Bernadine Healy and the Hepatitis B myth

18 Apr

Kev has already commented on Dr. Bernadine Healy’s return to the autism world. Besides giving herself a big pat on the back for being part of a “war”, she made a number of mistakes (as Kev has pointed out).

Kev missed one of Dr. Healy’s mistakes–the Hep-B myth.

One of the recurring myths of anti-vaccine groups is that Hepatitis B is only transmitted in one of three ways

1) from an infected mother to a newborn
2) via shared needles
3) via sex

Thus, the logic goes, the Hep-B shot is unnecessary. (followed usually by, and only in the schedule to line the pockets of the evil vaccine manufacturers…but I digress).

As mentioned above, Dr. Healy has picked this theme up in her recent return to the vaccines-cause-autism spotlight.

On her recent visit to the Larry King Live show, she stated,

There are some vaccines here that one — a parent can legitimately question: giving a one-day old baby, or a two-day old baby Hepatitis B vaccine, that has no risk for it. The mother has no risk for it. That’s a heavy duty vaccine given on day two, at two months, at four months.

In her recent US News blog post,

The extras here include protection against the sexually transmitted hepatitis B virus…

Just because it’s sexually transmitted doesn’t mean it’s only sexually transmitted.

From the recent paper (with Dr. Offit as lead author, The Problem With Dr Bob’s Alternative Vaccine Schedule:

Before the hepatitis B vaccine became part of the routine schedule for children, every year ~16 000 children <10 years of age were infected with hepatitis B virus after nonsexual, person-to-person contact.[reference 2] Given that reported cases might not include subclinical infections, this estimate is probably low.

Reference 2 is Childhood Hepatitis B Virus Infections in the United States Before Hepatitis B Immunization.

Let’s face simple facts–if Dr. Healy is really in this discussion, she has to have read the recent Offit paper. More importantly, I would hope that she read the paper Dr. Offit references. I mean, really, how could she not? And, yet, she acts as though no one has publicly refuted the Hep-B myth.

In one of the stranger bits of logic I’ve seen in a while, Dr. Healy suggests putting off the Hep-B vaccinations until “school age”. Hmmm. Don’t give it at birth because it isn’t needed because it is a sexually transmitted disease. But, give it to, what, 5 year olds when they enter school? Did I miss something and our kindergardeners are sexually active drug abusers? Or, maybe she’s thinking we should give it at age 13 to catch the kids before they become sexually or drug active? Would that mean that she’s pro-gardasil?

I will give Dr. Healy credit for one thing–she dropped the misrepresentations of the IOM that permeated her entrance into the world of autism “personalities”.

I guess I should count myself lucky for that small bit of progress.

6 Responses to “Bernadine Healy and the Hepatitis B myth”

  1. Kev April 18, 2009 at 06:54 #

    Good post Sully, can’t believe I missed this one out!

  2. passionlessDrone April 18, 2009 at 13:37 #

    Hi Sullivan –

    What could possibly provide a more concise illustration of the failed logic of our current policies regarding Hep B vaccination? Further, an excellent example of ignoring salient information in order to score an imaginary point.

    What this paper illustrates more than anything else is that we’ve got an insanely high risk group for getting Hep B; Southeast Asian immigrants!

    Results. Estimated annual rates of infection ranged from 24 per 100 000 in non-Asian children to 2580 per 100 000 in children of Southeast Asian immigrant mothers.

    That’s right, if you are born to a Southeast Asian immigrant mother, your risk of having Hep B is approximately 100 times that of everyone else. To me, this strikes of some serious deficencies in our ability to detect perinatal Hep B infection more than anything else. Or is there some cultural practice in Southeast Asia immigrants that somehow leads to this astronomically high risk? Either way, if you are like 99% of the population, not born to Southeast Asian mothers; your chances of getting Hep B by the age of ten are microscopically minute.

    If we wanted to apply the smallest amount of logic to this situation, why not just immunize children born to Southeast Asian immigrants at birth? By immunizing this tiny subset of individuals, we got immediately eliminate one half of the cases of Hep B in children. Instead, these results are taken in the opposite manner; we must immunize every single child, the day they are born; even though far, far in excess over 99% of them will never require the protection before the time they are 10.

    There is no reason to not space Hep B out to five, or before kindergarten, for children not born to Southeast Asian immigrants in order to insure that when children start getting exposed to lots of other kids, they are protected.

    – pD

  3. passionlessDrone April 19, 2009 at 16:57 #

    Hello friends –

    Thinking on this a bit more, it occurs to me that in this case in particular, we can gain some insight into a commonly stated, but poorly defended theme; that vaccines are not money makers.

    Now lets see; we can reduce the number of hep b cases in children under ten to ~ 8,000 a year by selectively immunizing children born to southeast asian immigrant mothers. But this still leaves us with pretty much four million infants a year to vaccinate. 8000 children out of 4,000,000. This roughly gets us to a 1 to 500 ratio; that is, we give five hundred hepatitis b vaccines to stop one case of hepatitis b. And this assumes that we don’t drastically reduce transmission in places like daycare and schools, by selectively targeting children of southeast asian immigrant mothers.

    This tells us that the vaccine costs between $75 and $165 for the series; lets just call it $100. So, we purchase $50,000 of vaccines per (maybe) prevented transmission of Hep B.

    The argument usually given that vaccines are money losers goes something along the lines that it is more profitable to have a sick person, than one who never gets sick; as they buy your medication for a long time, instead of just once. But in this case, the chronic effects of childhood hep b may not materialize for years, or even decades; and in that time horizon, there is no assuredness that the victims will purchase your products, if your organization is even still in business.

    But in the meantime, you can sell five hundred vaccines, four hundred and ninety nine of which will do nothing for the child; and all of the profits are your immediately. If your patient set is poor, and can’t afford $100 for a product that is very unlikely to help their child? No worries, the government will subsidize the amount, or pick it up all together.

    How can you go wrong?

    – pD

  4. Sullivan April 20, 2009 at 04:54 #


    You do exactly what you accuse me of. Further, you don’t acknowledge the fact that HepB is not purely transmitted via sex or needles. Lastly, you are trolling a number of subjects that appear to this reader to be trying to deflect the thread. While it is tempting to point out your false logic, the fact that you are dodging the very real situation that HepB transmission is being misrepresented by many–Dr. Healy included.

    I note that you appear to be in the Bernadine Healy camp. I.e. you don’t appear to have read the papers until now either.


  1. Autism Blog - Let’s go back to 1983! « Left Brain/Right Brain - April 22, 2009

    […] Hepatitis B. This is such a common target that Dr. Bernadine Healy singled it out recently. […]

  2. Canard Thursday: Special Jim Carrey Edition « Confutata - April 24, 2009

    […] a cardiologist who served on the advisory board of TASSC, a front organization for Phillip Morris, getting it wrong on Hep B. (That’s okay, Dr. Healy. It’s not as if anyone expected you to be an expert in vaccines […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: