Disclaimer (from the
original article): A great deal of research into the whole subject of
multiple vaccination may help to answer many of the questions raised in this
article. However, it is not intended to dissuade parents from immunising their
children against many of the world's greatest scourges such as polio and small
A recent report prepared by a
joint working group from the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Psychiatrists and
General Practitioners(1) in response to the 1994 Task Force Report on ME/CFS(2)
states that the causes of this illness are still unknown.
This report also asserts that
as many as 3/4 of up to 1 million people believed to suffer from CFS (Chronic
Fatigue Syndrome), the now recommended term, have underlying psychological or
But are the causes of this
much maligned disease really that obscure? It may be more appropriate to talk in
terms of 'cofactors' or 'links' in this disease, which almost certainly is
I still prefer to call it
'ME' (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis), to differentiate a distinctive group of
subjects who are debilitated not just because of chronic fatigue, but who
experience a great many other troublesome symptoms. When I started my
postgraduate study into aetiological link factors of ME in 1989, we felt that
many details on a large group of patients with the disorder would reveal certain
patterns if they existed, and this is precisely what happened. There was
evidence of many infections, viral, bacterial and fungal, treated with a variety
of antibiotics and Septrin figured prominently amongst a formidable array of
antibacterial agents used.
Oral contraceptives may play
a role in over 2/3rds of women in my main study group. In some exposure to
pesticides, toxic chemicals, heavy metals or powerful electromagnetic fields
appeared to predispose subjects to develop ME. There were almost universal
stress experiences and sometimes diet left much to be desired, but both of these
also applied to control group subjects.
Cases where ME subjects had
been vaccinated in the month before developing an infection and/or other health
problems which resulted in ME, attracted my particular attention; in some
instances there were no infections - an immunization alone seemed to have
triggered the onset of ME. There was also a small group who informed me they had
received long term corticosteroid treatment for health problems before receiving
a vaccination which triggered their illness. Significantly perhaps, adverse
reactions to vaccines, drugs as well as sensitivities to chemicals and foods
were reported with almost predictable regularity. Results of my study were first
shown at the International Conference on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Dublin, in
It is this relationship
between vaccinations and subsequent ME, which I felt needed further exploration.
A R Lloyd et al, quoting cases in which vaccines triggered the onset of the
syndrome, suggest that antigenic challenge, not necessarily in the form of an
infection, may be the prerequisite for the development of the disorder(4).
Almost 13% of 225 ME subjects
in my main study group and 16% of a separate group of 55 young ME subjects had
received one or more vaccines in the month before ME problems developed - in
some cases onset was dramatic within 24 hours. As with antibiotics, many
reported adverse reactions to vaccines and sometimes these were very severe
(e.g. anaphylaxis). In most instances, patients developed some infection soon
after immunization and naturally assumed this caused their subsequent ill
Reflecting on my son's
medical history before he succumbed to ME problems, I recalled how he had
prolonged screaming fits after receiving his measles jab at the age of one, how
worried I was at the time, and how he nevertheless had this childhood disease
not just once, but twice. His ME problems started after the second bout of what
probably was 'atypical' measles aged 12
½ in 1980, which was preceded by
Glandular Fever two months earlier.
But what evidence was there
in the medical literature which documented the kind of complications which my
data suggested occurred in some ME cases? And had other researchers into this
disorder discovered similar links?
To my amazement the answer to
both questions was positive. Dealing with these questions in reverse order:
Observations on vaccine
involvement in ME/CFS emerged at the First World Symposium on ME/CFS,
Cambridge, UK, in April, 1990.
Four eminent and well respected researchers
voiced concerns over such links and three presented details at this conference.
The conference proceedings were published in a comprehensive publication on this
In an overview on the disorder,
Byron M Hyde (Canada) pays
particular attention to an immunization link and an association with
poliomyelitis(6) - see also separate section below.
Special risk categories and
an occupational bias with teachers, healthcare and social workers were
identified by Byron Hyde et al (7), i.e. people in close contact with infections
and with many routine immunizations appeared to be at an increased risk of
developing ME. CM Poser (USA), a well known consultant neurologist from
Harvard Medical School, discussed Chronic Fatigue Post viral Syndrome (CFPVS)
- another synonym for ME/CFS -, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Chronic Disseminated
Encephalomyelitis (CDEM) (8).
He summarized his findings as follows:
|'It is well
recognized that in all three conditions, a viral infection or an immunization
may precede a bout of illness. The latter is of particular significance in CFPVS,
which has been reported after immunization against tetanus,
cholera, influenza, typhoid, and more recently after vaccination
against hepatitis B'.
Fudenberg (USA), an eminent professor in immunology, states that problems
encountered by ME sufferers are due to immune dysregulation, as a
result of antigen stimulation (i.e. foreign bodies, which prompt our antibody
responses) by incomplete, dead (and/or perhaps latent) viruses. (In other words,
many of the 'attenuated' or weakened versions of viruses used in vaccines).
adds that this occurs secondary to a defect in antigen presentation and/or
processing. He also found that 50% of his patients experienced
hypersensitivities to chemicals and foods(9).
At the International
Conference on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in Dublin in 1994, two other papers, apart
from my own, documented the involvement of vaccines in this disorder. E Salit
(Canada) showed that 10/134 (7.5%) of CFS patients had immunizations within 3
months prior to becoming ill (10), and BM Hyde et al found that over 3% of 1826
ME/CFS patients fell ill immediately after immunization(11), adding that if data
from a separate hepatitis B immunization study were included, post-immunization
figures would exceed 7.5%.
InterAction 14 (Autumn 1993),
the journal of Action for ME, contained a small notice 'Vaccination/ME
Connection?' - one ME sufferer wanted to hear from anyone who associated
the start of their ME or relapse with a vaccination, but especially a flu
vaccine. By the summer of 1994 she had been contacted by 14 people, all of whom
developed ME shortly after a vaccination or experienced a relapse.
sufferers had developed ME after a flu vaccine, but hepatitis B was causing
great concern, due to new Guidelines 'Protecting Health Care Workers and
Patients from Hepatitis B' coming into force for most health care workers in
1995. Jane Leeming discussed some of the cases she heard from in an article
'Risks and Benefits'(12) in the light of these new Guidelines. She added
observations made by Dr Charles Shepherd, the medical adviser to the ME
Association, Dr Elizabeth Dowsett, Honorary Consultant Microbiologist to the
Basildon and Thurrock NHS Trust and then President of this patient
organization, and my own comments. All had come to very similar conclusions,
i.e. vaccines can precipitate the onset of ME problems and/or trigger a relapse
in certain circumstances:
- all these appeared to greatly increase the chances of vaccines
triggering ME or a relapse.
In cases of a close temporal
relationship between a vaccination and an infective episode,
a previous allergic reaction
to a vaccine and/or an allergic predisposition,
or a suppressed immune system
at the time of vaccination
By late 1994 Dr Shepherd
became so concerned about a steady influx of notifications on cases of hepatitis
B vaccines precipitating an ME-like illness, that he submitted a short report to
The Lancet. Alas the journal declined to publish his observations.
Instead his article was published in the ME Association's journal 'Perspectives' (13):
33/60 consecutive patients who predated the onset of their fatigue syndrome
to immunization linked this to a hepatitis B vaccine. Cholera, influenza, tetanus
and typhoid were vaccines most frequently mentioned by the remaining 27 patients
in his group. (In my own study, tetanus appeared to cause problems most frequently). By June 1996 Dr
Shepherd's file on vaccine-ME cases had grown to about 100, of which 60+
involved hepatitis B. He then sent a revised preliminary report on these 60
cases to another medical journal, simultaneously informing the Committee on
Safety of Medicines (CSM) and the principal manufacturer (14). The outcome is
not known at present.
MEASLES/RUBELLA IMMUNIZATION CONTROVERSY & AFTERMATH
In the autumn of 1994 over 7
million UK schoolchildren aged 5-16 were given measles/rubella (M/R)
immunizations, irrespective of whether they had these diseases or were
previously immunized against them. Aware of the involvement of vaccines in ME
onset and relapses, I compiled a report documenting links of immunizations with
ME/CFS and expressing concerns over possible long-term problems and new cases of
this disease (15). In April, 1995 results of a major study on long term problems
due to measles immunizations were published (16). A large group of people given
live measles vaccines in 1964 was compared to two large groups of unvaccinated
cohorts. The researchers concluded that early exposure to measles may be a risk
factor for later development of Crohn's Disease and ulcerative colitis. This
study was criticized on methodological aspects (17). In August, 1995 the editor
of the Bulletin of Medical Ethics published an article, asserting that
doctors and parents had been knowingly misled by UK Government advisors over an
impending measles epidemic, which would not have happened (18). He called for an
Many newspaper and magazine
articles discussed these problems. Yvonne Roberts' detailed report gave
individual case histories and discussed mounting evidence of far greater numbers
of long-term injury cases resulting from immunization procedures than was
previously thought (19), e.g.
Crohn's Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, autism,
epilepsy, meningitis and 'Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis [SSPS] - a neuro-degenerative
disease. The very foundation of immunization policy, i.e. the notion that
benefits to millions always massively outweigh risks to a few, might be
challenged. TV/radio programmes covered these problems, e.g. Esther Rantzen's TV
debate on BBC2, 30.1.1996.
By December, 1995 Jacky
Fletcher, mother of a vaccine damaged child and coordinator of JABS (justice,
Awareness and Basic Support) had heard of 175 serious reactions to these
immunizations and 110 appeared to be long-term problems, including 19 cases of
ME/PVFS [Post-Viral-Fatigue Syndrome] amongst cases of epilepsy, arthritis/arthralgias, Guillain Barree Syndrome, Crohn's Disease, ulcerative colitis,
meningitis, encephalitis and anaphylaxis.
In June 1996 Brian Hubbard and Lynne McTaggart revealed in 'The Planet' that health workers but not parents
were advised that up to 11% of immunized children, especially teenagers, could
develop arthritis, which could affect over 120,000 youngsters. A solicitor now
represented 320 parents who were seeking compensation from the Government under
the 1987 Consumer Protection Act, but the Government asserted the
campaign had been very successful, even though 530 serious adverse reactions had
been reported,' estimated to be only 1/5th of all adverse reactions.
The term 'ME' was first
mentioned in the late 1950s following an epidemic outbreak at the Royal Free
Hospital, London, in 1955. Dr Melvin Ramsay, a practising physician at this
hospital at the time, describes the outbreak, which affected 292 hospital staff
and a mere 12 patients, in his book 'Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Post viral
Fatigue States' (20). He stresses that in epidemic form this disease has
struck medical establishments most frequently, affecting mainly nurses and
staff. The earliest epidemic outbreaks occurred in the wake of polio epidemics,
the first at Los Angeles County General Hospital in 1934 (21); this was referred
to as 'atypical polio'.
Subsequent outbreaks affected officers and men in
Switzerland in 1939 (22), now referred to as 'abortive poliomyelitis', and so was
a 1950 New York State outbreak (23).
A recent major-article on
this topic 'ME A polio by another name' (24) states that of a dozen outbreaks of
ME, nine occurred during or right after outbreaks of polio. Jane Colby has
written a book on this topic, highlighting particularly the plight of children
with ME (25).
The problem appears to be
that polio virus types 1-3 are just three of a large group of viruses,
collectively called the 'Picorna Group', which consists of at least 72
enteroviruses, including Echo and Coxsackie viruses, subdivided further. These
group member viruses are mutually antagonistic and infection with one may
protect individuals from worst effects of others.
However, the introduction of
polio immunization between 1954 - 1959 brought about changes in the balance of
the gut viral population of enteroviruses. There now was a marked reduction of
the wild polio virus types 1-3 (which sometimes caused paralytic poliomyelitis),
but nonparalytic enteroviruses became dominant. As BM Hyde stated in his
'Historical Perspectives' on this disease (6):
introduction of polio immunization in 1955, paralytic polio stopped,
but ME (originally referred to as 'atypical polio' or 'abortive
poliomyelitis') persisted in a modified form - post 1955 ME patients
have severe muscle failure, and this change in disease character
indicates a link between ME and poliomyelitis.
J Richardsorn of the
Newcastle Research Group in discussing the role of immunizations, concludes that
this changed or modified the host response to these viruses (26) and AM Ramsay
states that the trigger factor may lie in the immunological state of the patient
The problem is more complex still, insofar as the presence of these
non-polio enteroviruses appears to modify the response to polioimmunization, as
was observed in Icelandic children during a 1955 epidemic of Type 1
poliomyelitis in areas which were previously exposed to an outbreak of Epidemic
Neuromyasthenia (another early name for ME), but there was an increased response
to polio virus types 2 and 3 (27). This highly complex area has yet to be
properly investigated. Some light has been shed on these problems in a major
publication on the Post Polio Syndrome (28), which in many ways is almost
indistinguishable from ME.
Earlier literature provides
important information on vaccine complications. GS Wilson devoted a chapter of
his book The Hazards of Immunization' to provocation disease, i.e. the
activation of a different latent or incubating viral infection by any vaccine,
but especially polio(29), whilst most of his book discusses allergic
manifestations, anaphylaxis and abnormal sensitivities to vaccines. CM Poser
(see Ref 8) in 1969 published a complex article, in which he reviewed
post-infectious and postvaccinal neuropathies; he concluded that these were allergic
phenomenaclinical and pathological manifestations were indistinguishable. (30).
One longitudinal study showed that most hospital patients with post-vaccinal
neuropathies had a concomitant illness (31). Two principal contraindications for
any vaccination are a) the presence of a febrile illness, b) for people on high
dose corticosteroids (32); ~ In two studies a relationship between Rubella
Vaccine [RA27/3] and Epstein Barr Virus [EBV] infections was
EBV usually manifests itself as Glandular Fever. AD
Lieberman(34) points out g historical link between EBV and atopy (an allergic
predisposition), dating back to early post World War II years. He also discusses
a possible link with sensitivities to foods and chemicals, implicating IgG4 as a
mediator, a notion recently promoted by other specialists in food allergies and
intolerances. - The above references and others may explain much of what is seen
in ME/CFS cases triggered by vaccines.
There is overwhelming
evidence of serious health problems arising due to vaccine complications, not
only in relation to ME/CFS. but also in respect of many other diseases like
Guillain Barree Syndrome, 'Crohn's Disease and others. Reports of such
complications are not new - they have been documented for decades. Yet there
seems to be little enthusiasm for investigating these problems in depth, no more
than there is for scrutinizing problems arising from excessive or inappropriate
antibiotic use, or looking at long-term effects of now restricted antibiotics
like Septrin. Ill health following exposure to OP pesticides has only recently
attracted attention because of the possible/ likely involvement of these
substances in Gulf War Syndrome cases, and some Gulf War veterans have already
However unpalatable such
'cofactors' or 'links' may be in ME/CFS and other serious diseases, these
problems need to be addressed by suitably qualified and independent researchers
in appropriate fields, i.e. virology, microbiology, immunology, neurology,
endocrinology and pathology. To attribute such complications to psychological or
psychiatric disorders may buy a little time, but is unlikely to solve the
problem or help affected sufferers. More importantly, it will not prevent
further cases from occurring.
Anon. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Report of a joint
working group of the Royal Colleges of Physicians,
Psychiatrists and General Practitioners, London, 1996.
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Jones DM. ME-Just one silent epidemic; A sequence of events in ME
onset. Poster presentations, International Conference on Chronic
Fatigue Syndrome, Dublin, 1820.5.1994.
Lloyd AR et al. What is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis? The Lancet,
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Nightingale Research Foundation, 1992.
Hyde BM. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome): An
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Hyde BM et al. General Information: Post Infectious Acute Onset ME/
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Hyde BM et al.
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Shepherd C. Hepatitis B
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measles vaccination a risk
factor for inflammatory bowel disease?
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Patriarca PA et al.
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No.240, Health Service, Washington DC, 1938.
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Sigurdsson B et al.
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Dalakas MC et al
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Invest in ME are grateful
for permission from the editor of YOGA & HEALTH
for permission to reproduce the above article.