Posted By Jennifer on July 15, 1999 at 12:02:48
I recently read an article by columnists Charlie Reese about the hepatitis B vaccine. He mentions that a health official from Missouri told Comgress in written testimony that there was a significant increase in the number of children entering school with developmental disorders. He claimed that "there is only one common thread we can identify with all these children: they are the children who received the first trial hepatitis B injections as newborns in the early 1990's." As a new mother, I became worried. Is there any truth to this, and if there is, would they let us know? They have injected thousands of children with this vaccine, why would they claim any responsibilty. And as Mr. Reese asked, "Why, if the vaccines are so safe, did the manufafactures ask Congress to grant them immunity from liability suits." I have another concern, is the vaccine that was given in the early 1990's the same as the one given today. And if my child hasn't received all of the shots, is it safe not to give him the rest. I am so worried about this. How can they allow so many children to be vaccinated, with so many side effects showing up? These are our children.
Posted By HFHSM.D.-D.M. on July 18, 1999 at 15:32:57
First let me state that I did not know who Charlie Reese is nor do I know about the specific congressional testimony to which you refer. People often write into MEDHELP claiming that that they have read something or that someone said something. I always ask that these people give MEDHELP readers the actual reference or source so they can check it out for themselves. I have found that MEDHELP participants can be a pretty tough crowd that wants to see things for themselves. Let me get to your questions.
First of all, you should be aware that there are two different products of hepatitis B vaccine on the market. My understanding is that some changes have been made to the vaccine over the years to reduce the chances of an allergic reaction to the vaccine. I am not certain when these changes were made.
I am frequently asked to comment on the relative safety of the hepatitis B vaccine and whether it can cause neurological symptoms in particular,. I consider my response to these questions to be one of the most things I write about for MEDHELP. In fact, I have spent numerous hours in the library reading all the available literature I can find on adverse reactions to the hepatitis B vaccine. I know there is a lot of interest and a lot of publicity right now about adverse reactions to this particular vaccine.
There are a large number of articles that describe individual patients who had significant medical problems several weeks after receiving the hepatitis B vaccine. These adverse reactions are often neurological or arthritis related. The neurological events include multiple sclerosis like reactions or Guillain-Barre Syndrome type reactions. The arthritis like syndromes include LUPUS like reactions, rheumatoid arthritis like reactions or reactions isolated to a single joint. These articles typically describe one to three patients that individual physicians have seen. The problem with these articles is that they do not clearly show the adverse reaction, which can be severe, are clearly caused by the hepatitis B vaccine. For instance, if you immunize a million people with the hepatitis B vaccine, five may develop multiple sclerosis. But if you follow a million people who were not immunized, five of them may also develop multiple sclerosis. This is important because, millions of people all over the world have been immunized with hepatitis B and some of them will develop medical problems but that in and of itself does not mean the problem was caused by the vaccine. This is still true even if the medical problem occurs right after the person receives the vaccine. For instance, if you vaccinate a couple of million people, one of them may have an automobile accident while leaving the physicians office, but that doesnt necessarily mean that the vaccination caused the accident.
I read through the original studies that evaluated these vaccines when they were first developed and I looked at studies that evaluated large populations that had been vaccinated. These studies suggested the hepatitis B vaccine had a safety profile that exceeds many commonly used vaccines. They suggest the vaccine can in extremely rare cases involve an anaphylactic reaction that can potentially be life-threatening. Some of the studies noted there was an extremely small incidence of neurologic events but again it was not clear if the incidence of events was different than what would have been seen in the population at large.
The first issue I want to address is whether people should receive the hepatitis B vaccine or not. From my review of the literature, the vaccine appears to be safe in infants and young children and the American College of Pediatrics has stated that the hepatitis B vaccine should be a standard vaccine in infants and children. I have elected to have my two children vaccinated. However, it is up to every parent to make decisions about the vaccine in terms of their own children. In doing so, you also have to consider the consequences if your child is not vaccinated to hepatitis B and than subsequently obtains the infection. My advice is that you sit down with your pediatrician and express you concerns.
You ask if it is safe to not complete your childs hepatitis B vaccine series. The main risk is that your child may not be completely vaccinated and may be at risk for infection with hepatitis B down the road. You ask why manufacturers would want liability protection, if there is nothing wrong with the vaccine. I dont know the motives of the manufacturers though I will say that liability awards are not always made on the basis of scientific information.
I do feel, however, that if someone does feel they have had an adverse reaction to the hepatitis B vaccine, they should notify their physician, notify the company who made the vaccine and make sure their physician notifies proper authorities including the CDC. In addition, I also feel it is worthwhile to try to identify other people who feel they have adverse reactions. Overtime, many medications and some vaccines have been found to have significant problems and often these were discovered because individual patients or physicians spoke up and refused to be ignored. I know that because of cases like the ones you describe, people are taking a closer look at the hepatitis B vaccine to see if a relationship can be proven between the vaccine and different medical problems. But at the same time if the vaccine is safe, we need to establish that as well so that people do not refuse the vaccine because of misconceptions.
I hope this information is helpful to you. If you have additional questions or more information, feel free to post the material back to MEDHELP. The direct number to our Liver Clinic at Henry Ford is (313) 916-8865. We have an active group of liver specialists.
This response is being provided for general informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Always check with your personal physician when you have a question pertaining to your health.
Hepatitis b vaccine and ADD Douglas Hooper 7/20/1999
Re: Hepatitis b vaccine and ADD Ben Smith 7/21/1999
Hepatitis b vaccine and ADD HFHSM.D.-D.M. 7/23/1999
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