As some readers know, we have expressed our concerns about childhood
vaccinations a number of times.
Our concern is not that all vaccines are bad but ask that parents,
physicians and health authorities proceed with care and caution and
sometimes resistance to some of the automatic childhood vaccinations.
Today the issue is that of the hepatitis B vaccine.
From 1994 to 1998, almost two-thirds of the French population and almost all
newborn babies were vaccinated against hepatitis B, but the campaign was
temporarily suspended because of concerns about side effects.
In what was called a "thunderclap in the vaccine industry," French
authorities have opened a formal investigation regarding a hepatitis B
vaccination campaign by GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur in the 1990s. It
is alleged that the companies failed to fully disclose neurologic side
Another investigation opened by Judge Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy concerns
the death ("manslaughter") of a 28-year-old woman from multiple sclerosis,
allegedly connected to the vaccine (Le Figaro 1/31/08).
Some 30 plaintiffs, including the families of five patients who died after
the vaccination, have launched civil actions (Reuters 1/1/08).
A British case-controlled analysis showed an odds ratio of 3.1 (95%) for the
first symptoms of multiple sclerosis in recipients of recombinant hepatitis
B vaccine compared to controls. Two previous French studies had shown a
ratio of about 1.5. Other studies showed a non-significant increase (or null
findings) especially when date of diagnosis rather than date of first
symptoms was used (Neurology 2004;63:838-842).
According to attorney Clifford Miller, "British doctors administering
hepatitis B vaccine to infants could face criminal prosecution if fully
informed consent is not obtained. Civil prosecution for damages is possible
over 21 years later if the injured survive as adults" (UK Press Association
Newswire/Romeike, September 2005).
The hepatitis B vaccine has been considered "one of the safest vaccines ever
produced" (Neurology, previously cited.). On the other hand, French medical
expert Marc Girard has said that "for a preventive measure, hepatitis B is
remarkable for the frequency, variety and severity of complications from its
use" (Romeike, as cited.)
In the past individual concerns over vaccination have often been
transgressed because of the platitude that the public good takes precedence
over the individual.
We suggest that when it comes to the routine childhood hepatitis B
vaccination those affected and involved should think a little harder before
Finally, in this one instance, we think that the French authorities got