For two years, it denied similar recognition to another veteran who has the same disease, which causes severe bowel infection (sic), and participated in the same experiments, until a court overruled that decision last month. The ministry said the cases differed, as the first soldier contracted the disease during the experiment and the second only three years later. Altogether, 716 soldiers took part in the trials from 1998-2006, and many later said they were pressured to "volunteer." Many have also since developed medical problems.
Well guess what?  US recipients of anthrax vaccine also have statistically significant raised rates of Crohn's disease, according to Defense Medical Surveillance System data provided to the Institute of Medicine in 2001.   Is anyone surprised?  Yet every US soldier being deployed still receives multiple anthrax vaccinations (the initial course is 5 doses over 18 months).  The original excuse was that Saddam might use anthrax (we gave him some:  strain Vollum 1B) on our troops.  Saddam is gone, but the combination of inertia, and a vaccine manufacturer that knows how to grease palms, continues to disable vulnerable members of the US military.

How much swine flu vaccine was truly used? What does CDC's numbers game tell us?

Here are some anomalies in CDC's reported data.  Note that all the data come from information provided by CDC on April 1-2, 2010 (using the same dataset) and were said to reflect information through January (MMWR) or February (per Schuchat) 2010.

1.  Local reporting (May 18) has it that New Jersey used 1.14 million doses of swine flu vaccine;  65% was given to children.  New Jersey has 8.7 million inhabitants.   If everyone got one dose, 13.1% of the population would have been vaccinated.  But children 6 months through 8 years were advised to receive two doses.  So the percentage of vaccine recipients is less than 13.1%.  Yet CDC estimated that 17.8% of New Jersey residents were vaccinated.

Surprisingly, on April 1, CDC's Ann Schuchat claimed the state with the lowest vaccination rate was Mississippi, at 13%.  Mississippi has the lowest per capita income in the US.  New Jersey has the second highest.  It is very unlikely that New Jersey had as low a vaccination rate as Mississippi.  At least one of these numbers is wrong, and I'm betting that Mississippi's rate is exaggerated upward.

2.  New Jersey has given us a real number, unlike CDC, which can only cite telephone surveys of how many people said they got vaccinated.  Based on these surveys, 72 to 81 million Americans received swine flu vaccinations.  Yet, as I've noted previously, every office that received swine flu vaccine from CDC (and there was no other way to get this vaccine in the US) was required to file weekly reports with CDC providing the precise number of doses administered.  Although I have searched at length (on CDC's website and in the media) for the number of vaccinations reported to CDC by medical providers, I can find no mention of it.

3.  According to CDC's Ann Schuchat (on April 1, 2010), "The elderly, 22 percent of them, were vaccinated compared with only 14.4 percent of healthy adults under 65."  For children under 18, she said the vaccination rate was 36.8%.  CDC attributed this to school-based vaccination clinics.  [Read the transcript of her press conference to get a flavor for how Dr. Schuchat dodged questions and spun answers, and implied CDC would encourage employer vaccine mandates for healthcare workers.]

The USA has 75 million children under 18.  That is 27.6 million kids vaccinated (36.8%).  Those over 65 comprise 12.6% of the population of 309 million, or 38.9 million.  8.57 million (22%) were vaccinated.  Those 18-65 in the US number 195 million.   28.1 million of them (14.4%) were vaccinated.

The grand total of vaccinated Americans provided on April 1, 2010, calculated using CDC's vaccination rates for different age groups, is 64.3 million Americans, not 72 to 81 million, as claimed by CDC. [With all CDC's resources, it still can't get its story straight.]

4.  There is no way to know if the vaccination rates by age that CDC provided are accurate, if they are gross approximations or fabrication.  It is a crying shame that federal agencies are under no compulsion to tell the truth.  This is imho worse than lying--because CDC used millions of taxpayer dollars to fund phone surveys asking people if they were vaccinated, in order to develop incorrect estimates of the number vaccinated:  because CDC did not want to provide the correct number to the public.  I call that adding insult to injury.

5.  For another topical example of CDC duplicity and its adverse effect on the public health:  CDC admitted last Friday that it had misled the public about the risk of lead in the District's drinking water.  (The agency is a habitual liar.)  According to the Washington Post:
Sometimes Don Quixote beats the windmill.

It happened for Marc Edwards, a lean, intense Virginia Tech environmental engineering professor. Drawing on what he called his own "world-class stubbornness," he mounted a six-year campaign that succeeded last week in forcing the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to admit that it had misled the public about the risk of lead in the District's drinking water.
The CDC, which is the nation's principal public health agency, made the confession in a "Notice to Readers" published in an official weekly bulletin Friday. It came a day after a scathing House subcommittee report said the agency knowingly used flawed and incomplete data when it assured D.C. residents in 2004 that their health hadn't been hurt by spikes in lead in the drinking water. . .
Edwards's effort cost him thousands of hours away from his young family in Blacksburg. Officials at the CDC and the EPA tried to smear his professional reputation, dismissing him as just an engineer rather than a qualified health professional.

For a while, the crusade cost Edwards money as well. In 2004, he passed up a $100,000 EPA contract to consult on the issue, because he felt that he would be working for the wrong side. He put his family in debt by spending tens of thousands of dollars, mostly on fees for endless Freedom of Information Act requests to get data critical to his research. . .
Edwards said the key breakthrough came in early 2008. That's when he finally persuaded Children's National Medical Center to share data so he could do an independent study of lead levels in D.C. children's blood samples. The CDC and other agencies were refusing to provide him with such information. . .
That study blew a hole in the CDC's 2004 report. The agency had said "no children" were identified with elevated, unsafe blood levels, "even in homes with the highest water lead levels."

The CDC now concedes that its scientific credibility has suffered a blow. It blames the problem largely on poor writing in the report. "Looking backward six years, it's clear that this report could have been written a little better," said Tom Sinks, deputy director of the CDC's national center for environmental health.

Edwards said the CDC is still trying to hide its misdeeds. "There's a lot of lessons here for how science can go awry, how bureaucracies can use science to hide the truth," Edwards said. . .

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Assignment SWINE FLU: Panic or Pandemic?/ BBC

The BBC (Imogen Foulkes) asks, " Was the WHO right to declare a global swine flu pandemic?  Who made the key decisions that led to countries buying millions of doses of vaccine?"
In June 2009 the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared swine flu a global pandemic.
Governments around the world sprang into action and ordered millions of doses of vaccine. But in the event thousands - not millions died - and swine flu proved to be less dangerous than ordinary seasonal flu. So why did the WHO announce a pandemic and were they right to do so?
For Assignment Imogen Foulkes visits two countries in Europe, one of which ordered 90 million doses of vaccine and used just 10% of them - the other of which ordered none.
BBC asks the key questions, doesn't allow the experts to sidetrack the debate, and provides an excellent overall discussion of the issues involved and the high level of secrecy (and lack of accountability) for decisions made at WHO.

There is a 25 minute long audio production in which interviews were conducted with Keiji Fukuda (current influenza chief and deputy director at WHO), a former WHO influenza chief who designed WHO's pandemic protocols, epidemiologist Wolfgang Wodarg, MP Paul Flynn, epidemiologist Tom Jefferson, and officials from Poland, Novartis Vaccines and others.  For a shorter BBC story in print, go here.  It is EXTREMELY WORTHWHILE.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Expert panel to view confidential swine flu papers/ AP

From tha Associated Press and Washington Post:
GENEVA -- An expert panel investigating the World Health Organization's response to last year's swine flu outbreak said Wednesday it wants to see confidential exchanges between the U.N. body and drug companies.
The 29-member panel will seek WHO records and correspondence from before and after the H1N1 strain was declared a pandemic in June, said committee chairman Harvey Fineberg, who is also president of the Institute of Medicine in Washington. (Fineberg also coauthored the eye-opening NAS report on the 1976 swine flu vaccine program--Nass)
"We will want to have access to certain confidential documents that may be in place here at WHO or elsewhere," Fineberg told reporters in Geneva.
The documents include "contractual or letters of understanding" between the pharmaceutical industry and WHO, he said. "Some of the agreements with industry that we would like to examine have been considered confidential," but so far all of the panel's requests have been met, he said...

Monday, May 17, 2010

1987: Smallpox vaccine caused AIDS -- 2010: Lack of smallpox vaccine increased AIDS

The London Times - May 11, 1987

The BBC, 2010: Smallpox demise linked to spread of HIV infection.  Both (directly opposed) conclusions came from studying the same phenomenon:  smallpox vaccinations used widely in Africa in the mid 1970s, followed by an explosion of AIDS a few years later.

Smallpox vaccinations followed a 'ring' strategy, vaccinating everyone in the areas around new cases.  It was often these very same areas where HIV erupted a few years later.  So many of those who developed AIDS had, in fact, received smallpox vaccine.

This is a powerful, live vaccine that provides at least partial lifelong immunity.  It is not like flu vaccine, whose immunity wanes in several months.  Back when the smallpox campaign was active, most Africans had not been receiving any routine smallpox vaccinations prior to the campaign.  And dirty needles were an ongoing problem.  [I myself received a smallpox booster in 1972 in Nigeria, from a glass needle sterilized by sitting in a bowl of alcohol.  Luckily I can still tell the tale.--Nass]

Smallpox vaccine may improve the ability of immune cells to fight the HIV virus.  Regardless, the epidemiological fact is that many cases followed vaccination within a short span of years.

Adverse events following influenza vaccination in Australia--should we be surprised? BMJ Rapid Response

From the May 7 BMJ Online, authored by Peter Collignon, Peter Doshi, Tom Jefferson
There have been large numbers of major adverse reactions to this year's seasonal influenza vaccine in Australia, and the vaccine has been suspended for use in children aged five and under... Assuming all convulsions were in children, about one child in every 500 vaccinated had a febrile convulsion.  Across Australia, media accounts indicate that more than 400 adverse reactions [3] including 77 cases of febrile convulsion [1] have been reported by regulators.  While attention remains focused on reactions in very young children, reports suggest only one-third of the reactions may have occurred in children under five [4].

Although this situation has triggered considerable controversy in Australia, the story has attracted little to no media attention in the US and Europe.  Similarly, the media has paid little attention to a US H1N1 federal vaccine safety advisory committee which recently reported detecting signals for Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), Bell's palsy, and thrombocytopenia in the monovalent H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine [5]. The same monovalent H1N1 antigen component under review in the US is scheduled to be added to the US trivalent seasonal vaccine and is contained in the Australian trivalent seasonal vaccine and will be given to children, pregnant women and adults...

Overall, the percentages of children under three who developed a fever after vaccination appear very high; thirty five per cent with the 15 ug dose and 62% after a 30 ug dose [7,8]. Of those that received a 7.5 ug dose in the seasonal influenza vaccine, 23% develop a fever of >38 degrees Celsius [6]... If such a large proportion of children develop high fevers, it is also likely that a substantial number will develop febrile convulsions as a result of vaccination. It is thus surprising the vaccine was approved for this age group...

There are actually relatively little data on the effects of vaccinating young children against influenza [10]. Some manufacturers have even withheld data from public scrutiny amidst general indifference [10,11].  Evidence from all comparative influenza vaccine studies shows that harms, when they are investigated, are not reported consistently and systematically [10,11]. As pandemic vaccines are provided to governments and not individuals and manufacturers are indemnified for damages caused to users [12-14], there seem to be few incentives for investigation of harms...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

More on pre-pandemic vaccinations/ CIDRAP

Prepandemic vaccinations have been discussed for years, quietly, by the international flu elite.  They were a "win-win" approach:  the elite recommending them would be viewed as heroes when the pandemic came (just as our public health officials assumed that the patina of a Salk or Sabin would rub off on them for saving us from swine flu).  The other win was that big pharma would do very well by doing good.

I hope that Secretary Sibelius, WHO Director Chen and others have learned that despite the good reputation of vaccines, in general, they are not made of fairy dust.  You cannot simply exhort the masses to take them, while spending like a drunken sailor to buy them, and expect there will be no accountability down the road for your lack of attention to details... your unwarranted fearmongering... your inability to take the "off ramps" Secretary Sibelius promised were being built into the American program.

UPDATE May 18:  However,  Sibelius is still proclaiming the wisdom of her actions:
"While some have questioned some of the actions taken by the international community, the outcomes speak for themselves. I believe we made the right decisions at the right times," said US Secretary for Health Kathleen Sebelius.

As CIDRAP makes clear here and here, the 1976 swine flu vaccine program and the 2003 smallpox vaccine program were dismal failures, causing hundreds or thousands of serious reactions for diseases that were not circulating on planet Earth when the vaccines were administered, and have not been seen since then, either.

The predictions of doom for 2009's swine flu were made and repeated like mantras, despite lack of support from the data.  And CDC was very slow to share that data.

In public policy, as in our national sport, after 3 strikes, you're out.    Therefore, I think the plan to issue us pre-pandemic body armor has been sidelined, at least until the public forgets about these 3 vaccine fiascos.  At least for now, the policymakers can spend our money to buy vaccines without consent, but they can't force them into us. 

That is, unless you attend school, work in the military, or work in many healthcare establishments.  Soldiers, for example, are still receiving mandatory smallpox inoculations.  Hmm.

Billions wasted on swine flu pandemic that never came/ The Independent

From today's Independent:
... Against a background death toll from seasonal flu of up to 500,000 [worldwide], the new H1N1 strain was invisible [18,036 documented deaths through May 9, per WHO].

Professor Ulrich Keil, a World Health Organisation (WHO) adviser on heart disease, said the decision to declare a pandemic had led to a "gigantic misallocation" of health budgets. "We know the great killers are hypertension, smoking, high cholesterol, high body mass index, physical inactivity and low fruit and vegetable intake," he told the Council of Europe. Yet governments "instead wasted huge amounts of money by investing in pandemic scenarios whose evidence base is weak"...

The last time [swine] H1N1 showed up was in 1976, at a US army base. Washington ordered the immunisation of 40 million Americans before it discovered that it had only one death from the flu but hundreds of cases of severe side-effects to the vaccine. A review headed by Dr Harvey Fineberg put much of the blame on the "influenza fraternity", arguing that expert panels tend towards "group think" and should be backed up by independent scientific advice. Dr Fineberg is now chairman of the WHO's external committee evaluating its response to the 2009 outbreak whose final report next May could well lead to a radical rethink of the world's reaction to new viruses.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Flu expert urges pre-vaccination against possible pandemic strains/ AP

Helen Branswell reports on "a bold proposal on how to circumvent too-slow production and too-little output of influenza vaccine during a pandemic."

You saw it here and here first, when I blogged about what pandemic "experts" talk about when they don't have a pandemic: so-called "pre-pandemic" vaccinations.  It would be a great idea if we knew the strain that was to infect us in future, except that we don't.  The experts hope that maybe they will guess right, and the pre-pandemic vaccine selected will provide some immunity when that bad old pandemic finally shows up.  Or at least it might reduce the number of shots we need from two to one, doubling vaccine coverage. 

(Oh damn, I forgot--the 2009 swine flu vaccine only needed one shot, even without preexisting immunity.  That weakens the justification for pre-pandemic vaccine, since reducing the number of vaccine doses was the primary rationale for pre-pandemic vaccination.   Maybe if the "experts" don't talk about it, the public won't see how flimsy the justification is for these inoculations.)
Dr. Klaus Stohr, former head of the World Health Organization's global influenza program, is suggesting the world consider pre-vaccinating people, giving them protection against strains that could emerge from nature to trigger future pandemics.
In an opinion piece published Thursday in the journal Nature, Stohr argues pre-pandemic immunization may be one of the few solutions to a vexing problem — there is no way to make pandemic vaccine fast enough and in large enough quantities when it is needed to have an impact on the toll the outbreak takes.
Stohr is now vice-president of influenza strategy for Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, the world's No. 2 flu vaccine producer and a company which stands to gain significantly if his proposal were to take off.
Still, he insisted that he — not Novartis — is making the proposal because the pandemic response model needs to be fixed and the available options are limited.
"I'm not saying it's simple. I'm not saying it's inexpensive. I'm only saying that there is no other solution I can see," Stohr said in an interview Wednesday...
Michael Osterholm, who heads the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, doesn't believe Stohr's proposal is the answer. For one thing, he said, most countries that had H1N1 vaccine couldn't persuade even a third of their citizens to take the shot. Poor uptake even in the midst of an outbreak throws into doubt how willing people would be to get vaccinated against viruses they might never encounter.
"The idea that we could somehow go out and vaccinate large populations with vaccine in a pre-priming environment — particularly with adjuvants, which were shown throughout the course of this pandemic to be a deterrent to people receiving vaccine because of safety concerns — is just way off the mark," Osterholm said...
"Even if you had a similar subtype vaccine, there's no guarantee whatsoever there'd be any protection against a similar subtype that emerges as the pandemic strain," Osterholm said.

Better educated parents vaccinate their children less/ Canadian Press

From Helen Branswell at the Canadian Press:
It might seem counterintuitive but it also appears to be true:  Parents with more education were less likely to get their daughters vaccinated against HPV during the first year of British Columbia's free school-based program, a new study shows.  
The finding of the study, published Tuesday in the journal PLoS Medicine, adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests vaccination efforts are being eroded not by people who are under-educated, but by upper-middle class folks with degrees...
The study comes on the tail of another published Tuesday which showed that there has been a sharp increase in the percentage of U.S. parents who are refusing to vaccinate their children or delaying vaccination against the advice of the medical community.  That study, presented at an international conference in Vancouver, found 39 per cent of parents refused or delayed vaccinations for their children in 2008, up from 22 per cent in 2003...
The HPV study was conducted primarily by researchers at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control and the University of British Columbia. The group surveyed parents of Grade 6 girls who had been eligible to get HPV or human papillomavirus vaccine through a free, school-based program in B.C. in the 2008-09 school year.
[How generous of the government:  giving 11 year old girls a $300 vaccine for an STD.  Was it free to British Columbia taxpayers?  How was it decided to vaccinate such young children with a vaccine whose (uncertain degree of) protection wanes in a few years?  Did this decision come from the same brain trust that decided to vaccinate newborn babies with Hepatitis B vaccine, when hepatitis B is another primarily sexually transmitted disease,  for which protection also wanes over time?--Nass]
Nearly half (47.9 per cent) of those who let their daughters get HPV shots said they did so because they had confidence in the effectiveness of the vaccine. Advice from a doctor and concern for the health of the daughter also played into yes decisions. Among the parents who said no, concern about vaccine safety was listed as the major reason for the decision (29.2 per cent). A substantial portion — 15.6 per cent — felt their daughters were too young to get the vaccine and listed that as their major reason.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Doubts on Estimate of Volume of Oil Spilling in Gulf/NY Times

Both the US government and BP have refused to explain the math behind their spill calculation; and methods for a more accurate estimate of the flow rate have not been applied, according to the NY TImes.  Experts suggest the actual rate may be 5 times as great as the stated rate, 5,000 barrels per day.

UPDATE:  The May 16 NY Times added the following:
Scientists studying video of the gushing oil well have tentatively calculated that it could be flowing at a rate of 25,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil a day. The latter figure would be 3.4 million gallons a day. But the government, working from satellite images of the ocean surface, has calculated a flow rate of only 5,000 barrels a day.
BP has resisted entreaties from scientists that they be allowed to use sophisticated instruments at the ocean floor that would give a far more accurate picture of how much oil is really gushing from the well.
“The answer is no to that,” a BP spokesman, Tom Mueller, said on Saturday. “We’re not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point. It’s not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort...”

Monday, May 10, 2010

UPDATE: How much did governments spend on Swine Flu vaccines and drugs?

According to Kalorama Information (which will sell you their research compilation for $1200):
Makers of H1N1 vaccines reported sales of $3.3 billion in 2009, according to company reports reviewed for its title, "H1N1 'Swine Flu' Vaccine Market Review." Kalorama believes the contracting, production and distribution of this vaccine will be a model for future pandemic vaccines.
UPDATE:  Switzerland's Roche Group saw sales of its Tamiflu antiviral medication jump by 2 billion Swiss francs ($1.74 billion) last year.
Remember, these figures are for 2009 only

Glaxo reported expectations for H1N1 vaccine sales in 2010 to be 883 million pounds (1.3 billion dollars), about equal to what they made in 2009.  Glaxo is one of 5 companies that sold vaccine to the US Government, but Glaxo sold comparatively little in the US.  Yet total sales worldwide for Glaxo H1N1 vaccines are expected to reach 2.6 billion dollars.   Throw in the other manufacturers and you may be looking at about 10 billion dollars worldwide just to purchase swine flu vaccines.  And probably a couple billion more for antiviral drugs.

Here are amounts for vaccines orders made by DHHS in May, July and September 2009 (and they may be incomplete):

Orders for Bulk Supply of H1N1 Influenza Vaccine Antigen and Adjuvant: May 22, 2009

Bulk Vaccine Antigen
Oil-In-Water Bulk Adjuvant
Novartis$150 million$139 million
GlaxoSmithKline$ 38 million$144 million
Sanofi Pasteur$191 million
CSL Biotherapies$180 million
MedImmune$ 90 million
Total$649 million$283 million

Orders for Bulk Supply of H1N1 Influenza Vaccine Antigen and Adjuvant: July 9, 2009

Bulk Vaccine Antigen
Bulk Virus Concentrate/FFF
Oil-In-Water Bulk Adjuvant
Sanofi Pasteur$61,425,00000

HHS orders an additional 56 million doses of vaccine: September 21, 2009

Total Cost
MedImmune $295,660,000
Sanofi Pasteur $143,483,025
According to Congressional testimony by CDC's Anne Schuchat, M.D. on November 18, 2009:
In fact, 2009 H1N1 vaccination began in early October—just 5 months after the emergence of 2009 H1N1 influenza. Critical support from Congress resulted in $1.44 billion for states and hospitals to support planning, preparation, and implementation efforts.
According to these official numbers, issued through November 2009, the USA spent 2.254 billion dollars on vaccine antigens, attenuated live vaccine and adjuvants, plus 1.44 billion for state and hospital planning, for a total of 3.694 billion dollars spent on swine flu vaccine preparation.   This may not cover all costs of administration, nor all vaccine costs.   The novel adjuvants were not used.

The total omits costs for antiviral drug purchases. The average wholesale price for a course of Tamiflu is $53.00.  Dr. Schuchat noted in her testimony that the US government released 11.534 million doses of Tamiflu for US distribution.  The estimated Tamiflu cost would be $611 million dollars, if $53/ course was spent.  The government had already stockpiled millions of doses of Tamiflu for a possible bird flu epidemic, so it is uncertain how much was spent specifically for swine flu,   (Smaller amounts of zanamivir and peramivir were also used, but I have no figures for those costs.)  Add the Tamiflu cost to the vaccine costs and you get $4.3 billion spent for the swine flu response in the US alone.  [Back of the envelope calculation:  $14/ US citizen, or one to several million dollars for each life saved.--Nass]

UPDATE:  From Agence France Presse: "In France, for instance, the purchase of 94 million vaccines cost the state around 600 million euros [over 750 million dollars], but only less than 10 percent of the population went to get vaccinated."

UPDATE:  In Canada, "there have been 428 deaths and 8,678 hospitalizations due to influenza A/H1N1. The response has cost more than $2-billion."  [This equates to $57/Canadian... and if the US spent an equivalent amount for each of its 307 million people (vs. 35 million Canadians), the US cost for swine flu would be about 17.5 billion dollars.]

Clearly, worldwide spending for H1N1 swine flu vaccine, vaccine administration and antiviral drug costs will amount to much more than the 4 billion dollars recently claimed by an American delegation to a WHO swine flu meeting.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

How many H1N1 doses are being wasted?

Many reports in the past week have claimed that 71 million doses of H1N1 vaccine are being wasted in the US.  Earlier reports, based on telephone surveys, said 70-80 million doses had been used already.

The Wall Street Journal, quoting CDC offical Anne Schuchat, M.D., earlier claimed (along with other media outlets) that 251 million doses had been ordered for the US.  The date was October 19, 2009.  On May 4, 2010, NPR said the US ordered 229 million doses of vaccine.  This isn't the first time Schuchat's figures didn't add up.

If you subtract 80 million (a generous figure for doses administered) from 251 million ordered, you have 171 million doses left, not 71.

Now, Reuters reports that "Sebelius said last month that 162 million doses were produced and distributed, but only 90 million actually got into people's arms or noses."  Why do these numbers keep changing?  I have a sneaking suspicion the other 70-90 million doses are still in government storage, and were never distributed... allowing a clever wordsmith like Sibelius to "disappear" them.

And here is some evidence for that suspicion:   
The CDC findings were released on the same day that Washington Post staff writer Rob Stein noted that there were 138 million unused doses of the vaccine remaining. Of those, approximately 60 million will be donated to poor countries or stored for future use, but more than 71 million vaccines have already been placed in vials or syringes and must be used or disposed of by their expiration dates.

CDC has let the cat out of the bag.  Presumably because increasing numbers of Americans are vaccinated for flu each year, while the number and rate of flu deaths never drops... CDC will recommend flu shots for ALL Americans stating this year.  That must be because the flu vaccination program is so successful... for vaccine manufacturers and the CDC careerists they are in bed with.  (Hi Julie Gerberding, how's that job at Merck Vaccines going?)  And these days, a few billion taxpayer dollars for flu is just chicken feed, anyway.

Swedish swine flu vaccine cost $121 million.  Sweden has 9 million people.  The US vaccine was more expensive than European vaccine, since we omitted novel adjuvants and instead used more antigen.  It will be very interesting to see if DHHS produces the facts about what the H1N1 flu vaccine cost, and how many doses were purchased, in response to Senator Grassley's inquiry.

UPDATE May 24Ohio has 2.5 million unwanted swine flu doses, of which 1.5 million are already expired.

NHS-slashes-services-meet-costs-swine-flu-scare/ Daily Mail

From the Mail Online:
The NHS is being forced to cut services because of the huge costs of the swine flu scare that proved unfounded.
A survey has found that as many as one in six health trusts may have to slash services - or already have done so - to recoup costs.
The cuts required to pay for swine flu preparations are on top of the cuts needed after the election as the NHS adjusts to a post-credit crunch world.
And, for the first time, it has emerged that the average cost of the swine flu scare to primary care trusts was £340,000 - enough to pay the salaries of 17 nurses.
The huge amounts were spent on setting up antiviral collection points, storing and distributing vaccines, staff vaccination sessions and advertising to encourage people to have the jab...
At the height of the scare, the chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, said as many as 65,000 people could die from the disease. In fact, the toll has been less than 500 - a fraction of the number who died from ordinary flu...
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's GP Committee, said individual trusts should not have had to foot the bill.'I think a pandemic should be seen as an exceptional circumstance and a PCT should be fully supported by central government,' he said.

EU parliament urged to investigate H1N1 outbreak/ The

From The
More than 200 deputies have signed a proposal calling for a special committee on the H1N1 pandemic.
The members, who come from across the political divide, said one of its aims would be to evaluate the EU's dependence on the World Health Organisation.

Speaking at a news conference in parliament on Wednesday, Belgian Greens MEP Isabelle Durant said the management of the outbreak had "seriously undermined the credibility of, and confidence in our institutions".

She is one of the MEPs who have sent a letter to parliament's president Jerzy Buzek asking him to set up a committee to investigate last year's outbreak.

The letter says, "Member states have reportedly spent billions on anti-H1N1 vaccines despite the fact that shortly after it emerged, it was found to cause only mild illness.

"The number of deaths due to H1N1 is very small compared to those estimated for seasonal influenza."

It adds, "It is of paramount importance to ensure future EU pandemic responses carefully assess the nature of the pandemic and the risks of vaccination strategies."

Another signatory, Polish EPP member Boguslaw Sonik said, "We want to know why the commission and public health authorities did not issue a statement modifying their initial strategy.

"Also, why did the EU institutions not provide the public and media with good, objective up-to-date communication?"

According to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, H1N1 caused 1528 deaths.

In comparison, commission statistics show that seasonal influenza causes some 40,000 deaths in an average year and up to 220,000 in a severe year.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WA launches flu vaccine inquiry / Sydney Morning Herald

From the SMH (Good on ya, Ozzies, for taking this seriously'):
The West Australian government has launched an inquiry into the flu vaccinations that caused adverse reactions in hundreds of children across the nation.
WA Health Minister Kim Hames said the inquiry would scrutinise systems used to identify public health risks, including vaccine side-effects and disease outbreaks, after criticism of the government's slow response.
Last month, seasonal flu shots caused adverse reactions in 251 children under five in WA, with 55 suffering convulsions and 196 suffering fevers and vomiting...
WA opposition health spokesman Roger Cook said questions remained about the level of co-ordination within the Health Department.
"Parents need to know what went wrong and how the Barnett government will stop it happening again," Mr Cook said

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Grassley seeks full accounting of H1N1 purchase by government/ Senate website

Press Release from Senator Grassley, asking many previously unasked questions about the vaccine supply; its cost; safety studies; efficacy data; and government oversight, given the PREPA liability shield:
WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley has asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services for additional information about the government’s supply of the H1N1 vaccine, based on information provided by the Secretary in an earlier response to Grassley and policies of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding distribution.
Senator Grassley’s new questions can be accessed here.  His earlier letter on swine flu vaccine to Secretary Sibelius is found here.  Secretary Sibelius' reply to his earlier questions is here.

Meantime, the BBC reported from Northern Ireland that one prominent physician (Dr. Brian Dunn, chair of the GP Committee of the British Medical Association) said, "Swine flu bill 'hard to justify.'"
The death rate from those suffering from the virus across the UK was low, at 0.026%. In addition, hundreds of thousands of people are thought to have been infected but not displayed any symptoms.
The cost to the Department of Health is £44m. "I would not like to be accounting for that," Dr Dunn said.  "At a time when money is scarce and is likely to get scarcer; at a time when waiting lists are going up; at a time when we are talking about cuts in front-line services, I think it is very hard to justify that." 

Army: Broken procedures led to lab infection/ Frederick NewsPost

 According to the April 9, 2010 Frederick NewsPost:
An Army lab at Fort Detrick said Tuesday it did not follow proper procedures last November when a researcher infected herself with the tularemia bacteria.
The researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases was exposed to the bacteria between Nov. 13 and 17, and USAMRIID's health team did not realize she may have contracted the disease until Dec. 
A USAMRIID summary report states the researcher did not follow lab procedure for disposing of her work materials, had not been immunized for tularemia, was not wearing proper safety attire given the lack of immunization and did not alert the proper offices when she called in sick to work.....
And I didn't even mention the BL-4 lab recently built in a hurricane and flood zone, in Galveston, Texas, where the safety plan (according to the NY Times) sounds entirely unworkable:
Each time a hurricane approaches the island, scientists will have to stop their experiments and exterminate many of the viruses and bacteria they are studying, said Dr. James LeDuc, the lab's deputy director.
"Many"?  What about the unexterminated ones?

We Americans are not very good at creating, carrying out and enforcing fail-safe procedures.  We prefer to tempt fate, as the Deepwater Horizon disaster spells out clearly.  It was cheaper for BP to face a potential 75 million cost in the event of disaster than to do things right.   Congress acquiesced in capping their liability years ago.  But now officials say they will pass a new law to up the cap.
UPDATE May 5: The proposals unveiled by three senators yesterday would raise the legal cap on damages that oil firms must pay after a spill from $75m to $10bn. They would also do away with a $1bn per incident cap on an industry fund. The existing limits on liability are 20 years old, dating from the Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska.
UPDATE May 6CNN Money looks at the liability issues, costs and BP stock value resulting from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Too bad BP was not as concerned about a foolproof cap for the well. (And if I understand correctly, a football field-sized drilling rig is lying belly-up on top of the well, making applying a cap problematic.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Boston University's National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratory (BL4) March to Irrelevance/ HuffPo

While millions of gallons of oils are spewing from under the earth's mantle in the Gulf of Mexico, and no one has a sure-fire idea of how to stop the river of oil, we have the perfect backdrop for a discussion of Boston's Highest-Containment (BL-4) biodefense lab.

The lab has been built but is still empty, waiting for its bugs.  As is usual these days, inadequate attention to "What if?" considerations by the authorities led to citizen lawsuits, which have successfully kept the lab closed.  During World War II, US authorities used excellent foresight, and placed labs that researched deadly pathogens offshore: for example, on Plum Island, NY and Horn Island, Mississippi.

We now live in the Era of Hubris.  As a society, we blithely assume things will be safe.  We take cursory precautions.  Deadly pathogens sometimes leave their labs by mistake, but so far no one has died (that we know of), though some people have gotten very sick.   The national animal pathogens lab is due to be sited in Manhattan, Kansas-- smack in the middle of cattle country.   Why inconvenience the staff by having them take a ferry to work on an offshore island?  In Boston, they can take the "T".

We leave it to the markets to regulate themselves, based on theories that fail to take into account human nature and past bank failures (and don't acknowledge that perfect markets are only found in economics textbooks).  And when the banks that are too big to fail do fail, we print money for them, keeping our fingers crossed about the long-term consequences.

Dr. Lynn Klotz and Edward Sylvester discuss the Boston University lab in the Huffington Post.  They are the authors of Breeding Bio Insecurity: How U.S. Biodefense Is Exporting Fear, Globalizing Risk, and Making Us All Less Secure, University of Chicago Press, Oct. 15, 2009.

Klotz and Sylvester note that opposing citizens state the following:
The lab would pose catastrophic health and safety risks to the Greater Boston Area, create a potential terrorist target, undermine public health by diverting research funds to military purposes, [and] operate without community or public oversight ....
This piece does a great job discussing the risks and benefits of the biolab.