Science is a laborious process; two steps forward and one step back. Quicksilver minds formulate a hypothesis and painstakingly set out to prove it, and then other researchers argue, test, counter, and prove or disprove the results. Science is only ever what we know so far.
So when I read a study showing that an aluminum adjuvant, used in various vaccines including Gardasil, DTaP, Tdap, hepatitis A and B, and anthrax, had caused serious neurological problems in lab mice, I relaxed. I confidently assumed that I’d find studies and comments utterly refuting the work. Probably the FDA or CDC would have something reassuring to say about it.
OK, then. I contacted one of the study’s authors, Dr Chris Shaw, a research scientist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He and his colleagues had, after all, set out to look at Gulf War Syndrome and the more than doubled rate of ALS in serving military personnel, not debunk vaccines.
Had he disproved his own study? Not at all. In fact, a second study had confirmed the first.
“We did do a second study with more animals that largely confirmed the first, including findings of altered memory functions,” he wrote back. “Additional histology from the first study also clearly showed the presence of aluminum in motor neurons in the spinal cord along with the expression of a protein associated with Alzheimer's disease.
“There is little doubt in the scientific literature that aluminum is toxic to cells, including human cells of all types (check the recent Keele conference on aluminum for more details). What the industry and most doctors argue is that the amount/shot is small. This is true, but what is not accounted for is the total body burden that kids today receive over their formative years. I'm close to your age and had maybe 10 shots before I was 20. The recommended number now is something over 40 before age 16.
“The second argument that aluminum is harmless is that as a common element we all eat milligrams of it daily. This is also true, but you should check out the papers of Dr. J. Walton of Australia who has clearly demonstrated Alzheimer's-like cognitive decline in older rats given aluminum in their water. In addition, vaccines present the aluminum in a very different way from the digestive system in that the injected aluminum goes into both the circulatory and lymphatic systems.”
When the first study was published, Shaw was quoted as saying he was “creeped out” by the unexpected results. Is he still creeped out?
Yes—“mostly by the lack of interest in most of the medical community….As for the various regulatory agencies: none commented on the results of our study. DOD declined to comment when asked.”
The FDA’s official position on aluminum adjuvants—adjuvants are used to increase the body’s immune response to vaccines—is that:
“Aluminum adjuvant containing vaccines have a demonstrated safety profile of over six decades of use and have only uncommonly been associated with severe local reactions. Of note, the most common source of exposure to aluminum is from eating food or drinking water.”—FDA website.
Depends on your definition of a demonstrated safety profile. Aluminum used as an adjuvant is certainly known, albeit rarely, to cause macrophagic myofasciitis in genetically susceptible individuals. The symptoms of macrophagic myofasciitis, a muscle disease first identified in 1993, include joint and muscle pain, fever, weakness, fatigue, and muscle tenderness. Although these symptoms are commonly found in girls and women who may be suffering from an adverse reaction to Merck’s HPV vaccine Gardasil, it’s unknown how many have undergone a muscle biopsy to test for macrophagic myofasciitis.
What Dr Shaw and Dr Michael Petrik’s second study found was that mice injected with one equivalent-to-human dose of aluminum adjuvant, and then a second dose two weeks later, “showed significantly increased apoptosis of motor neurons and increases in reactive astrocytes and microglia proliferation within the spinal cord and cortex.
“Morin stain detected the presence of aluminum in the cytoplasm of motor neurons with some neurons also testing positive for the presence of hyper-phosphorylated tau protein, a pathological hallmark of various neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia. A second series of experiments was conducted on mice injected with six doses of aluminum hydroxide. Behavioural analyses in these mice revealed significant impairments in a number of motor functions as well as diminished spatial memory capacity. The demonstrated neurotoxicity of aluminum hydroxide and its relative ubiquity as an adjuvant suggest that greater scrutiny by the scientific community is warranted.” (My emphasis.)
In the interests of brevity, that’s from the abstract. I’d recommend reading the entire paper as published in the Nov. 2009 Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry.
But I have to include this (references deleted for ease of reading) from the body of the article.
“In spite of the long history of widespread use, the physicochemical interactions between aluminum compounds and antigens are relatively poorly understood and their underlying mechanisms remain relatively unstudied. It also seems that there have been no rigorous animal studies of potential aluminum adjuvant toxicity. The absence of such studies is peculiar given the well known observation that aluminum in general can be neurotoxic under a number of conditions and adjuvants in particular have previously been implicated in neurological disease.”
Peculiar? That’s an understatement.
I forwarded the article to a number of scientist buddies for comment and possible dismemberment. I hung onto this post for months, innocently awaiting responses, and got literally none. Like Dr Shaw, I was surprised and disconcerted by the lack of apparent interest. I’ve seen polio; I’m not anti-vaccine—but I’m all for ensuring that vaccines are as safe as they possibly can be. These are our children.
Since when has science been about accepting decades-old dogma without question? And why is it scientifically OK to use an aluminum adjuvant in the placebo group of a vaccine trial, as Merck did, thus potentially masking adjuvant-related adverse reactions?
I don’t expect the FDA to be interested in my ideas. But I do expect it—and pay its employees—to be interested in the safety of my children. So when a reputable, qualified team of scientists in a reputable research facility raises a legitimate safety question, I’d anticipate that the FDA would respond with unbiased concern and curiosity rather than silence.
Now I’m creeped out.
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