By Dr. Mercola
If you're a parent-to-be or are planning to have children in the future, one of the first decisions you'll need to make is whether or not to give your child the hepatitis B vaccine.
Even if you consider yourself to be in favor of vaccinations and the current US vaccine schedule, this is one vaccine that deserves special consideration. In fact, the hepatitis B vaccine for newborns and young children is the least justifiable of any vaccine I can think of…
Hepatitis B is only transmitted via contaminated needles, blood transfusion, or contact with contaminated blood and/or body fluids. If the mother is negative, there's very little risk of a baby contracting this disease, and the vaccine's effectiveness is highly questionable, anyway.
Further, serious side effects and even deaths have also been reported following receipt of this vaccine, including eight recent newborn deaths in China. Over a period of two months, eight infants in China died within hours, and in some cases minutes, of receiving hepatitis B vaccines. In all, 17 deaths among Chinese children aged 5 and younger have been reported following hepatitis B vaccines administered in late 2013.
China Investigates Makers of Hepatitis B Vaccine After Baby Deaths
Six of the deaths occurred in infants who had received the vaccine made by Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products, while two occurred after hepatitis B vaccine produced by drug maker Beijing Tiantan Biological Products (shares of this company plunged by up to 10 percent following media reports of the deaths).
Health authorities in China have since launched an investigation and have suspended the use of millions of doses of hepatitis B vaccine made by Shenzhen Kangtai. So far the drug companies have denied that their products played a role in the deaths, and Chinese health authorities have also said that nine of the 17 deaths were unrelated to the vaccine.
According to China's National Health and Family Planning Commission, those deaths were due to acute pneumonia, suffocation, kidney failure, severe diarrhea, death of intestinal tissue, sudden infant death, congenital heart disease and other causes.1
As for the remaining eight deaths, Chinese authorities have also said that a preliminary investigation has found no link between the deaths and the vaccines. However, firm conclusions have yet to be reached, pending the results of autopsies to confirm the causes of death.
Victim's Father Speaks Out, Calls Official Report 'Absolute Rubbish'
In a report by Radio Free Asia,2 the father of one of the 17 children who died after receiving a hepatitis B vaccine called Chinese health officials' claims that the deaths had nothing to do with the vaccine "absolute rubbish."
Many others commenting on social media also expressed doubts about the government's analysis and conclusions, especially in light of a series of product safety and health scandals in recent years. Often, those who dare to speak out are persecuted or punished for questioning the status quo.
Radio Free Asia reported:3
"China's pharmaceutical industry is highly lucrative but poorly regulated, resulting in a string of fatalities blamed on counterfeit or shoddy medications in recent years.
An investigative report in the China Economic Observer newspaper in 2010 said that improperly stored vaccines administered by Shanxi health officials for encephalitis, hepatitis B, and rabies between 2006 and 2008 had killed four children and sickened more than 70 others, with tainted vaccines being used as late as March 2009.
Top investigative reporter Wang Keqin, who exposed the vaccine scandal among others, was forced out of his job at the newspaper in February 2013.
Parents who complain about mishaps linked to health and safety issues say they are frequently themselves targeted for official harassment and punishment.
In 2011, authorities in Beijing sentenced parent activist Yang Yukui to five months' "re-education through labor" on charges of "provoking disputes and causing trouble" after he complained that his son had been in and out of the hospital since being given a bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) tuberculosis vaccination shortly after birth."
Vaccine-Related Deaths a Coincidence?
Unfortunately, it's not at all unusual for a vaccine maker to rule a child's death shortly after vaccination as a "coincidence." In the US, when babies die after hepatitis B vaccinations, most of the time their deaths are automatically attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) -- without investigation into whether the vaccine caused the baby's sudden death.
One of the most famous cases of hepatitis B vaccine was Michael Belkin's daughter who died in his arms 15 hours after receiving the absolutely unnecessary hepatitis B vaccine. Below is his testimony to Congress in 1999.
When a baby's death is listed as "SIDS," rarely does anyone ask about the deceased infant's vaccination history to find out whether there were symptoms of vaccine reactions before death, even though the biomedical literature has repeatedly signaled this connection.4
In China, the deaths occurred so close to vaccination, and in so many infants, that a potential connection could not be ignored. But even in the US, deaths following hepatitis B vaccine are far from unheard of. According to the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC):5
"…hepatitis B vaccine-related adverse events reported to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) [include] reports of headache, irritability, extreme fatigue, brain inflammation, convulsions, rheumatoid arthritis, optic neuritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) and neuropathy.
There have been more than 1,500 hepatitis B vaccine-related deaths reported, including deaths classified as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)."
Shenzhen Kangtai has posted a statement suggesting that the deaths may be related to an underlying disease, noting that "coincidental diseases… are the easiest to misinterpret."6 But Dr. Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist with the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, warned against taking the drug maker's conclusion as fact, stating:7
"We should not treat the company's statement like a conclusion… They may be trying to protect their self-interest. Or they may have a lot of confidence in their product."
Merck's Role in Building China's Largest Hepatitis B Vaccine Maker
It's interesting to note that US pharmaceutical giant Merck actually helped the Chinese build Shenzhen Kangtai in the 1990s. Merck also granted the company the biological technology to produce a hepatitis B vaccine royalty free in what the New York Times described as an "unusual joint venture aimed at improving health standards in China."8
The company has since become China's biggest producer of hepatitis B vaccines, where it holds 60 percent market share. A new $140-million research and development and drug manufacturing facility is also in the works…The infant deaths come on the heels of Chinese vows to tighten up food and drug safety and crack down on violators. The country has faced a slew of scandals in recent years, yet this hasn't stopped to US from eyeing it as a key contender for future business. As Fierce Pharma reported:9
"China is a key emerging market for Big Pharma, which sees great opportunity there. One example is French drugmaker Sanofi, whose vaccine unit Sanofi Pasteur got approval in October to begin manufacturing influenza vaccines at a new plant in Shenzhen. But China has struggled to keep up with oversight on health and food issues.
Five years ago, tainted Chinese heparin killed dozens of dialysis patients in the U.S., which made the FDA realize it needed to keep a closer look on production there. The FDA is currently investigating Chinese-made pet treats that have killed hundreds of dogs in the U.S. To get in a better position to deal with China's growing place in the U.S. drug supply chain, the FDA is significantly adding to its own presence in China, planning to station another 10 drug inspectors and 9 food inspectors there over the next year."
The 'Worst Case of Research Fraud' in Decades
In related vaccine news, Dong-Pyou Han, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at Iowa State University, recently resigned after faking AIDS vaccine test results. The researcher apparently added human blood that contained HIV antibodies to rabbit blood to skew the results. The human HIV antibodies in the rabbit blood made it appear as though the experimental AIDS vaccine was working and prompting the animals to build defenses against HIV.
Not only were the results presented at scientific meetings over a period of several years, but the findings were instrumental in helping the research team gain $19 million in federal grants ($10 million of which was awarded after the fraudulent results were reported). James Bradac, who is involved with AIDS vaccine grants for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), called the case "the worst case of research fraud" in his 24 years at NIH.10 It just goes to show you, again, that even scientific "truths" can be falsified, and even work from widely respected university researchers must be closely examined and supported before being accepted as fact…
Serious Questions Remain About Hepatitis B Vaccine Effectiveness
Another issue to consider if you are weighing the benefits and risks of giving your newborn infant or young child hepatitis B vaccine is that vaccine acquired immunity often does not persist until a child reaches his or her teenage years – the time when acquiring a hepatitis B infection may be more likely. Research shows that by that time, the protection from the childhood vaccine may have long since waned.11
Further, a recent study found that hepatitis B vaccine was not effective in preventing asymptomatic occult (hidden) HBV (hepatitis B virus) infection in babies, which may occur in up to 40 percent of babies born to hepatitis-B-positive mothers.12 Except in the case of a hepatitis-B-positive mother, the medical justification for vaccinating infants against hepatitis B simply doesn't exist. In addition, the result of this above-mentioned study even refutes the commonly held assumption that hepatitis B vaccine is effective in preventing mother-to-infant transmission of all forms of hepatitis B.
The serious questions regarding effectiveness, coupled with the low transmission rates among babies and the steep risk of side effects, makes this vaccine's use very hard to justify for healthy newborns.
Is Hepatitis B Vaccine Even Effective in Newborns?
Vaccine-derived immunity is thought to be short lived. Between 30-50% of vaccinated individuals lose their antibodies within 7 years. Up to 60% of persons who initially respond will lose detectable antibodies within 12 years. So that means that these vaccines will provide little to no protection to the real risks of acquiring hepatitis B, promiscuous sexual behavior, and IV drug abuse.
How Many Children Are Reportedly Hurt by Hepatitis B Vaccine?
Hepatitis B is a rare, mainly blood-transmitted disease. In 1996, only 54 cases of the disease were reported to the CDC in the 0-1 age group. There were 3.9 million births that year, so the observed incidence of hepatitis B in the 0-1 age group was just 0.001%. In the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), there were 1,080 total reports of adverse reactions from hepatitis B vaccine in 1996 in the 0-1 age group, with 47 deaths reported.
Let us put this in simpler terms. For every child with hepatitis B, there were 20 that were reported to have severe complications. Let us also remember that only 10% of the reactions are ever reported to VAERS, so this means: traditional medicine is potentially harming 200 children to protect one from hepatitis B.
How Serious Is a Hepatitis B Infection?
The numbers speak for themselves. Approximately 50% of patients who contract hepatitis B develop no symptoms after exposure. However, the exposure ensures that they will have lifetime immunity. An additional 30% develop only flu-like symptoms, and again, this group will acquire lifetime immunity. The remaining 20% exposed to hepatitis B will develop the symptoms of the disease. 95% of this 20% will fully recover, with lifetime immunity.
Therefore, less than 5% of people who contract hepatitis B will become chronic carriers of the infection. The numbers get even smaller: of that 5%, nearly 75% (or 3.75% of the total exposed) will live with an asymptomatic infection and only 25% (or only 1.25% of the total number of people exposed) will develop chronic liver disease or liver cancer, 10-30 years after the acute infection. (Hyams, K.C. (1995) Risks of chronicity following acute hepatitis B virus infection: A review. Clin. Infect. Dis. 20, 992-1000.)
Think of that in terms of probability: the possibility of contracting the disease is exceedingly difficult for children, and only 1.25% of those that are exposed will actually develop the most serious complication! This type of a "protecting the needle in the haystack" medicine is absurd at best, deadly at worst.
How Many Safety Studies Have Been Done On Hepatitis B Vaccine?
None. A manufacturer's representative was asked in a 1997 Illinois Board of Health hearing to show evidence that the hepatitis B vaccine is safe for a 1-day old infant. The representative stated: "We have none. Our studies were done on 5- and 10-year-olds." -- The Congressional Quarterly, August 25, 2000, pg. 647
One would think that these would be mandatory, but they are not. All that is required is to show efficacy, (i.e. that the vaccine stimulates an antibody response after it is give), not safety. In most other industries, the fraud represented here would lead to criminal charges.
Hepatitis B Vaccine: It's Your Choice
Since 1991, a series of three hepatitis B shots has been part of the standard federally recommended US childhood vaccination schedule, with the first dose given within the first 12 hours after birth, the second dose given between one and two months of age, and the third dose given between six and 18 months of age. But while it's part of the federal vaccine schedule, it's your choice whether or not to allow your baby to be vaccinated.
If you're expecting, the time to research the risks versus the benefits of this vaccination is now, before you deliver, so if you conclude, like many concerned health care professionals and educated parents have, that subjecting all healthy newborns to hepatitis B vaccination within hours of birth is both risky and unnecessary, you can do something to stop it…
If you decide the hepatitis B vaccine is not appropriate for your baby, you can amend the "consent for medical treatment" forms you sign upon entering the hospital before giving birth by writing on the form that you do not give consent for your baby's hepatitis B vaccination in the newborn nursery. You should let any nurses or other medical staff taking care of you and your baby know this directly as well.
However, there are reports that some newborns are being vaccinated in the newborn nursery against the parent's wishes. So it is a good idea to keep your newborn with you at all times or have a family member stay with the baby while in the hospital.
That said, it is important to be tested for hepatitis B if you're pregnant, as it's possible to have a chronic infection with no symptoms and not know it. If you are pregnant and are a carrier for the hepatitis B virus, your baby could be at risk for being infected during childbirth.
And although hepatitis B vaccines may be "mandated" for your child to attend school or daycare, most states offer different legal vaccine exemptions (medical, religious, and philosophical). On NVIC.org, you can research your state's specific vaccine laws and requirements and find out what kind of exemption to hepatitis B vaccination you are allowed to exercise in your state for your child to attend daycare or school. You can also sign up to be a user of NVIC's free online communications network, the NVIC Advocacy Portal, and take action to protect the legal right to make voluntary vaccine choices in your state.